LGBTQ+ History Month: A moment with Maxine McAllister

In celebration of LGBTQ+ History Month we are speaking to colleagues across the organisation about their own experience of the LGBTQ+ community, and some of the challenges they face.

This week Maxine McAllister, Head of People Operations in the South talks about her experiences and what this month means to her.

I was delighted to be asked to write a bit about what LGBT+ history month means to me, the short answer is it means a great deal but before I get to that, I will start by telling you just a little bit more about me.

I live in Surrey with my wonderful wife Claire and our three thoroughly spoilt cats who are treated like royalty. I have worked at NHS Property for nearly three years and I’m currently the Head of People Operations for the South, I’ve been a people professional for 20 years having previously worked for Sainsbury’s and Arcadia Group. It’s a job I have always loved and it is made all the more rewarding at NHSPS by fabulous team I work with in the south.

I would like to think that being gay is about the 46thmost interesting thing about me and here in 2021 I’m pleased to say that life is pretty good, I can openly refer to my wife and don’t worry, or have got to a point where I just don’t care what anyone thinks, I’m not concerned that I’m going to be discriminated against at work or be thrown out of my home, I can go to pub (in the days we could go to the pub) with other people who identify as LGBT+ and don’t feel compelled to creep around under the cover of darkness or hide  behind blacked out windows.

However when I came out in 1993 it was a different world, and all the things I just mentioned in one way or another were a reality for me. There are many key milestones in LGBT + history but I think one of the most striking is that it was only in 1992 that the World Health Organisation declassified same sex attraction as a mental illness. Although we have come a long way since the early 90s there is still much to do, you only have to look at the news to see that there still a significant amount of hate crime against people from the LGBT+ community and in more than a few countries around the globe the attitude towards LGBT+ people seems to be getting worse which is heart breaking to see.

Coming out in 1993 generated its fair share of tough times for me, but looking back I wouldn’t and if I’m honest probably couldn’t do anything differently, the people who mattered stuck around and my family eventually got over it. Back then finding other people like me was really important, I had just started university at the time so I plucked up the courage and joined the LGBT society, one of the scariest things I ever did but also one of the best. Fast forward nearly 30 years and I’m pleased that in many cases an LGBT+ eighteen year old just finding their feet in the world is much more likely to have a positive experience, in fact I hope it in many ways it is something of a non-event; however I still believe that it is very important for all of us to be able to see ‘people like me’ in an organisation.

One of the reasons I became a people professional is because I wanted to play a key part in creating inclusive work environments where everyone can thrive and be at their best. I’m proud  to work for an organisation where I can be myself and if sharing a bit of my story makes a positive difference to anyone else in our organisation who might worry that that they cant bring their whole self to work, then that can only be a good thing.