Stonewall Scotland featured some of the role models they work with through different employers, universities, colleges and schools. “Too many young people are starting their careers believing that their success is reliant on them hiding who they really are,” says Colin MacFarlane, Director of Stonewall Scotland. “Most of our role models are not celebrities, but colleagues, friends, parents or siblings. Being a role model is a choice other people make for you. It is when they see something in you that resonates, something aspirational, or perhaps very normal. Something that says to them, this is possible, whatever this might be. Success means something different to each and every one of us, but we believe that it should never have to come at the price of being able to be yourself.”
One such Role Model is Commander Douggie Ward, who was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Honours List this year for his services to Diversity in the Royal Navy.
“My grandfather served in the Royal Navy in World War 2, as part of the Fleet Air Arm on the aircraft carriers, and one of my very good friends’ brother was also in the Navy. I used to hear his tales of all the things he got up to and I thought, I could do that. I have always wanted to put something back into the community and society in general, and the more I read about the Royal Navy, the more I liked it. I joined up as a Logistics Officer and am now a Barrister – a Commander, which is the same rank as James Bond.
I enjoyed my school education, and went to a good school. My aspirations were just to be happy and honest and to have a nice comfortable life with a nice family. Having grown up in a large family myself, I always wanted children, and in 2003 I got married to my wife. I didn’t know then that I was a gay man. I really and honestly did not. It was only as time went on that I realised something deep inside me wasn’t right. By then I was in my mid-thirties and had what most people would think of as a perfect life; and it was. I was married, I had two children, I had a lovely house in Rosyth, a good job and a black Labrador called Archie. But I wasn’t happy, something was wrong.
Finally, I reached out to the Royal Navy’s LGBT organisation, knowing that my problems were to do with my sexual orientation. It was then that I realised I was gay. For some time I didn’t do anything about it, until one day, a woman whom I shared an office with was listening to a radio discussion about the private life of a politician. The question was whether he was gay or not. My colleague chirped up ‘people don’t really care who you are, as long as you are happy in yourself and honest with everybody else’. I drove home that evening with those words ringing in my ears. I knew I was not being honest with myself or with other people. I had to make the decision; whether to stick a grenade under my world as it was then, or to say nothing and not be the person I knew at that stage, I was.
My job as a lawyer is about not misleading people so I realised I had to be honest. I also wanted to be honest for my wife, because I wanted her to have the opportunity of finding happiness and moving on. That evening I came out to her. It was very emotional, but it felt like the world had been lifted off my shoulders. The reaction I got after that, from colleagues, friends and family, and even my wife’s family, was amazingly positive. My daughters don’t see it as an issue either. When I married my husband, my youngest daughter soon realised that there would be a lot more grandparents, uncles and aunties, which also meant more presents at Christmas. My eldest daughter did struggle with the fact that I was no longer living with her mum, but we are still a family, just a different, larger family, and we work together to make sure everything is alright for the girls.
At work, even people who I thought would be negative, dismissive, or react against what I had done, were incredibly positive. In the last 15 years, the Royal Navy has changed incredibly. You live cheek by jowl in the Navy, and the only way you can ever live in such confined quarters is by accepting everyone’s differences, no matter what. We have a very strong team spirit and ethos, and the most important thing is that you are an effective part of that team and by being yourself you can be more effective. It is also important to show society that we are their Royal Navy: that we represent society in all aspects, and to do so we need to be just as diverse. For me personally, it is just so much easier being out at work because I don’t have to hide, or lie, or make up stories.
Life is different for everyone and there is no right or wrong way to know whether you are LGBT or not, and no right or wrong age at which to discover it. If I had known at 14 I wouldn’t have had my two wonderful girls and I would never change that for the world. Life works in mysterious ways, we just have to follow our own path.”