I am a bi-sexual man. I am also a police officer with Police Scotland. Being a third generation cop I never thought I’d write those things down let alone say them and let people know. I have recently changed role, within the organisation, after ten years on the street. That move, being away from the stress and accompanying bravado, has given me the confidence to start to not have a different persona in and out of the job.
I ticked the bi-sexual box when I first applied and then the various paperwork when I joined. Nothing was ever mentioned and I thought nothing of it. I have no issues with who I am, I never have. However I realised sadly quickly that there appeared to be a strong, unwritten culture of don’t ask, don’t tell.
A little bit more about me at this point. I have known who I am since primary school but only started to feel comfortable about that when I left home to go to university. My parents aren’t homophobic, far from it, but very closed people. If I had brought it up I’m relatively confident they would have replied, ‘okay’, but I never took that risk. When I was at university, as happens to a lot of people, I felt comfortable enough to express the real me in whatever way I wanted. I did. I then met my future wife. Love is love and I found a person that could put up with me, that challenged me and I could see a future together. I’d never wanted marriage or kids. I never saw the point. Possibly because I hadn’t been able to decide what I wanted in life up until that point. My future wife wanted marriage and kids. I wanted to spend my life with her so that was now my life.
I am a big lump of a boy. As a customer once said after a short struggle, “he’s too big, that’s no fair”. I’ve always been sporty and involved in everything. I played rugby to a high level and due to being heavily involved in that ‘aggressive and macho’ sporting world I was always seen unquestionably as one of the boys. Any inappropriate language was always thrown straight back at the sender, mostly by the smelt it, dealt it style retort that invariably stopped it in its tracks. I never stood for homophobic slurs or jokes. Not just because of who I am but as a part of my character that I have always loathed racist, sectarian, trans etc language or attempts at pathetic humour. I have always stood up to it and always will. I am aware that it was always easier for me being the popular sporty guy, that I was, but I do hope that I changed one person’s way of thinking and gave one person strength in it being called out.
Back to the Police. Starting off, despite having the family background, is always a culture shock. When someone would ask about my family life, and invariably what football team I supported, I would always tell the truth that I was engaged to be married to my, future, wife. I omitted that I was bi-sexual but not because of embarrassment. It was due to not wanting the invariable confusion and multiple questions. It was lazy of me but it was my information to share when I wanted to and who with. That was the problem I made for myself. Months passed and then years. No one knew. I was of the thinking that no one would care if I said and I doubted that I would get more than an ‘okay’ if I made people aware but that nagging doubt lingered.
It sadly took me taking a step back from the front line to have confidence to talk more openly and make more people aware of who I truly am. As you can probably guess a number told me they always knew, on some level, but without offence meant, or taken, they didn’t care. I will wonder for longer than I probably should as to why it took me this long to be more open about myself. I’m sure that it was a multitude of factors, both reasonable and not, that led to me keeping a big part of who I am to myself. However one thing I am sure of already is that there was absolutely no need for that thinking.
I mentioned at the start that there appeared to be a mantra of don’t ask, don’t tell. On reflection they were my worries and fears that manifested into that wrong belief. From my time in Police Scotland I do think that the organisation is an inclusive and representative one. Who you love, what religion, or not, you follow and even your football team is not held against you. Have I heard a risqué joke or something said that was down right inappropriate, of course. Has that ever been meant as an attack, a slur or to demean? No. It makes me proud to type that that has been my experience of working within this organisation and the many, many different colleagues I have mostly had the pleasure of working with. I am not naïve enough to think that it doesn’t take place and isn’t internally thought however in my opinion those people are in the significant minority and too scared of the rightful consequences of their words and actions. Casual racism etc and unconscious bias of course exists but with knowledge comes power. If we keep educating ourselves and others we can continue to try and have greater understanding of how our actions, inactions and words can affect others.
Do we need to stop worrying about our colleagues and Scottish society as a whole? Of course not. So much has improved but we can never stop demanding equality for whatever is deemed different to the norm. Police Scotland and the Scottish nation can be proud of calling out inequality and respecting and embracing differences. Let us be an example to others but always with the thinking that there is never not room to improve. Everyone should be able to be the person they want to be.
I am a bi-sexual man. I am also a police officer. I am proud to write those two sentences together and say them out loud.