Being out in prison

As a lesbian working with offenders in a West Yorkshire prison, Nic says it's important to 'break down stigma and stereotypes'.

Duration 01:51


INTERVIEWER: Is it difficult to be out, as a member of staff, to offenders in prison?

NIC: It varies. Male staff, I think, have a bit more of a hard time of it because there's a bit of a macho culture and environment and there's that expectation - banter, as they like to call it. Female staff, not so much, we get away with a bit more, people aren't so - in general society they're not so threatened by lesbians. I know some staff who aren't comfortable being out with everyone or they're out to a couple of close colleagues. I know some that have come in, eventually they've got confidence and kind of come out to a few people. And then, there's just others like me who are like, 'Yeah, we'll start, we'll be us and like it or lump it!' That's my approach to Leeds, I started there in 2006 and I don't think they quite realised who was going to walk through the door!

But it's been brilliant, it's been really good actually, coz it's opened up a lot of conversations with prisoners who wouldn't normally have a conversation. A lot of them keep telling me they’re lesbians coz they like women too! I have to explain the boundaries and how that works [laughs] but... You'll find someone'll go, 'I know someone outside; I've got a gay friend'. Then the more they're talking about it, someone else will overhear that conversation, jump in, or someone will see something in the paper: 'Oh, have you seen that?' And it's just doing a lot to break down that stigma and stereotypes. And with it being Pride recently: 'What you doing on the weekend, miss?' / 'Well, I'm in the Pride group.' / 'Oh, I've been to Pride years ago, it were really good!'

And them small bits, you just chip away at that atmosphere and make things a bit more tolerant, a little bit - everyday. It's sometimes not the big things, it's just the small things that are making a little, tiny impact that you can't underestimate the value of them.