Sam Truelove - Lieutenant Commander Royal Navy and co-chair of the Compass Network (the sexual orientation and gender identity network of the Naval Service)
I attended the Leadership Programme in November 2014 after a colleague said they found it very useful from a career development perspective.
The programme gave me the confidence to be more open about myself, to not worry so much about what people thought and offered me a better understanding of other people.
One of the areas I really wanted to learn about was transgender issues. I had a few friends who were trans but my experience was limited and this was a good opportunity for me to talk to people in a safe environment and ask them about what they had to cope with on a daily basis. I found it really helpful.
As it turns out, I now have a transgender woman who works on our team. Having done the course, I felt I had something to offer in that not only could I support her but I could also support everybody else in the workplace and help to educate them.
I met some fantastic trans women on the course who I am good friends with. And that is the other thing I gained from the Leadership course – the bonds I formed…I would say they are friends of mine and for life. I invite them to events that we host and I am invited to their events. As Stonewall alumni, we have created this network where we help each other. This is incredibly powerful, it multiplies our ability to influence and assist each other as our journeys as individuals, networks and organisations progress.
I hadn’t really spent that much time in UK desk jobs but for the last three years I have been based in London and that is why I agreed to co-chair the Network – I deputy-co-chaired with one of my best friends and the current chair said you guys are the natural next chairs – everyone agreed we were in the right place.
We rebranded our LGBT Network as Compass. We chose the nautical theme for the Navy but also for the whole 360 inclusive strand. Compass is the sexual orientation and gender identity network of the Navy and not just the LGBT network, we now have had a lot more people interested in joining because it feels more inclusive.
The Navy in terms of policy has changed quite radically. 16 years ago it was illegal to be gay in the military so that is a very short period of time to turn things around. But it’s going to take a lifetime to change cultures and there are still battles to be won.
But I have seen a distinct change in the last three to five years. Working with the Network I work with many of our senior personnel and I have seen a change in their understanding and the support offered.
Being truly yourself at work is a strength and contributes to your organisation. I think about things differently because I am originally from South Africa, because I do sport, because I am a woman and a non-graduate, because of my life experience and because I am gay. We are all individuals and we all have something to offer.