What makes me who I am is my enthusiasm for the welfare of others, whether that’s humans or animals. I am passionate about caring for those around me and making a positive impact. Outside of work, I foster animals for the RSPCA while they are looking for their forever homes, specifically rodents.
My creativity inspires not only my hobbies and my lifestyle, but also the way that I would like to present myself.
Creativity in appearance
As I grew up and got heavily involved in music, those scenes also influenced how I dressed and gave me a sense of belonging. They become your tribe, your familiarity. When you're in those particular social circles, how you look is the least of anybody's concern. But outside of those social circles, it suddenly seems to be someone else's concern.
Unfortunately I have quite a few examples of times when I have been made to feel excluded because of my difference, and they’re all based around my appearance.
Recently, while out shopping, a couple I encountered took offence to the way I was dressed and how I had my hair. What started with them making some nasty comments ended with them following me around the shopping centre. It was actually quite frightening to the point that I asked for help from a security guard.
This kind of behaviour isn’t uncommon as people make too many assumptions based on appearance. I would like to think that as a society we are becoming more accepting and progressing. I think in many ways we are, but from my own personal experiences, I know we still have a way to go.
It's easy for people to assume that if you choose to dress in a way that makes you stand out, it means that you are inviting attention, be it positive or negative. Personally, I don't dress for anyone other than myself, and my appearance is an outward representation of the kind of person that I am.
"I don't dress for anyone other than myself"
People sometimes find it difficult to accept something they don't necessarily understand or something that's not familiar from a visual perspective. And when people see something new or something different, it can provoke a defensive reaction in people because it's something that they aren't familiar with.
For my role here, I did ask the question: are there any restrictions on hair colour or dress, because I wanted to make sure I was working somewhere that accepted me for who I am. The really encouraging response I got was, ‘"you need to bring yourself to work, and your full self to work, otherwise you’re not going to work at your best if you can’t be you".
That is the first time in my whole career that I had received that kind of response, which made me feel like this is the right place for me to work. There are still times when I feel a little apprehensive, especially when it comes to working in offices, because I do stand out, but thankfully this has all been unfounded worries on my part.
Our differences are what make us interesting. If we were all the same, we would be fairly uninteresting, possibly even a bit dull. Differences should be embraced through initiating conversation. If you're interested in the choices that myself or another are making, ask me about them. But ask me about them because you're interested, not because you want to make judgments or criticisms.
The only way that we all understand each other properly is by talking. Communication solves problems, but it's how we approach that communication that makes that positive difference.
Unconscious bias is a very difficult subject. We would all like to feel that we don't have it, but it is actually part of being human, even though we may not acknowledge it. When bias arrives, you should acknowledge it.
I have unconscious bias towards people who I expect to have negative reactions to me. And usually, that's people who are at the opposite end of the scale in how they present themselves. So if people are well dressed and smart, and obviously take really good care of themselves, I assume that they will have a problem with me. And actually, a lot of the time, that isn't the case.