PC Ian Ashton drew on his own experiences to establish support for LGB&T+ officers and to become a Police Federation rep.
Ian, chair of the LGB&T+ Self-Organised Group, revealed the only officers he could turn to when he decided to “come out” met in secret.
“This wasn’t an easy thing to do as it still wasn’t that accepted to be gay, especially in the police,” Ian said in a blog published on the national Federation website. “It was easier for women, that’s a fact, and I knew several gay women but I knew only one other gay man in the police.
“I went to him for support and he was able to tell me about a secret group of gay police officers that met behind closed doors. But how could that be right?
“There was me making this huge decision but with no idea how it would impact on me or my family and all there was to support me was a secret group.
“It was a difficult time for me but I just knew that I didn’t want anyone else to be feel the way I was so I took a decision to overcome my struggle and chose to focus on making a difference and ensuring no one else ended up like me with only a secret group for solace.
“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 with Lancashire Constabulary on a journey of acceptance.
“By being open it encouraged others to come and join the group and together we raised the profile of our LGB&T staff.
“Five years later, a new partner Andy, a number of Pride events attended, rainbow cars, rainbow epaulettes and Stonewall recognition has shown we can in fact be ourselves – and it’s great.
“Anyone who doesn’t agree, well, let’s just say you can’t change everyone overnight.”
Ian, who joined Lancashire Police in 1993, said that after attending a Federation conference in 2018, he began to develop an LGB&T+ self-organised group, which has the support of the Police Federation.
“Surveying the hall, trying to spot the diversity was a bit like a Where’s Wally book,” he said. “It wasn’t easy. I started speaking to people and managed to get on board with a project Ian Saunders was looking at to develop an LGB&T+ Self-Organised Group.
“A small group of LGB&T+ Fed reps were convened and several months later we launched the new Police Federation LGB&T+ Self-Organised Group. I was very privileged to be nominated as its first chair.”
Now he is encouraging other LGB&T+ officers to join the group.
“This is a journey I am passionate about and I don’t want to do it alone,” he said. “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’.”
If you would like to know more about the group, please email LGB&T@polfed.org