We were thrilled to discover our colleague Ann Marriott had been nominated as part of the #VisibleLesbian100 as part of Lesbian Visibility Week 2020. Over her 20 years at the charity, Ann has changed the lives of numerous young people. We asked her to reflect on her journey to visibility.
"I was surprised and moved to be nominated as part of #VisibleLesbian100 during Lesbian Visibility Week. It’s made me reflect on who I am and my journey to understanding that. Many of the other lesbians on the list have been influential role models for me over the years.
I grew up as an army child, moving country every 18 months or so. It was an amazing childhood, but one where LGBT identities were never discussed. At the age of 12 we settled in Nottingham and I started to try and navigate civilian life.
At 16, my parents moved away to a remote area of the Highlands leaving me to navigate the challenging world of housing and forming my identity. After much exploration I found a lesbian and gay group. It was awful! I was in a room with people who wanted to know whether I was “lesbian enough”! I didn’t want to be part of a movement that was so judgemental: so biphobic and transphobic.
Later, I found new friends who were very politically active. Through them, I learnt about the LGBT support for the Miners’ Strikes and was proud to hitchhike to London with my best friend, a trans woman to attend Pride, where the miners turned up in their droves to support the LGBT community.
My first relationship with a woman taught me a lot. My partner struggled with her mental health and used self-harm as a mechanism to cope. There was very little support or understanding available at that time. She drank a lot of alcohol and could become emotionally and physically abusive. Domestic abuse was not something I had knowledge of, and it certainly wasn’t something I could safely report.
We had to stick together; there was so much anger and hatred towards LGBT people that what we faced in our relationship was nothing compared to that. I was stabbed twice, once leaving a lesbian bar with my partner and once on a main street for being a ‘dyke’. It didn’t seem like things would change. Section 28 was in place and there was a sense of there being no hope.
At 21 I moved to the Highlands. I learnt to feel safe. My parents accepted me and I was embraced by the small community. I had time to study with Open University and start to think about what I wanted to do with my life. How could I make a difference?
Then, in 1994, I moved to Edinburgh where I met some incredible people. People I now call my family, who were out, strong and incredibly inclusive of LGBT people. My “family” was queer and awesome.
I completed my degree and joined the Edinburgh Lesbian and Gay switchboard. I loved this work so much I trained as a counsellor. I realised I could use my experiences to support others.
In 2000 I started as a volunteer at Stonewall Youth Project, now known as LGBT Youth Scotland. I shared my knowledge from Switchboard and coached 10 young people to become the voice at the end of the LGBT youth line. I then became a youth worker and, 20 years later, I am now the Youth Work Manager (East) for the charity, leading practice across Edinburgh, Lothian and Scottish Borders.
Whilst some of my journey through life has been challenging, I feel I can use this to create a better, more inclusive society. I dedicate my time at work, and out of work, to raising awareness of LGBT+ identities, to provide safe inclusive spaces for people to be who they are, and to challenge the stigma and hatred that emerges through fear and the unknown. The current climate of transphobia has an impact on everyone and I will continue my quest for inclusion until all of our characteristics are accepted and included.
I now share my life in a loving and positive relationship with Carol, our two dogs and cat in the countryside.
I am proud to be out as a queer, trans inclusive lesbian."