Celebrating the views and experiences of our colleagues on the impact LGBT History has had on them as well as LGBTQ+ figures of inspiration.

Cecil Belfield Clarke

Cecil Belfield Clarke was a gay black doctor from Barbados, best known for ‘Clarke’s rule’, a mathematical dosage for medicine for children, still used today.

He was a leading figure in medicine and race relations in the UK from the 1930’s and was a founding member of a UK based civil rights movement. 

Michelle Ross

Michelle is the founder of CliniQ and Director of Holistic Wellbeing Services. Improving the provision of health and wellbeing services in the UK for trans, non-binary and gender diverse people.

CliniQ is the UK’s first sexual health and wellbeing clinic aimed at supporting the trans community and their partners.

Kevin Fenton

Kevin Fenton is a senior public health expert and infectious disease epidemiologist, with a distinguished profile of public health leadership roles on both sides of the Atlantic.

Working to end new HIV infections, stop preventable HIV deaths and eliminate the discrimination and stigma associated with HIV.

Terrence Higgins

‘Terry’ Higgins was one of the first people in the UK to die of an AIDS-related illness. A trust was then named after Terry, hoping to personalise and humanise AIDS in a very public way. 

The Terrence Higgins Trust is one of our charity partners at NEXT, and they have a goal of ending all new cases of HIV in the UK by 2030. 

Michael Dillon

Michael Dillon was the first trans man known to have undergone gender confirmation surgery. 

While in transition, Dillon wrote the first medical treatise on trans identity and gender affirming treatments.

Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks was a British neurologist and writer who wrote popular, critically acclaimed books about neurology.

It was only until the age of 75 he began his first real relationship with fellow writer Bill Hayes. Sacks publicly acknowledged his sexuality and relationship in his autobiography On the Move: A Life.

Sophia Jex-Blake

Sophia Jex-Blake was a leading campaigner for allowing women to study medicine, becoming the first women in Scotland to become a doctor. 

Her career and personal life reveal how the professionalisation of modern medicine occurred alongside changing social attitudes about women’s social roles and sexual identities.

Alan Turing

It is unimaginable to know that someone so talented and who saved so many lives was treated so ruthlessly by his peers and our Government, simply for who he loved. 

This was not hundreds of years ago, it was only 70 years ago! I have visited Bletchley Park and it was humbling to see where Alan, and his colleagues, fought against evil during the war and how much we owe them.'

Ben Gregson l Data Protection Officer & Compliance Manager 

Leanne Says, ‘He cracked the Enigma code which played a crucial part in the victory over Nazi Germany during World War 2. Unfortunately Alan was also a victim of the mid20th Century attitude towards homosexuality and was arrested in 1952 when it was illegal in Britain. Alan later died in 1954

Thanks to campaigners continuing their efforts over the decades, in 2013 he was pardoned. In 2017 the government agreed that all men convicted of the “crime” will know longer have a criminal record. This pardoning has become known as the Alan Turing Law.

In 2019 Alan was named the most “iconic” figure of the 20th Century and his face now appears on the £50 note. Although we have moved forward with such positivity within the LGBT+ community, we still have such a long way to go. I’m in awe of the bravery of the men that were convicted of such a crime but stayed true to who they were which gives me the freedom to be my authentic self today. For that, he is somewhat of a hero'.

Leanne Redman

Lady Gaga

Sarah says 'My LGBT Hero is Stefani Germanotta, or as you may know her Lady GaGa.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a policy used in the US Military from 1994 to 2011. This policy was in place to protect closeted LGBT people from discrimination. However, if you were openly gay, lesbian or bisexual then you would be barred from serving for the military. I remember hearing about it and being enraged. How? How can you no longer be deemed fit enough to serve and protect your country if you are openly lesbian, bisexual or gay?

In 2010 GaGa headlined a rally to support the repeal of the policy where she gave a twenty minute speech regarding her stance. GaGa called on the US Senators to abolish the policy, calling it wrong and unjust. She used her platform to me, for the greater good. And at this point she was no longer just a singer, she was an inspiration. As a young LGBT person myself at the time I hadn’t yet seen someone use their platform in this way. I had so much respect that someone was rallying for our rights.

In 2011 “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed and now LGBT people can openly serve in the military in the US.

Sarah Bow | Team Manager, Stadium Way

Yungblud and Harry Styles

Aimee-lou says 'They are a popular singers, and they stand up for the rights of the lgbtqai+.

I was always to afraid to question who I was, but I never felt like I was me. When I started taking interest in these singers and really listened to what they where saying, I felt like I could relate to the songs that yungblud wrote. 

I felt a emotional when hearing Harry’s songs, one song in particular is called 'lights up' which speaks about knowing who you are. When I listen to this song it made me realise that I didn’t know who I was, but it was okay, I have time to figure it out. They helped me gain the confidence within myself to come out and finally tell people who I really was.

Aimee-lou | Team Member, Merryhill

Janelle Monàe

Summer says 'Janelle Monàe Robinson is a pansexual and non-binary musician, actor and model whose music career spans multiple genres, with an emphasis on afro-futurist aesthetics in her songs and music videos. 

