The Metropolitan Police has launched a new online resource to help officers should they need support as parents of gay, lesbian or transexual children or if they are affected by discriminatory language at work.
The LGBTQ+ Parent platform aims to celebrate the force’s diversity, the fantastic work being carried out by LGBTQ+ officers, tackle discrimination and allow parents to speak openly about the issues that affect them and their families.
Belinda Goodwin, the Metropolitan Police Federation’s Equality Lead, will be sharing her own story about bringing up her son who identified as a girl and says she wants to highlight how devastating and damaging other people’s opinions and language can be – for both the children involved and their parents.
“The idea is for us is to focus on and embrace the diversity we have within the Metropolitan Police,” she said.
“We have all these gay, bisexual and lesbian and other LGBTQ+ officers that are doing a fantastic job, that are on the frontline, that are working in all sorts of areas within policing,” she said.
“But it’s also to highlight the fact that there is still this overt language that we need to be more mindful of and nip in the bud.
“The platform is also for any Federation member or officers that have got a child that has identified as LGBTQ+.
“LGBTQ+ Parent Platform has been set up for people to speak openly. I’m going to be telling my story about my son Ryan and about what we went through and how difficult it was, but that there is hope and there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Ryan identified as a girl from a young age, Belinda said, and would often put on her clothes and take an interest in what was then more female stereotypical fashion and interests.
As a single parent, it was difficult for Belinda to know how to react, she would often laugh it off until, aged seven, Ryan said he didn’t know if he was a boy or a girl.
And it was when he started secondary school that the problems really started.
Belinda said: “It got to a point he just didn’t want to wear boys’ clothes. I remember taking him to primary school once, and he had my high heels on, and he’d walk around the playground, he didn’t care.
“His teacher said, ‘he can’t really be doing that’ and because I was quite bolshy said, ‘why can’t he?’. I ended up reaching out to a charity and asking for help.
“It was almost as if I allowed him to do it was I damaging him. A family counsellor said ‘you’re there to protect your child if you allow him to go out dressed up as a girl you can’t protect him’.
“She was saying, by all means, let him dress up but don’t let him go outside dressed up, and that’s what I did. I did that, and that’s how he lived life going forward.
“He got really into dancing and flourished at primary school, went to secondary school and he started getting bullied to the point where he started self-harming.”
Thankfully Ryan’s school were very supportive, but the bullying, which even went as far as threatening to stab and hurt Ryan, became too much for them to take.
“These kids were quite threatening, talking about stabbing him. It was terrible,” Belinda added.
“Because he’d been doing so well with his child acting and he loved his dancing I looked at performing arts school, but there was no grants or anything, it was a really heavy fee.
“I got a loan and thought I’m going to do this. So he left mainstream secondary school when he was about 13, and he went to a performing arts school called Susie Earnshaw.
“He absolutely flourished and stopped self-harming. It was like I got my son back.
“He’s a fantastic human being now; works in the theatre industry and is just loving life and can tell me anything.”
Belinda says the Mermaid Charity was very supportive of them both during the dark days and she hopes the new LGBTQ+ Parent resource will provide hope and help to others in a similar position.
“It’s so important to raise the awareness within our organisation; there’s probably a lot of cops in the Met that have got gay, bisexual children, that identify as gay or a different sexual orientation and it’s for us to embrace it.
“But for gay officers in the Met in 2021, there is still what is almost an accepted language they have to deal with,” she said.
“When I spoke to the LGBTQ+ networking group, I couldn’t believe it. They’ve got 700-800 people in the Met that belong to the group, and the Chair Kate Fletcher says there’s probably loads more who would join but who haven’t come out yet.
“That’s really sad. I think we’ve got to a good place within our organisation about racism and about what’s acceptable and what’s not, and there’s no room for it.
“We’ve got to look for the same around being homophobic. There is no room for it in our organisation.
“We’ve got to talk about it, and we’ve got to deal with it.”
LGBTQ+ Met Networking Group Chair Kate Fletcher will be hosting the upcoming Parent Platform Q&A’s on 26th February, 1st March and 4th March.
If you would like to know more about what each session covers, or to sign up to attend, please email Kate.Fletcher@met.police.uk