Explore Jak Matthews’ journey of advocating for LGBTQIA+ inclusion and breaking down barriers in the workplace. Discover insights on intersectionality, acceptance, and the significance of positive recognition.

Tell us about your accomplishments to date?

It’s kinda weird to talk about myself like this, but I guess I have been busy! Both in the day job and at the side of my desk I’ve been trying to make my workplace more inclusive for everyone, especially the LGBTQIA+ community. This involved things like advocating for better policies, sharing my experiences, and one thing I’m particularly proud of is the mentorship program I co-developed to connect LGBTQIA+ colleagues with mentors. It’s been amazing to see people benefit from it!

It’s been amazing to see the positive impact, like colleagues feeling more comfortable and supported, and even getting promoted recently and being able to lead more on LGBTQIA+ inclusion efforts! But there’s always more to do, so I’m also involved in volunteering with organizations like Birmingham Pride and working with other organizations outside of work too my favourite being Pride Matters in Tech which shares best practices for LGBTQIA+ inclusion. I try to open myself up to share my experiences as a trans woman and guide people as best as I can on how to be a better ally.

What are the barriers in representing many intersectional identity groups?

One size doesn’t always fit all, and trying to speak for a whole group can overlook the specific challenges faced by individuals with different identities.

The very concept of creating a singular representation for a group with vast internal diversity can be problematic. Power dynamics embedded within society often elevate the voices of certain identity groups over others. This is particularly true for intersectional communities, where individuals navigate multiple layers of marginalization and/or privilege. Dominant narratives leave out those whose experiences don’t fit the mould, silencing their voices , making it hard to make sure their experiences are heard.

The only way to break away from that is by listening to and including people. We need to create an environments where people feel empowered to share. Not just their stories but their knowledge and experience. No one person can truly represent a community they can only speak to their perspective. The best way to avoid becoming part of the problem is don’t keep to your own counsel and find people with perspectives that differ from yours.

Do you think acceptance is improving?

I would love to just say yes but acceptance of LGBTQIA+ is unequally distributed across its component parts. There are definitely positive signs in many spaces, public opinion surveys seem to be more supportive and more people are out and proud. Media representation is progressing. However its not even, certain regions and countries are experiencing and increasingly worrying trend of backsliding on LGBTQIA+ rights.

Looking closer to home here in the UK you see it with the polarisation  surrounding gender diverse people which has manifested in the toxic debate that is trans rights vs gender critical views. It’s worrying and very mentally draining to navigate the world with the cloud of your right to exist constantly hanging over your head.

LGBTQIA+ acceptance has found itself uncomfortably becoming a political distraction point which puts at risk what progress we have made as people try to score points.

What does been nominated in your category mean to you?

Outside of it being a huge honour it was equally shocking. I look to the other nominees and ask myself “how am I on a list with some of these people?” As a trans woman positive visibility means a lot, especially at the moment. Its easy to get bogged down in all the negative social media and news commentary you see in the world.

I feel very proud to be being recognised for the work I have done and its forced me to get comfortable with self reflection on the things I have achieved and receiving praise. Its served as a much needed injection of motivation to keep pushing for progress knowing that there are others that see value in what I have tried to achieve. The fact that its come during the 10th year of the British LGBT Awards feels like a special milestone in its own right.