PRESS RELEASE: Local transgender woman launches petition to end transphobic prejudice at RNLI Burry Port


Local transgender woman launches petition to end transphobic prejudice at RNLI Burry Port

An online petition to end discrimination in the RNLI against transgender people has been launched by trans woman Kate Lesley earlier this month (October 2015)

“I was determined to do something about the discrimination I have suffered from these bigoted people, and not let them get away with it,” commented Kate Lesley. “I have been campaigning for four months to get the RNLI to take this seriously, but the headquarters staff of the RNLI, including Chief Executive Paul Boissier, have whitewashed the local personnel at Burry Port Station. It’s disgraceful.”

“My wife and I both applied to be education volunteers with the Burry Port RNLI Lifeboat Station because they said they were desperate for help and as we were ex-teachers we were well qualified,” said Kate Lesley. “I had also worked for seven years as a Volunteer Tours and Talks Guide with the National Trust at Hardwick Hall in North Derbyshire. I had done a lot of training on how to talk to the public and regularly gave talks to groups of 40 or 50 people.”

Kate comments that as transgender people seem to be the media ‘flavour of the month’, with series on Kellie Maloney, Caitlin Jenner and transgender children on television, she understandably thought the battle had been largely won as regards discrimination and prejudice against transgender people. Mrs. Lesley says she hadn’t reckoned on the intolerant, ‘closed-shop’, discriminatory attitude of the management at RNLI Burry Port.

“My wife and I were flabbergasted when Local Operations Manager Roger Bowen at the Burry Port RNLI Station rejected my application on the grounds that, to quote their actual words, “The ‘culture’ of the Station is too ‘macho’ to have a transgender volunteer working with them.” They said there would be gossip. I replied that I was well-used to handling the public after seven years as a National Trust Volunteer Tours and Talks. I wasn’t worried about what people said behind my back as long as they aren’t rude to my face.

“It made no difference. They wouldn’t give me a chance to show what I could do; their rejection of me was final. They said they didn’t even want me to start. We were both very upset. I tried to contact them by SMS text and email the same evening, pointing out that what they were doing was unlawful under the Equality Act 2010, but they didn’t reply. I had to wait seven weeks before I got an official ‘rejection letter’ from someone called Heidi Allen, who is supposed to be the ‘People and Transformation’ Director at the RNLI – the title is not ironic, I understand!”

Kate has repeatedly quoted to the RNLI the exact words said by Roger Bowen and Trevor Griffiths (Chairman of the Management Group) at the meeting of 16th June, having made a note of what they said in an email sent to them on the same day, while their words were very fresh in her mind.

“Mr. Bowen and Mr. Griffiths have now denied what they said, I suppose to save their own skins. My wife Jane heard what they said too, but they have lied about it to the RNLI headquarters staff, who have closed ranks and pretend to believe them. What is all the more shocking is that Chief Executive Paul Boissier has signed up the RNLI as ‘Stonewall Diversity Champions’ – what a joke!

“It was some weeks later that Mr. Bowen and Mr. Griffiths concocted a misrepresentative and untruthful account of what happened. They invented a spurious excuse for my rejection,” said Mrs. Lesley, who has been married for 38 years to her wife, Jane.

Kate and Jane have two children and two grandchildren. “We love each other and are also best friends, so why should we not stay married, as marriage is now legal between people of the same gender?” said Kate.

After several months of writing letters and emails to the RNLI, including correspondence with RNLI Chief Executive Paul Boissier, Kate and her wife felt they were getting nowhere.

Kate continued: “The RNLI Headquarters staff have whitewashed the individuals concerned at the Burry Port Lifeboat Station. Apparently they claim to believe the untruthful account given by Roger Bowen and Trevor Griffiths, who are still in their management roles at RNLI Burry Port, although by their prejudice, dishonesty, and casual attitude to LGBT people, they have shown themselves unfit to hold such positions.

“As the Chief Executive and the regional and local RNLI staff are all in denial about what happened and refuse to further investigate the discrimination I suffered and deal with it properly, I feel I have no alternative but to launch an online petition to be sent to the RNLI Chairman.

“Of course I greatly admire the RNLI for its wonderful work in saving lives at sea. I just want to help the RNLI to be as good as they could be as regards not being prejudiced against LGBT people and members of other minorities who want to give up their free time and help them as volunteers. They need to be much more inclusive of diversity and actually implement their own Inclusion Policy.

“A good start would be to retract their rejection of my volunteer application and welcome me as they should have done in the first place. If this had been handled in a more positive and appropriate way by the local management and then the headquarters staff of the RNLI, this could all have been easily avoided. Mr. Bowen and Mr. Griffiths should tell the truth and fully acknowledge the discriminatory nature of what they said to us and how they handled this. It needs a new broom to sweep out these bigoted people and bring in some fresh, more tolerant and inclusive management,” concludes Kate Lesley.

Update 23/04/22 – thank you to everyone who signed the petition back in 2015/16 – it is no longer available to sign.

Her online blog in which you can read the full story, including all correspondence with the RNLI, can be found at:

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