West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) is celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month, which focuses on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history. As part of the month-long celebrations, staff will be taking part in a webinar and workshop, which will focus on the use of pronouns, gender identities and the history of the terminology used.
This year’s theme is “Behind the Lens” and one of the aims is to make visible the LGBTQ+ people who have been successful in a wide range of different professions
Breathing apparatus instructor Chris Jones is part of the service’s LGBTQ+ community and said he’s always felt supported and included. “I’ve been with WYFRS since 2018 and they’ve always been inclusive and actively encourage a diverse range of staff,” he said.
“The only issue I’ve seen has been around assumptions on a person’s gender or sexuality – but there has never been any malice, just a lack of education. It’s through talking more and having events like this webinar and workshop that we can raise awareness and keep going in the right direction.”
Chris has been married for 11 years. His partner, Louis, is a singer touring theatres across the country yet finds time to attend WYFRS Pride events alongside Chris.
“One of the things I enjoy about being in the fire service is that the watch members you work with are like family,” said Chris. “We all give each other so much support, which is hugely important – I feel lucky to have that in my life.”
The service has seen a 16% increase in the number of staff who have shared their sexuality via confidential equality data. WYFRS has 4% LGBTQ+ staff, which more than represents the 1.8% of LGBTQ+ people in the community of West Yorkshire.
"We are extremely proud that staff feel comfortable to be their authentic selves at work," said Diversity and Inclusion Manager Gill Cockburn. “We have an active LGBTQ+U staff network that works hard to progress change and raise awareness for LGBTQ+ rights and issues. They attend several community Pride events throughout the year to show their support for the cause.
"We want everyone to feel comfortable being their true selves, and this month gives us an opportunity to celebrate our diversity as well as learn from each other. At WYFRS, we strive for an inclusive workplace where everyone can feel safe and accepted for who they are.
“At WYFRS, we believe it is vitally important to recognise the contributions made by members of the LGBTQ+ community throughout history as well as today. We are proud to join other organisations across West Yorkshire in celebrating this important occasion. We look forward to celebrating this special month with our colleagues and continuing our mission towards creating a more diverse workforce.”