Blogs from members of The National Rainbow Network

This page will share updates and stories from members of The National Rainbow Network.

“I have always tried to shy away from being myself, hiding who I truly am. In a professional setting I was always taught to not disclose my sexuality, and to try and keep “personal” things personal. Going into my working life with this mindset has really hindered my own development. I should be proud of who I am and not conform to make others comfortable. It has been a long journey, and I still feel I have a lot to learn, but I am a lot more open and content with how I am perceived by my peers. I put this down to networks such as the One NHS Finance Rainbow Network and our own Local ID&E Network. Having the chance to hear others’ stories has allowed me to develop and see things through a whole new lens. It really is true that there is strength in numbers, and I am so grateful that I am one of those numbers.”

“I am Angela Mulholland-Wells, a woman married to Melissa Mulholland-Wells (her/she) and we have two children, twins named Joshua and Maisie.

Growing up I didn’t consider myself as gay or lesbian and never had any deep feelings for another woman until I went to university. I had relationships with both men and women but found I was able to have closer and more honest relationships with women.  Having been brought up in a ‘traditional’ family, an only daughter and having two brothers, I wasn’t sure how my family, in particular my dad, would react when I told them I was in a serious relationship with a woman and thought I was gay.  I was living away at university when I came out to my family; I was living a very different life from the one at home and I think my parents knew there was a part of my life that I wasn’t sharing with them.

Coming out to my family was an emotional phone call home one evening.  A few tears shed and I recall my dad saying he would miss the opportunity to walk me down the aisle which to be honest hadn’t even entered my head!  From then on, my family and friends support has been there; never judgemental or treated my partners differently to those of anyone else. I count myself lucky to have my family’s understanding and support of my sexuality.

Deciding to have a civil partnership (later converted to marriage when legalised) and planning to have children seemed natural life events to me. However, before undergoing fertility treatment to have children, my wife and I had conversations about whether it would be fair to bring children into a world where they may face greater challenges  because of our sexuality.  My children are now 16 years old and apart from the usual challenges of bringing up children in todays society, they are the most beautiful and well adjusted young adults I could wish for and I am so proud of them.  Having gay parents has not held them back and I believe has made them more understanding and accepting of people in all manner of ways.

Although I have never experienced significantly overt or obvious discrimination, early in my career I kept my sexuality hidden, not being my true authentic self due to fear of others peoples responses and opinions.  I wonder that if I had been my true self in work whether this would have changed my working life experience and relationships.  It has only been during the past 10 years where I feel confident enough to just be me in the workplace, regardless of others.  My advice would be, be yourself as much as you can.

My future aspirations are for greater understanding of LGBTQIA+ community, what it means to be part of and be a supporter of people who identify as LGBTQIA+.  I am part of the community but know I don’t understand as much as I should of others life experiences, challenges, hopes and fears.  I would encourage everyone to be open to learn and support one another, in all aspects.”

“Coming out as a transsexual was so important for me and I can honestly say this was the best thing I’ve ever done (apart from maybe the birth of my children!).

When growing up I never questioned my gender like many trans people talk about. It was much later in life that I realised I was transsexual. This realisation helped me understand how I have always thought of myself, as never being quite like other males. I felt different but it wasn’t until the Internet became common place in most households that I started to discover that I wasn’t the only one like me, and there was others that felt like me and were living in their chosen gender.

After this realisation there was still many years I kept this to myself, even when I finally came out to my wife, I still only transformed in a very part time way. I convinced myself that I could continue to go to work as a male, as work was non gender apparently! I also felt I couldn’t reveal my true self to my children even when my wife was aware, because I felt guilty and thought they wouldn’t be able to cope.

One day I was travelling on a tube train in London and I looked round the carriage and thought that everyone else in the carriage was being their authentic selves and I wasn’t. It might not have been the case of course, but I decided on that morning I had to transition to be true to myself. I was 51 and felt it was now or never. I had to be the person I am, and not the one others wanted me to be. I thought about it for three days, and then told my wife and then my children. This was one of the most difficult periods of my life, all the time knowing I would put a bomb under my life and those most dear to me. But I had to do it, for me. A necessary selfish act.

The impact on my family was devastating, which I’m still struggling with now. I left the family home and have since got a divorce. My children have struggled with it, and I’m currently not in contact with either of them. I do ensure they know I’m always here for them, when they are ready. I should say they are both adults in their 20’s.

The impact on my wider family was a shock with some seeing my transition as a bereavement, although it was still me, how different I suddenly was in a different gender. I felt I was not only taking myself through the transition but almost everyone that knew me. Perhaps I didn’t realise how much I affected others’ lives as my old self.

