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The freedom to be your authentic self

By Rachel Salmon, Positive Action Officer

I’m one of two Inclusion Officers for Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service. I’ve worked for the Service for three years, and have been in Prevention & Inclusion for the duration. We re-started the LGBT+ & Allies Network in Spring 2018 and since then it has gone from strength to strength.

Before we had our LGBT+ & Allies Network, our support mechanisms were quite informal. We would occasionally meet for a coffee or a chat, but the group wasn’t official, or making any changes. We held a few meetings during 2018 and attended Pride events as a Network, and the membership started to grow. We have since sponsored Pride in Belper, held regional conferences and been recognised nationally and regionally for our LGBT+ work. Going from a few friends getting together to a thriving network has been a source of real pride for me. This year, we were named in the Stonewall Top 100 LGBT+ inclusive employers for the first time, which reflects the work that we’re doing for our staff, stakeholders and communities. I was also incredibly humbled to be awarded Stonewall’s Role Model of the Year for the East Midlands Region, for the LGBT+ work that I, and the team, do.

The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion work that DFRS do has increased my personal and professional confidence. We continue to make tangible changes for our employees and service users and push the boundaries with what we are achieving. Working in an inclusive culture, with supportive colleagues means that I am able to be my authentic self, and achieve more as a consequence.

Being open about yourself means that you open up your own mind, and help others to do the same. I have been able to build open and honest working relationships with colleagues and stakeholders by being authentic, and this has strengthened those relationships. Being honest about my own experiences in LGBT+ training sessions and workshops, has also allowed me to have conversations with colleagues who are LGBT+ or are relations or friends of people that are from the LGBT+ community. Without this open communication, these conversations may never have happened.

Having an inclusive culture in work, and society as a whole, is something that we should all aim towards. I don’t have one thing that completely defines me. I’m gay, but I’m also a woman, a Derby County fan and a history graduate. There are different layers that make me, as there are for everyone. Being open about this means that people can see that being LGBT+ isn’t so different after all, and it has as little effect on me doing my job as being brunette does!

If I was considering joining DFRS as someone who is LGBT+, I would say go for it. It’s a welcoming place to work, with amazing support networks and great colleagues.

collage showing rachel at lgbt events and with members of derbyshire fire and rescue service