Q&A with Jayne Love

Jayne Love works for the PDA (Pharmacists’ Defence Association) Union and answers my questions about her gender and sexual identity and how it has affected her life and career so far.

Thank you Jayne.

Which gender do you identify yourself as?

I identify as a woman and was assigned female at birth (i.e. I’m a cisgender woman).

How would you define your sexual identity?

I’m sexually, romantically and emotionally attracted to people regardless of their gender and prefer to use the term ‘bisexual’ as it is more commonly understood. Some people prefer the term ‘pansexual,’ which means ‘someone attracted to people of all genders.’ There’s definite overlap between ‘bisexual’ and ‘pansexual,’ and many, including myself, identify as both.

What is your current job title?

Organiser and Lead on Equalities.

If you don’t have a trade union background, the term ‘Organiser’ sounds like a job where the person might do anything from organising events to tidying a stationery cupboard! In fact, ‘Organiser’ is used in the trade union movement to indicate a person who helps to build the strength and effectiveness of the union by getting more people involved in it.

Although I was originally hired as an Organiser, my role has now developed so I’m also the PDA’s Lead on Equalities. The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to inequalities faced by minority groups, and it was within this context that the PDA decided to launch three new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Networks for their growing membership. The Ability, BAME and LGBT+ networks sit alongside the National Association of Women Pharmacists (NAWP). I coordinate the NAWP and LGBT+ networks, and mentor and support my colleagues who lead on the Ability and BAME networks.

What’s a typical week like in your job?

Normally I’d meet colleagues and union members face-to-face, but I’m working from home due to COVID-19, so am developing relationships via phone, email, video conferencing and social media. A typical week might include:

  • Calling PDA members who have expressed an interest in getting involved in the union

  • Hosting an event online during an evening e.g. an LGBT+ network social event, a pre-registration (trainee) pharmacist focus group

  • Putting together a newsletter on relevant issues for one of the equality networks

  • Creating material for the website to encourage members to get more involved in the union

  • Developing surveys to go out to members on topical issues

  • Preparing updates about member activity to go on the website and associated press releases

  • Promoting campaigns via social media

What do you enjoy most about your job?

  • Working with people to help them achieve their potential

  • Making a difference to improve people’s working lives

  • The variety of different tasks

What do you find is the biggest challenge in your job?

As the filmmaker Josef von Sternberg once said, ‘it is easier to outguess animals than to predict the behaviour of human beings’ (1965, p.262). Although I enjoy working with people, it can also be a challenge! But this means that I’m always learning and developing as a professional as well as personally.

Are you comfortable in sharing your sexuality in your current workplace?

I don’t shout about my sexuality from the rooftops, but I make no attempt to conceal it either and am happy to have conversations with colleagues and members alike when the opportunity arises. My sexuality was something I talked about at interview for this job in terms of my LGBT+ activism, and the response to this from the interview panellists was very positive and supportive. I feel very comfortable being myself at the PDA.

Do you think that being a part of the LGBTQ+ community has helped, hindered or made no difference to your career?

By my early twenties, I’d had romantic experiences with people of different genders and so it was clear to me that I was attracted to people regardless of their gender. However, at the time, everyone I met seemed to be either ‘straight’ or ‘gay’ - I hadn't heard of bisexuality and so I concluded that I was just weird. It wasn't until years later, when I attended an equalities conference, where I noticed a breakout group for people who identified as bisexual and I thought ‘ooh, that's me!’ I went along, half expecting there to be nobody else there, but of course others were there, and I met openly bisexual people for the first time. Shortly afterwards, I plucked up the courage to go along to the LGBT+ staff network at the employer I was working for at the time and came out. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community has helped me in all areas of my life, not just my career, as I think that being able to be your authentic self is important.

How do you feel the way you look or present yourself has affected your career?

I know some people aim for a ‘queer look,’ but this is not something I’ve deliberately tried to go for. However, in a previous job after delivering a training session on equalities, one of the attendees came out to me as trans, as apparently, I “looked like the person most likely to understand.” My dress sense has always been quirky, and I’m attracted to a combination of colours, patterns and practicality, rather than any notion of current fashion trends! The way I dress is a combination of expressing my personality and of being sensitive to the context I’m working in. Don’t get me started on the lack of pockets in many “women’s trousers” and the thin fabric often used for sporting clothing – I’ve been known to buy “men’s clothes” on occasions when I’ve not been able to find something that’s fit for purpose. I think this is partly due to my desire for practicality and cultural sensitivity, but also due to not wishing to conform to a gender ideal imposed on me by society. Although I identify as a woman, I appreciate that my experience of being a woman is different from someone else’s, and so my clothes express my own experience of being a woman and my personality, more so than my sexuality. What I wear is just one way of being able to express myself. Being able to be yourself – allowing yourself to be yourself, as well as others encouraging you to be yourself – means that you’re more productive at work.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this industry?

1. If you’re looking to work in the trade union movement, become a member of a union first and get involved on a voluntary basis to build your knowledge and experience.

2. Although the trade union movement has always advocated for equalities, and trade unions usually have excellent policies around equalities for their employees, it doesn’t mean that that reflects the views of all their employees and members. I’d therefore recommend talking to someone who works for the union you’re interested in joining or working for to get an insider view, and ask about issues that concern you at interview, as this will help you to gauge what it might be like working there.

3. Every working person ought to be in a trade union that can independently represent their views, provide advice, support their career and help them with workplace issues, even if their employer is also a trade union itself. So, I’d recommend ensuring that you maintain appropriate membership of a union that is independent of your employer.

You can learn more about the PDA through their website at https://www.the-pda.org/.

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