Coming out at work was one of my worst fears, and in the end I came out for the first time by mistake. I sent a text message to a guy I was seeing and sent it to the wrong guy, my boss! He found it amusing more than anything else, but I took the opportunity to tell him I was transitioning. He was shocked as you can expect, I’d known him for 15 years. But when he had got over the shock he was amazingly supportive, and became a person I could confide in at the start.

All the years of worry, and I needn’t have worried as everyone was so very support. I use to fear speaking with my not so feminine voice in meetings, but everyone was great, whether they thought anything they never showed it! I only ever wanted to be treated like any other female worker, and I can honestly say that has been the case. Even when I worked at the start on two different contracts in two different genders, with some of the same people!

The world is very binary and people will treat you depending on your gender and not the person in lots of ways. In some respects I found this a validation of my new gender, guys would stop asking me about football! At a time early in my transition at the start of Covid I was asked to go to help prepare a community hospital for hospital discharges. I was put on light duties whilst the guys were moving beds and tables around, I guess I was accepted as a girl!

The transition has taken me a few years 4-5 in fact. Some has been medical transition taking hormones, although I’ve not had any surgery. In my case I didn’t need it, to make me a women, which is a whole subject on its own, which I won’t go into here. But living as a man for 50+ years means you operate in that gender, people react in a certain way in that gender. When I transitioned suddenly you see the world through the eyes of a woman. Everything changed from getting use to a new name, to understanding a new wardrobe, to getting use to hair straighteners!

Some people have said to me that I have a fairly unique perspective on the world. I should be able to understand both men and women having spent parts of my life in both genders. But I get surprised at men’s behaviour towards me, the male psyche. You would think I should understand them, but too often I get caught out!

My main support has largely come from family, but I also have friends in the community who I socialise with. I have a boyfriend too and he is great and keeps my feet on the ground! I find it helps being part of the networks, meeting lots of others from all parts of the community, and I’ve learnt so much.

What advice could I give to someone who might be thinking of going through the transition? It’s not easy, it comes with lots of challenges especially those closest to you. I think if you’ve got this far with wanting to take the next step, then I would say you’re likely to have made the decision already. That said seek out a trusted friend, someone who you think will be supportive and discreet may be helpful. It has to be your decision and no one can advise you. It’s a massive life change only you can decide if it’s right for you. For me it’s so important to be the true me, if that’s you, I would say the same. It’s never too late, and the rest of your life starts now!

My hopes for the future? From a personal perspective, I think I’m now here as me, transitioned and comfortable about who I am, so it’s just about getting on with the rest of my life. I want to make a difference, a role model for the community, to raise awareness and support the growth of the networks to reach more people. For the wider community, we are talking more about these issues, lots of discussion and media coverage, some good and some bad. I hope this conversation develops a more inclusive society where everyone can be accepted for who they are, rather than what others think they should be.”

“A typical day in my life involves working, lots of cuddles with my two cats (Scout, a very affectionate ginger tom & Princess Peanut Butter, the sweetest fluffiest little ragdoll), ceramics or climbing, and time with my girlfriend and / or friends.

I currently work from home 3 days out of the week, and I’ll get up at 8:30 to get ready before having some coffee & breakfast with my girlfriend. She leaves for work and I’ll check my emails for any new meeting requests or urgent queries before working my way through my scheduled submissions for the day. I work for the Information department, which sits within Finance, and my day usually involves reporting on work for NHS England and the LPC.

My cats sleep for most of the day, but they are very affectionate and it helps me to remember to take little breaks from work! Scout likes to get involved in my meetings, he’ll hop up onto the desk and sleep next to me during Teams meetings. He’s up here with me as I’m writing this! Princess curls up under the desk and is very vocal when she wants some attention. I’m never on my own working from home, because they follow me everywhere!

After work, I tend to either climb, or head to my ceramics studio. Climbing is a huge part of my life; I met my partner and a lot of my closest friends bouldering at my local gym. A bunch of us will often go to Wales or the Peak District at the weekend to try and tick off our outdoor projects, too. Through climbing, I have found a safe and inclusive community who mean so much to me. It would be remiss to mention that it was a huge part of my coming out story. In my experience, there seems to be a bit of a crossover between the LGBTQIA+ community and climbing! I recommend it to everyone looking for like-minded people, and it’s a lot of fun.

On days when I don’t have the energy to climb, I like to make ceramics. I throw pottery on a wheel, and hand-build, and I’m always reading or watching YouTube videos to try and get some inspiration for my next project. My favourite things I’ve ever made are a bowl that I use every day for breakfast and my citrus juicer! I’m working on a set of flat white mugs at the moment as a birthday gift.

By the end of all that I’m usually ready for a nice home-cooked meal (I love to cook!), cuddles on the couch & some trashy TV. Life is good!”