When I joined Transport for London (TfL) in 2004 I never set out to become a role model. I certainly had no mission to become Chair of our newly created LGBT network OUTbound. It seemed to just… happen.
I’ve always been an openly gay man at TfL, my desk overlooking St James’s Park looks like its had a rainbow dropped on top of it, and I don’t think twice about ticking the box that asks me to state my sexuality – but I’m a rare breed. Declaration rates are low here, in common with many large organizations.
When I joined the senior management team at TfL in 2007, it became even more important to me to demonstrate that being gay was no barrier to promotion at TfL, even at a senior level.
I encouraged my boss, the Managing Director of my division and a straight man to sponsor OUTbound. He thought it was a great idea and got on board very quickly.
It was only a matter of time after that he suggested that I stand for election as Chair of OUTbound. How could I refuse?
In 2012 I was voted in as Chairman and so began a much steeper learning curve than I thought. But I’m a big ideas man, and love a challenge. What started with getting a rainbow flag hoisted above our head office in Victoria in 2013, has ended with one of the UK’s most recognizable LGBT campaigns – #RidewithPride in 2015.
Today, in London you can see a rainbow bus travelling down Shoreditch High Street, a rainbow taxi whizzing round Islington and a rainbow DLR train (or ‘trainbow’ as we like to call it) picking up busy commuters in Canary Wharf.
Not to mention of course the pop-up appearances of our rainbow zebra crossing, which is making its next outing at Jersey’s first ever Pride on 8 September.
None of this would have happened if I had not been an out gay man, proud of my LGBT heritage and championing the rights of others. I also work with a very dedicated team of individuals here at TfL. They support me and help me to convince venerated companies to part with cash to sponsor big ideas, in the name of community engagement; I’m so glad we did.
This year I was awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honors 2015 for my work promoting LGBT diversity, an incredible honor that often still has me lifting my jaw from the floor.
So I’d encourage everyone to be themselves; having one less thing to worry about makes you more productive and happier. It might just lead you to greater things in the way it has for me.