At 14, Kevin Humphreys found himself homeless, simply by virtue of his sexuality. Adopted from the streets of London by the squatter and house music movement, he discovered his first real ‘family’ soon after. He returned to education, earned a degree and entered the construction industry, where he fought more homophobia. For the past 20 years, Humphreys has been a campaigner for diversity and inclusion with Jacobs Engineering Group. Last year, he was named Diversity Hero at the British LGBT Awards.

Almost a year later, he says, “It still hasn’t really sunk in. I remember when Dr Ranj announced my name – it was total disbelief. I think my first words were, ‘This doesn’t happen to people like me.’ From growing up being called every name under the sun, including ‘street scum’, ‘Aids carrier’, ‘batty boy’ and ‘faggot’, to that night when my beautiful LGBTQIA+ peers called me a ‘hero’ – more than anything, it felt like the best possible thank you to all those people across the past 40 years who have believed in me, lifted me and loved me. From my beautiful 1980s LGBTQIA+ homeless family to my current Jacobs corporate family, who all took me in and made me feel that I belonged. This award truly belongs to all of them.”

How did he celebrate? “On the night I was absolutely blessed to be surrounded by my Jacobs’ [LGBTQ+ network] Prism non-biological family, who have given me so much respect and love. At the afterparty, I remember so many complete strangers coming up and hugging me to say congratulations! The evening itself was utterly overwhelming. In total contrast, the Sunday morning following the event, I placed my award into my backpack and visited the Museum of Brands [in Ladbroke Grove, West London]. The museum is housed in the building that was once home to the incredible [Aids hospice and centre] London Lighthouse. I went and sat in the remembrance gardens. During the late 1980s and into the 90s, I spent many hours at the Lighthouse and the ashes of some very important loved ones rest there. On that Sunday morning, I wanted to share the moment with them all and say thank you. Always be most thankful to those whose shoulders you stand upon – always share your celebrations and victories with them.”

For Kevin, events like the British LGBT Awards matter because, “You can’t be what you can’t see. There are still large numbers of our LGBTQIA+ family across the UK who feel alone or not safe enough to come out. If events like this make inspirational superheroes such as Lady Phyll or Munroe Bergdorf visible to just one more young Black queer or trans person and shows them that they are not alone – then it’s all worth it.”

Does he think the community as a whole is doing enough? “No. More white queer folks must come to terms with the fact that we play a role in the harm experienced by our QTIPOC and trans families. This is a problem we have the power to stop if we simply acknowledge the privilege we have and use it to empower and support with proactive allyship.”

For him, the key to happiness is simplicity. “I have lived with literally nothing: no money, no clothes, no roof. What it taught me was that the stuff we so often get stressed about is really not important. When life is tough, my joy is in the very simple things that it offers, like a walk by the canal or a WhatsApp to my little friend Abbie, remembering how far I’ve come and how blessed I’ve been. A very wise, gorgeous human being once explained to me that exploring who we are is a journey. A never-ending journey of curiosity and questioning. It doesn’t matter when the journey starts or where the journey ends. What matters is who we choose to share it with. Life’s complicated, and not everyone is deserving of your love. Those who are… well, they’re the ones who are family.”

What piece of advice would he give to his younger self? “Hold strong, because in May 1981 it will all change. Trust them, and embrace the incredible adventure that is about to start. And in September 1985, don’t turn left. The police are waiting!”

Finally, what’s his top party tip? “It’s not the venue, cost or appearance. It’s the people. And lots and lots of Donna Summer.”

Interview by Paul Burston