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Posted on Feb 7 2022 by Fiona Bailey

A teacher from the adult education team at St Andrew’s Healthcare has shared her story as part of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT+) History month.

Zoe Smith, who came up with the idea of turning the charity’s monochrome zebra crossings into rainbow pathways, had her thoughts published as a column in last week’s Chronicle and Echo.

As this year marks the 50th anniversary of the very first Pride March in the UK, Zoe wanted to write something to show the people of Northampton how supportive St Andrew’s is of the LGBT+ community.

She wrote: “As a society, we’ve come a long way since then and I am proud to write this column during LGBT+ History month. It seemed like rather an apt time to share my story as I – along with many other people from my community – can still recall life before Section 28 was lifted.”

For anyone who is not familiar, Section 28 was the name of a law which existed from 1988 to 2003 that prohibited the “promotion of homosexuality” by local authorities.

Zoe shared how homosexuality was rarely discussed at school or at home.

She wrote: “I felt like this meant I couldn’t talk to my teachers and other role models about my sexuality and therefore was unable to seek support. The upshot of that was that despite coming from a kind, open-minded family, I felt unable to be open about my sexuality until I was 28. That meant a huge part of my life was spent feeling very lonely, very frightened and very uncertain.

“This carried on when I started working at St Andrew’s and for a fair amount of time there I felt I had to skirt around the truth about myself with colleagues, who I know now would have actually have been really kind and supportive if they’d known. I’m thrilled to say that in June 2019, I believe we were one of the first - if not the first - mental health hospitals to hold our very own Pride, and this month we were excited to unveil our permanent ‘Rainbow Crossings’, to symbolise inclusivity and support for LGBT+ service users and staff.

“I’m so pleased that as a society we’re now far more inclusive and tolerant of each other, but more work needs to be done to ensure we can continue to help everyone – whoever they love and whatever their identity – feel safe and welcome.”