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FOCUS ON EQUALITY


of acceptance. By being open it encouraged others to join the group and together we raised the profile of our LGB&T staff. Fifteen years later, with a new partner, a Pride events attended, rainbow cars and epaulettes and Stonewall recognition, has shown we can be ourselves – and its great! Anyone who doesn’t agree,


well let’s just say you can’t change everyone overnight. I’ve never needed the Police


‘ IT WASN’T THAT ACCEPTED TO BE GAY IN THE POLICE’


PC Ian Ashton, Chair of the Police Federation’s LGB&T+ group, shares his inspiring story


I


joined Lancashire Constabulary in 1993 and at that time I was a young, fresh-faced 21-year-old with my whole life ahead of me. I wanted to join the police and make a difference, but don’t we all? Joining the police was always my dream; my dad was an officer and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I took a path, not one I regret but probably one that I felt I had to take to fit in, especially in the 90s when being different wasn’t really accepted. I met a policewoman in my division, and we struck it off straight away. We married, and on Christmas Day 1999 our son Oliver was born. He was destined to be special from that day forward and was probably the best present we could ever have. Very quickly our son was diagnosed with a rare life-


Copper Lady: a woman in man’s world


26 | POLICE | DECEMBER 2020


shortening condition and we were told he had 18 months to live at most. Over the coming years life became more difficult and gradually we drifted apart but remained good friends for the sake of Oliver. It was about this time that I decided to be true to myself. I needed to do this for my own mental health but also to ensure Oliver could have the best quality of life. I decided to ‘come out’. This wasn’t an easy thing to do. It still


wasn’t that accepted to be gay, especially in the police. I knew several gay women, but I knew only one other gay man in the police. I went to him for support and he told me about a group of gay officers that met behind closed doors. But how could that be right? There was me making this huge decision and all there was to support me was a secret group. I knew that I didn’t want anyone


else to be feel the way I was, so I took a decision. I decided to be proud and come out to everyone – my aim being to take that secret group into the 21st Century and be visible, open and accepted. I became Chair of our LGB&T Staff Support Network and took myself and Lancashire Constabulary on a journey


Baroness Jenny Hilton’s autobiography ‘Copper Lady’ is released this month and details her 34-year career as a woman in the ‘man’s world’ of the Met Police. The former Met Commander, now a


Labour peer, joined at a time when females were fewer than 1 per cent of the force. In her early years in the 1960s, policewomen were mainly required to deal with prostitutes, teenagers and neglected children. It was only after the introduction


Federation from a discipline point of view, although they had supported me financially for my disabled son. I kept seeing LGB&T staff accessing the Police Federation for support, but there was no one locally who I knew identifying as LGB&T so the Federation would come to me for advice and support. The natural progression was for me to become a Fed rep and continue that support for others. Surveying the hall at my first


Police Federation Conference in 2018, trying to spot the diversity was a bit like a ‘Where’s Wally’ book. It wasn’t easy. Several months later we launched the new Police Federation LGB&T+ group and I was privileged to be its first Chair.


This is a journey I am passionate


about and I don’t want to do it alone, so please, if you are LGB&T+ and looking to make a difference, or if you just want to be an ally, then join us and ‘Be Proud’. We are known as a Self- organised Group, but we have the full support of the Federation, including National Chair John Apter. Finally, for anyone who is


wondering, Oliver will be 21 this Christmas Day, so he has proved the doctors wrong. His mum and I are great friends and we take every day as it comes but above all we are all happy. We are a family – just like the police. If you would like to know more


about the group, or perhaps want to join us in making a difference, you can contact us at LGB&T@polfed.org


of equal opportunities legislation that she became conscious of sexism and resentment in the force. She said: “I was never very good at beating


the drum for women in the police service – I think I should have done more, although some women have since said I was a role model to them. One of the things about the police service is that it does accept people for their individuality once they know you, rather than making assumptions about you.” ‘Copper Lady’ is on sale from 15 December,


priced £20.


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