Being LGBT at York St John – Robert Scott, Head Gardener

My thoughts for the LGBT Staff Network blog on what it’s like to be a homosexual male at York St John University

Thinking back to when I first started at (what was then St Johns College) York St John University in 1994, for at least the first few weeks, I did keep my sexuality to myself; I began by leading a lie. My then line manager, after showing me around the various sites and meeting new colleagues – as the conversation invariably goes – asked “and are you married?”. I said after a slight hesitation “no, but live with my partner”, to which he replied “what does she do?” and without thinking I said “she’s an accountant”. Obviously this was a lie; I had at that stage been living with my male partner for over five years. I hated that I had started the lie, but although I had come out at my previous job, I remember how difficult that had been and wasn’t sure that this place wouldn’t be the same. I stupidly thought it would be easier if I pretended to be “normal” – at least then I wouldn’t receive those nasty verbal assaults from certain individuals that I’d received in the past, both to my face and (mostly) behind my back! But as the weeks went on, I found it difficult – I wanted to talk about my partner to my colleagues instead of making up this fictional girl’s name, of what we’d been up to over the weekend and so on. It came to a head when my boss asked if I’d like to come over to his home to see the garden sometime with my girlfriend and his wife would make us a meal. It was then I had to tell the truth, which was embarrassing to say the least – I think he understood, although we never got that invite!

Since then I have been open and honest. I have no inhibitions about my sexuality. The people I work with are fantastic and many have become dear friends of both my now civil partner and family. On the whole staff at York St John are very inclusive and treat me as that “normal human being”!

In 2003 my partner and I were given the opportunity to become parents and, to cut a long story short, in August of 2004 our son was born. The university supported me by giving me the statutory parental leave. My line manager at the time was immensely supportive and with her guidance and support, I was able to reduce my working days to four and then a year later to three, giving a better work-life balance and allowing me to spend more time with my son. I’m not sure that I would have been given the same level of support from many other places of work.

Members of staff within the university, including the then Principal, were and are interested in my family and are keen to include us all at both work and social events. This has been a great source of comfort to know that in the 21st century being a gay man in a civil partnership with a son we are accepted by the many and not just the few.