Speakers’ Corner – Being Me

The finale of Apple TV’s Shrinking played this week.  As usual, it was funny and touching. The climax involved the marriage ceremony of Brian to Charlie.  The main character Jimmy officiates and gives an inspiring monologue about his late wife. 

            ‘I wouldn’t have missed a second of our marriage,’ says Jimmy, concluding by announcing them both as husband and husband.

            Both men embrace and kiss.  And to me, it represents how much our world has moved on in the 21st century.  Even more poignant was that Brian’s father was the best man. So, I would like to discuss Being Me this week at Speakers Corner.

            Despite legislators’ progress to create accepting and diverse societies, there is a reactionary and vocal chorus howling from the sidelines.  In Scotland, it came from the Gender Recognition Registration Act that passed through the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood.  It’s now been blocked by the Westminster Government.   This is not the forum to get into the detail of the act, as there are passionately held views on either side.  There are some genuine worries about women’s safety, but these were dealt with during the passage of the bill, and these objections seem fuelled by anger, mostly anonymous on Twitter.  The discussion is no longer about the needs of a victimized minority but of right-wing men claiming this ‘culture war.’

            And this was the mood music, no doubt when homosexuality was legalised in the UK in 1967, when same-sex marriage was enacted in Scotland in 2014, and when the UK Tory government passed a law banning the teaching of LGBT+ rights in schools in 1988. The intention was to prohibit the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities.  The Scottish parliament rescinded the law in 2000 but not without a vicious campaign full of vitriol.

            Yet, mainstream entertainment now celebrates and embraces this diversity.  Perhaps, it’s time for our politicians to do the same and move on.  More compassion, acceptance, and understanding, please.

            Being Me, for all of us, can be difficult.  The roles you lead in life change through time.  And I’m no different; my attitudes have been formed and altered with societal changes, and I’m the better.  We all need space to be who we are.  More importantly, we need to give people the freedom to live as they want to.  In my business career, I completed and received many performance appraisals.  I developed an understanding of the support required to make them effective.  My mantra evolved through the years.  People’s strengths can be their weaknesses, and their weaknesses can be their strengths.  I mean that you won’t change behaviours, but with good coaching, you might help an individual recognise patterns that make achieving the task difficult.  Self-awareness and understanding are nirvana.

            And those were lessons that I had to learn myself quickly.  I was a demanding and goal-driven manager.  I didn’t suffer fools.  I was successful, but there were often casualties left in my wake.   Then, I had an appraisal with my boss one day.

            ‘You know, I don’t think you know how you come across to your staff?’ he said.

            I gave him a worried look, ’what do you mean?’

            ‘You always see the wrong in people, not the right.’

            ‘What do you mean?’

            ‘Start searching for the positive in your staff, not what they can’t do, what they’re failing to achieve.  Start seeing what they can do and what they can deliver, and concentrate your energies on what you can do to make them more effective from that point of view.  I can guarantee they will respond and make you more effective.’

It was a life lesson I’ve never forgotten. I want to see the best in people. I can’t say I manage to be that perfect human being, but I try.

Perhaps it’s time that those that lead our country did the same.