Nancy Kelley is the new Chief Executive of Stonewall, and will start working with us in June 2020.
She comes to us from the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) where she was Deputy Chief Executive and Director of the Policy Research Centre. Throughout her 20-year career, Nancy has built up a diverse record of policy and leadership experience working across the third sector and in Government, including at the Department for Work and Pensions, Refugee Council and Barnardos.
She lives in London, with her wife and two young children as well as two naughty dogs.
Can you tell us a bit about your involvement in LGBT issues up to now?
I’ve not worked inside the LGBT+ sector before, so I’ve got a lot to learn from colleagues at Stonewall and our partner organisations – something I’m really looking forward to. I come from a broad social justice background.
I’ve worked across a range of sectors: mental health, children and young people, refugee rights, poverty and social exclusion.
So professionally LBGT+ issues have been a cross cutting theme: I’ve worked with LGBT+ young people, LGBT+ asylum seekers etc.
More recently, at NatCen I’ve done a lot of work on public attitudes, including public attitudes to LGBT people, as well as supporting research teams to think about approaches to collecting data about LGBT+ communities in a robust and respectful way.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the fight for LGBT rights at the moment?
Like other liberation movements (feminism I think is in a similar place) we are at a point where the gains the movement has made aren’t equally felt, or even aren’t equally relevant across our communities.
Some of us have benefited far more from progress in LGBT rights than others. So thinking about how we are genuinely intersectional in our approach, and how we campaign passionately and effectively for the things that matter to distinctive minoritized communities feels essential.
Secondly, it feels like we are simultaneously at a point of great potential and great danger for trans and non-binary people.
Visibility is growing exponentially, and research shows us that the population as a whole has broadly positive attitudes to trans folk: there is real potential for positive change.
But at the same time not only are there huge barriers to trans and non binary people living their lives safely, there are worrying noises coming from government and from the legal system that have the potential to push trans rights backwards.
Those are the issues that are top of my mind as I step into this new role – I’m looking forward to having lots of conversations with colleagues, partner organisations and supporters over the next weeks and months to shape our strategy for the coming years.
Taking up such an important new role in the middle of a pandemic must be challenging. How are you approaching it?
With compassion for myself, for the staff team, and for all the people we are working hard to support.
This isn’t home working, it’s surviving a pandemic, and I think it’s really important to remember that.
That said, there is lots of potential to learn from the way in which organisations and individuals are adapting right now - and every reason to believe that Stonewall will come through this experience stronger and more connected than ever.
Personally, I thrive on relationships so I'm trying to accept that the process of getting to know the Stonewall family might take a little longer and feel a little different than it would if we were meeting and talking face to face.
Above all, I feel incredibly excited and privileged to join this groundbreaking organisation and start working as part of the LGBT+ rights movement.
When did you first become aware of Stonewall and its work?
I can’t remember! I came to live in London in my mid 20s, and had friends who worked at Stonewall (I was a mental health worker, working for MIND), but I knew about the organisation well before I met them.
I can remember volunteering at a Stonewall party to celebrate equalisation of the age of consent. I spent most of the night shaking a bucket to raise money, and spent the end of the night in the VIP area chatting to Jimmy Somerville!
What is your favourite thing about Stonewall?
So many things – and I don’t even know the staff team yet! But it’s a fact that this organisation has made my life possible.
My wife is American, we can live here because of the Civil Partnerships Act. Even more, we have two sons, who are the absolute fulcrum around which I spin.
They’re adopted, because Stonewall made that into something that people like me (and you) can do.