Santander’s Kirsty Lacey sits down to talk about becoming a mother and not keeping her sexuality a secret
BY LOUISE SINNERTON
Kirsty was not one of those people that kept her wife a secret, but she wasn’t explicit about their relationship either. She has been married for six years and it was only 16 months ago when she welcomed her baby boy into the world that her perspective truly shifted.
“My wife is Asian, and we had a relationship that wasn’t clandestine but wasn’t always totally transparent. I told my parents three months before we got married that were together. Everyone had always asked the question and we had always said no. We didn’t really tell anybody, and of course when we decided to get married, that all changed”.
Despite this move to be open and authentic with her family and in her home life, being totally out in the workplace wasn’t something that followed immediately. “Before I took maternity leave people might have assumed that Meena and I were together. I mentioned her often, but I never referred to her as my wife.”
Kirsty lived without putting labels on herself, and still lives that way to this day, but she wasn’t always comfortable revealing details about herself that she felt needed to be private. “I knew once I told people, then you can’t control it, or you’ve got to ask people to keep your secret, so I just didn’t tell people. The biggest step for me was recognising that it isn’t something you have to keep a secret. As soon as I did, I learnt that the people I care about are more interested in me and me being happy than caring about who I’m married to.”
Kirsty opens up about many of the barriers being in her head as well as the fact that we’re now living in a very different world to that of 20 or 30 years ago. While her wife experienced slightly more stigma than her when she came out to her Asian family, she tells me that people don’t ask her anymore questions than they do about anybody else’s husband, wife or partner.
“Nobody has ever said to me: ‘Oh, you’re gay.’ I don’t label myself, and they don’t either. For me, it’s never been about putting a label on anything. I fell in love with Meena after never having thought I’d fall in love or start a family with a woman. In fact, it did take me a while to get my head around it, so I thought that others might take some time to get used to it too.”
This wasn’t the case and Kirsty says there’s so much more visibility around the LGBTQI community than when she joined the workforce – and it’s something that she really wants to celebrate.
Kirsty has been in a relationship with her wife for 11 years, and when they decided to have a family, they wanted to make sure that their child was brought up in an environment where they could be proud of where they came from, and their parents. It took five years for Kirsty and Meena to have a baby and it wasn’t an easy journey for them – becoming a mother and having six months of maternity leave with her son was a huge shift for her.
“When I came back to work I definitely wasn’t going to hide my son. It took that time away from the business for me to come back and say yes I’m going to talk about my wife and son, because they are a huge part of who I am. I felt like I didn’t have a separate life anymore. You don’t recognise until you change how much you were hiding before, and what impact that has on you – you just don’t realise when you’re in it.”
Since having her son, Riley, Kirsty has drastically changed her approach at work. She’s involved in the EMBRACE network – Santander’s employee-led network for LGBTQI colleagues and allies, is involved in mentoring, and is active about talking to people about how to manage their careers and whether to come out or not.
“Things have changed so much in the past two years. Before I had Riley, I supported the network but I feel much more committed now to providing visibility and supporting initiatives. This year we had a float for the first time in London Pride, and one of the proudest moments of my life was seeing my wife lead the Santander float through the streets of London. Today I’m all about giving my son a world where it is okay to be yourself.”
Recently Kirsty led a panel on LGBTQI children and prior to the event her dad said to her wife, “Six years ago Kirsty didn’t tell anybody about you two being together – now she’s on a panel – what’s changed?”
To this Kirsty answers that she just wants to be herself and has decided that whether people want to judge her or not is up to them. “Before we closed the door at home and it felt like entering a different life but now this is shared with our family and friends.”
As a director within Santander, Kirsty wants to demonstrate that you can be you and be true to yourself at any level of the business and is hugely proud that Santander is creating a culture of inclusion. “While I would say we’ve always been inclusive, things have improved considerably over recent years.”
Kirsty was given her promotion to the position of director when she was seven months pregnant, and she’s extremely proud for a company that would offer her that opportunity.
“The reality is that that doesn’t always happen, and in other organisations that might not happen. As an organisation we are focused on embracing diversity and recognising the contribution that different perspectives bring.”
“This culture runs right through to the top of the organisation which is simply fantastic. We are focused on continuing to improve and creating a culture that is authentic – through and through.”
Santander UK is a corporate member of myGwork Business Community
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