Standing proud: Wemyss Stewart

Wemyss Stewart

Wemyss Stewart

Business Advisory Director

Wemyss Stewart, Business Advisory Director, shares her experience of acknowledging her sexuality and how much things have changed for LGBTQIA+ people in her lifetime. 

I am a woman in her mid 50s. Why do I tell you this? Because I want you to know how much things have changed for LGBT+ folk in my lifetime - but also that there is more change needed, and maybe if you’re heterosexual it's not as clear to see this. 

I was 21 when Section 28 was passed into law in 1988 by the Government. This law stopped councils and schools "promoting the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship." ​​​​​​​The law stayed in place in Scotland until 2000 and the rest of the UK until 2003.

I already felt ‘different’ throughout my school life but I didn’t know anyone that was LGBT+; I didn’t see anyone represented on TV except camp male entertainers. ​​​​​​​Throughout my time in higher education I came to realise how I felt but I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, acknowledge it.

The law and the general public perception made me feel that I must be ‘wired’ wrong. Bear in mind it took until 2010 before the Equality Act made it unlawful to discriminate against someone because of their sexuality. So I buried how I felt in order to fit in. Over the years a black cloud grew over me - I wasn’t living my life as my authentic self.  

Things came to a final head when I was 40. I realised I needed to seek professional help to make sense of how I felt and how I was going to live my life. Through this process I finally acknowledged my sexuality but swore I won’t be telling anyone. And I didn’t….until I met the woman who is now my wife.

The day we met I knew we’d spend the rest of our lives together and I knew I was going to have to come out. It was a scary period - not knowing if my family, friends and colleagues would accept me. Would they treat me differently, would they hate me?  

Almost all the reactions I got were wholeheartedly supportive. They were happy to see me happy. My Dad, who I worried would never talk to me again, adores my wife. He said all he ever wanted for me was to be happy. I’ve been lucky. There are still many LGBT+ people that are cut off by family or discriminated against at work.

If I can support anyone that may be struggling to accept their sexuality or broaden someone’s understanding of the challenges still faced by the LGBT+ community, I’ll be grateful.

We have seen progress over the last few years - in the UK, not necessarily across the world. I wouldn’t have imagined when I was in my 20s that I would be able to marry the woman I love - but here we are.  

But there are still times when my sexuality causes issues - whether it’s being verbally or physically accosted; or drawing unwanted attention just for holding hands in the street. It still happens.  

This is why I’m delighted to be part of Embrace, the group at Johnston Carmichael promoting LGBTQIA+ inclusivity. We just need to look at what’s happening in certain places around the world or being said in certain media outlets to see there’s still work needed. We sadly can’t presume that LGBT+ rights, that have been fought for and won, will stay in place. Progress has been made but we can’t be complacent.

If I can support anyone that may be struggling to accept their sexuality or broaden someone’s understanding of the challenges still faced by the LGBT+ community, I’ll be happy to.

Find out more about our People and Culture Forum and Embrace here.

Want to know more?

Just fill in our short form and one of our experts will get back to you shortly.