She starred in the critically acclaimed films Hidden Figures and Moonlight in 2016, and will star in the Knives Out sequel. 

Her latest album Dirty Computer (2018) was nominated for Album of the Year at the 2019 Grammy's. It was accompanied by an 'emotion picture' which features the bisexual anthem 'Make Me Feel' starring Monàe with actress Tessa Thompson and model Jayson Aaron. Janelle Monàe's music and activism are always focused on black, queer and working class people, and that intersectionality in activism is not only important but absolutely necessary.

Her mentorship under Prince has created such a rich and nuanced sound, and the important messages behind her work are backed up by incredible vocals and music.

Getting to see her live on the Dirty Computer tour and being surrounded by fellow queer fans was a beautiful experience'.

Summer | Sales Consultant, Camberley Meadows

Boy George

Richard says 'Boy George is the lead singer of Culture Club. 

I grew up in the 1980s and Culture Club made some great music. I was very lucky to have great music such as this, when I grew up.

Richard Moxham | Van Driver, Warrington RSC

Charlie Jane Anders

Katie says 'Charlie Jane Anders is an amazing author, who celebrates life as a trans woman through her writing and her supporting of others.

Her visibility inspires me, and her sense of humour always makes me laugh'.

Katie Morton | Delivery, Leeds Birstall

Jimmy Somerville

Richard says 'He was the lead singer of the Communards, and Bronski Beat. They had a huge hit with the song, 'Smalltown Boy', which highlighted how difficult it was to be gay in the 1980s.

Search for 'Smalltown Boy, Bronski Beat', on Youtube. The video is brilliant. Their album, 'Age of Consent', is a great album. Quite controversial back in the 1980s. I would never play it in the presence of my parents! Again this is also on Youtube. By the way, I have already nominated Boy George, here is my second nomination!

Jimmy Somerville and Boy George paved the way for later LGBT musicians. They were real trailblazers, in my humble opinion.'

Richard Moxham | Van Driver, Warrington RSC

Russel T Davies

Andrew says 'throughout growing up there was nothing on TV or anyone gay to look up to, to talk to, to understand what is meant by the term gay and what my life was going to be like. 

And then along can Queer as folk a tv show from the ever brilliant Russel T Davies which showed three completely different lives of 3 gay men and there highs and lows of life. It was amazing tv and really helped me and others remember what life is/could be like for us. 

Russel T Davies has done many outstanding shows but the work he has done to educate and influence people about the LGBTQ community history as well as current life is nothing short of amazing. 

He continues to deliver with excellent shows and earlier this year let us in to the lives of a group of gay men living through the aids crisis, this was both joyous and moving in each episode'. 

Andrew Chamberlain-Smith | ASM, York Vangarde

Sir Ian McKellen

Jamie says 'during my younger teen years before coming out watching X-men and Lord of the rings, seeing Ian Mckellen play roles such as Magneto and Gandalf.

To then meet him in person and walk along the parade during London pride was an amazing experience and a memory I will never forget.
He has contributed so much over the years and continues to do so for the LGBTQ community and charities'.

Jamie Statham | Store Manager, Southend (081)

Lil Nas X

Darrren Says, ‘It has been consistently reported that in the UK, the LGBTQ+ community may experience increased levels of common mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. 

All too often, we see the mental health effects of growing up LGBT impacting later in life, looking back to my teenage years and earlier, it was difficult to express yourself and allow your personality to develop as it should at the most crucial time of your life. Lil Nas X Is The LGBTQ Icon The World Needs Right Now!

In a few short years, the 22-year-old, has become a role model for young queer people around the world, helping thousands of young and emerging LGBTQ people feel truly seen. His fashion choices, social media memes, crossover tunes and incredible visuals, have made massive new gains for representation and helped shape a new queer icon.’

Darren Hopkins | HR Officer

Michael Cashman

Andrew says ‘exploring my identity as a young gay man in the late 80’s and early 90’s, there was not a great deal gay representation, let alone role models. 

But as I look back now and reflect on the impact in 1986, of a certain soap I was watching called Eastenders and the introduction of a gay couple; Colin and Barry. Seeing that relationship and the first kiss between two non-steryotypical, ordinary gay men on british television had a positive impact on me. 

Colin was played by Michael Cashman, who from his early inspirational acting went on to became the country’s first openly gay Labour MEP in 1999 and went on to be president of the European Parliament’s intergroup on gay and lesbian issues, while also helping convince Tony Blair’s government to introduce same-sex civil partnerships. He was made a Labour peer in 2014 and has championed issues such as compulsory LGBT-inclusive sex and relationships education.’

Andrew Jurd | Head of Retail HR

Billie Jean King

Meghan says 'Billie Jean King has fought the patriarchy for years both in sport and through her charities. She has shown that girls can do whatever they want.

Billie Jean King is the reason I started to play GAA and took up boxing. Her determination helped me to go to different finals. Just like her I wanted to show strength and that no matter who I love and what I do, I'm still human and I'm good at what I can do'.

Meghan Byrne | Sales Consultant, Handforth Dean