Positive role models

One of the things that surprised me the most after I became a councillor was being spoken about as a ‘community leader’.

It’s not a context I’d thought about in the months leading up to my first election, nor in the journey that had taken me there. 

My first experience of governance was in a local infant school.

In 2009, I was asked if I’d consider being a governor by a friend of mine. She was a parent governor at the school, which had an above-average number of children with lesbian parents, but no representation from that community on the governing body. 

Life got in the way and by the time I was co-opted onto the board, a couple of years later, there were other lesbians, but I joined anyway, learned what it was about and found I’d been firmly bitten by the governance bug. 

Later, I joined the Labour Party to help campaign in the 2015 General Election and I didn’t take much persuading to stand for a seat on the local town council in a by-election a couple of years later. 

I had to take a few moments to decide how ‘out’ to be in my campaign literature and was fairly guarded. 

I had to think about how safe it would feel to be open about my sexuality within my political group, my council, and the wider community – but if it didn’t feel safe for me, how would it feel for other people to be able to live their lives fully, being their authentic selves? 

“Being a community leader comes with responsibility

By 2018, when I first stood in Calder Ward for a seat on Calderdale Council, I was happily mentioning my partner, Tamsin. 

Well, reader, I won that seat with a resounding majority – it does include Hebden Bridge and parts of Todmorden, so the acceptance of my sexuality shouldn’t really have come as a big surprise. 

I think that gave me a lot of confidence about how open I could be about being a lesbian in my public life and in the community leader role that had been gifted to me. 

An important aspect for me is being able to bring the topic of equality, diversity and inclusion into the room, into meetings, having it on the agenda, even if informally.  

Many members of the LGBTQ+ community are extraordinary. 

We are also ordinary, just like other people in that we may be people of colour, we may face communication problems, or have disabilities, and we also have to put out the bins and sweep the floor. 

As former Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox said: ‘We have far more in common than that which divides us.’

Being a community leader also comes with responsibility and I strive to be a positive role model. 

For me, part of that means showing tolerance and acceptance of all people, whether I agree with their viewpoint or not, while also feeling confident to discuss and gently challenge things I disagree with. 

With so much division in our society, in the mainstream press and on social media, I believe we need to listen to each other. I aim to help people and communities communicate with each other and help foster unity and trust. 


The unknown unknowns

Social partnership