Moira Smyth

Winner 

2016 Positive Role Model Award for LGBT

The driving force behind the evolution of the LGBT+ network at Hampshire County Council, Moira has shown an inspiring enthusiasm for all LGBT+ topics and genuinely wants to make a difference for all of her colleagues and the wider community. Working in Hampshire since 1994, and taking over as Chair of the LGBT Network for Hampshire County Council in 2014, she has raised the profile of LGBT people in the county, with an inspirational vision for a unified approach to LGBT+ inclusion. Moira (along with colleagues in the University of Winchester) set up the first Hampshire Pride sending positive shockwaves across the County and its surrounding areas – Hampshire Pride is now a hugely successful fixture across the region. Moira’s energy and passion drives momentum for a better Hampshire and helps provide a platform for those seldom heard voices to call for change.

We caught up with Moira after she won the Positive Role Model Award for LGBT at The National Diversity Awards 2016. Here is what she said…

How did you feel about the other shortlisted nominees within your category?

All of the other nominees have been solidly working for many years but I feel I am a new kid on the block. I am particularly interested in the work with asylum seekers and LGBT issues that Jess MacIntyre is doing. I believe that anyone who works to promote acceptance of LGBT people is in the work of saving lives but this is even more important when working with Asylum seekers. I wouldn’t know where to begin with this work and I am not convinced I have the courage to pursue it.

da150After winning the award, what is your next step?

If you go to Brighton or Birmingham or Leicester or London, it’s like everyone is having a diversity party – at times Hampshire can feel 50 years behind all that. We are trying to get that party started in our County and that’s my intention that in the next 5 years Hampshire will become a place that celebrates it’s own diversity joyfully. I know that Hampshire is eager to embrace that, we’re just helping it along.

How is the work you are doing within the strand of LGBT, making a difference?

Me and my partner are fully accepted by our friendship groups and colleagues, we’ve been out for some time now and we are both comfortable in who we are. But I know that there are still many people that don’t have the confidence that they are accepted. Not only that but I believe that some people still worry for their children; if their child were to come out as gay, that they would then not be accepted, it would be difficult for them. It’s a tough life to be rejected and having to second guess what people are thinking or if they are genuine with you.

I am working for the day when a parent gets a sense that their child may be gay or on the spectrum that they will be able to say ‘…okay, well let’s support you and make you happy…’ rather than saying ‘’It’s a phase’’ or ‘’It’ll go away’’.

Why do you think it is important to highlight Diversity, Equality and Inclusion?

More than ever before! I was dismayed by the racist undertones promoted by the brexit campaign during the EU referendum and it was largely viewed as acceptable. I am astonished that we can observe without emotion the many refugees fleeing war-torn countries. It was no surprise to me that voices of hatred rose up and people were being bullied on the street after the referendum. We are on a very worrying trajectory, not one that is natural for the majority of people across the UK. We need to stand united and stay strong and say this place is for EVERYBODY.

What has the reaction been from your colleagues and supporters?

They’re all delighted! My Facebook went bananas for three full day’s with all the people from home and I am still getting emails and still on the front page of my work’s intranet! I also had a lovely word from our chief executive and his assistant chief exec who said ‘’We are so proud of you and we are so proud for you’’ which I thought was so lovely.

Who or what is your inspiration?

It was a few people. My partner Lesley, my biggest ambition in life was to fall in love and have a family and it happened. I’m very fulfilled in my private life and Lesley has given me the confidence to see that I’m beautiful and secondly she is the one who helps me believe that I can do great things.

And there is another person; my sister Lexy. She died of cancer 2 years ago but Lexi was a poet and she told me that I can move mountains; I can do anything I want. She had this belief in herself and she just soared! When she died I felt strong almost as if she was strengthening me. I just thought ‘Life is too short’. I don’t care if people like what I’m doing, I’m going to do it anyway!

My mum and dad were also a great inspiration. They were a couple of Catholic people growing up in Belfast during the troubles and they were determined that we were not going to grow up bitter or get embroiled in it. They always had respect for everyone!

I think also my friendship group. Just ordinary people bringing their kids up as best they can, and trying to make their world a fitter, kinder place.

What were your thoughts on the awards? Did you enjoy the night?

I was blown away! It was nuts! I just couldn’t believe it! I felt like Harry Potter when he was called to play in the tri-wizard tournament. I loved it! I loved to be able to bring Lesley and she really enjoyed herself. It was great to meet everyone there as well.

RETURN TO FULL 2016 WINNERS LIST


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