Get to know some of our OpenAG Committee members

Richard FiskRichard Fisk, Commercial Real Estate Associate, Pro Bono and Inclusion Manager

Who is your favourite lesser known LGBTQ+ icon and what did they do to become iconic?

I have never really had an "icon" that I have looked up to but the person that best fits the answer to this question has to be my sister. She transitioned at an early age and at that time (around 2005) the "T" in LGBTQ+ didn’t have the voice that it does now. Having grown up in a small rural town I saw first-hand the battles that she faced every day and the strength she had to muster just to be herself. Over the years she has gone from strength to strength and travelled the world as a dancer, performer and model for some world class artists – am so proud to have her as my sister (although don't tell her I said that).

If you could tell the 10 year old you something what would it be?

Don't be scared of letting people down, just be yourself.   

How do you think your isolation experience is the same and different from your non-LGBTQ+ friends, family and allies?

My isolation experience during lockdown hasn’t been too bad at all and probably similar to many others (whether LGBTQ+ or otherwise).  I am fortunate enough to live on my own and I have kept myself busy.  Outside of work I have taken up running (I'm not a runner) and covered over 200km, redecorated my kitchen, found a new favourite gin and enjoyed having a very short commute to the "office".  The hardest parts have been going nearly two months without having a conversation with someone in person and the cancelled holiday plans.

What has been your most positive experience because of you being LGBTQ+?

The parties – I love a good party and especially a crazy fancy dress party! 

Laurie AndersonLaurie Anderson, Construction, Engineering & Environmental Associate

Who is your favourite lesser known LGBTQ+ icon and what did they do to become iconic?

Cameron Esposito, who is a lesbian comedian from the US. She is not only hilarious, but also acts as a really important voice for queer women through the issues she raises within her comedy and her activism for the LGBTQ+ community. Cameron is also the host of a great podcast called 'Queery' on which she's had a really broad range of guests crossing every intersection of the community, with the result being a multitude of interesting and candid conversations, go and give it a listen! 

Not all experiences of being LBGTQ+ are negative, what has been your most positive experience because of you being LGBT? 

When I started my traineeship, I never thought being LGBTQ+, or advocating for the community would form part of my professional life in any capacity. In reality, it was then and is now a really rewarding part of my job. Involvement in the diversity and inclusion networks both at my old firm and now at AG has allowed me to share views, educate and have some influence even as a junior individual, that I otherwise would not have had. It's also opened doors to meeting some really interesting and like-minded people working towards the same goal in other sectors. Those conversations and the ability to learn from one another in the professional LGBTQ+ space has been amazing. 

What has been your favourite Pride event, or moment and why?

It would have to be the first time I attended London Pride. Firstly, the weather was amazing which is a rare sight for a Scot, but the sheer enormity of the parade and event was just incredible. It was such an amazing experience to see so many people showing up in one place to celebrate with and for the LGBTQ+ community.

Jack CooperJack Cooper, Commercial Litigation Associate

What queer book, film, tv show, podcast would you recommend and why?

On Being Different: What it means to be a homosexual by Merle Miller. This is a very short book which I would advise everyone to read if they want to be an effective ally. It was originally an essay for the New York Times published in 1971. Upon my first reading, the surprising thing I discovered was that, despite almost half a century's worth of progress, Miller's insights and experiences were not that far removed from my own. Thankfully progress has been made but this book provides important context on where the movement for equality finds itself today.

What has been your most positive experience because of you being LGBTQ+?

The most positive experience has been when I moved to Arizona for a summer. It is a not a state known for its liberal attitudes but there was a very active LGBTQ+ community in my city who were incredibly welcoming. They were really proud of their state and were willing to show me around. The whole experience made it very easy to settle in.

When have you had to stand up for yourself and be proud to be LGBTQ+?

In the past few years, there's been a few occasions where I have experienced aggression (both verbal and physical) for being LGBTQ+. It was not very easy to deal with when I was younger because, simply, I was less sure of who I was and what I was really standing up for. Like all of us, with age I've become more settled and now understand what being gay means for me. 

West MiddletonWest Middleton, TST Team Leader

Who is your favourite lesser known LGBTQ+ icon and what did they do to become iconic?

I've always been inspired by the character and story of Achilles. Deemed unbeatable on the battlefield, his name was synonymous with strength and masculinity in Ancient Greece and, whilst he is one of the better known demi-Gods, what many do not know is that he is said to have had an intimate relationship with his male confidante, Patroclus. It was not uncommon for a man to take a male lover as well as a wife in Ancient Greece, but Achilles is said to have refused to take a wife until Patroclus convinced him to do so in order to produce an heir. 

What I like about Achilles is that he wasn't defined by his sexuality – he is iconic for other reasons, arguably in spite of it. I find it interesting that an archetypal male character who epitomised masculinity in Greek mythology, was portrayed as being gay. For me, it serves as a useful reminder that the concept of 'sexuality' and the stereotypes that go with it are merely a product of the views of society at any given time. The Roman emperor Claudius was ridiculed because he was the only one of the first fifteen Roman emperors who was not attracted to men as well as women!

What queer book, film, TV show, podcast would you recommend and why?

Linked to my answer above, I cannot praise 'Song of Achilles' by Madeline Miller highly enough. It's a beautiful re-telling of the story of the siege of Troy from the perspective of Achilles' lover, Patroclus. There has been some debate over the years regarding the nature of Achilles' relationship with Patroclus and what was intended in Homer's original Iliad. I think Madeline sums it up perfectly in this quote: "I think that now we are at a place in our culture where we can re-accept that interpretation of the story," Miller says. "It felt like it was a love story already, but I sometimes think the idea of them as lovers has been a little bit whitewashed from the record."

This was actually the first 'gay' book I ever read and it was also the first book that had me sobbing uncontrollably at the end. As you can probably gather, I've always had a bit of a thing for Greek mythology – Hercules was my favourite Disney film growing up and I’d read 'Circe' by the same author before I read this book, but reading 'Song of Achilles' was the first time I really felt able to connect with a love story, made all the better by the fact that it is a re-telling of a story I already knew and loved.

What has been your most positive experience because of you being LGBTQ+?

It was shortly after I had inadvertently been 'outed', the first time I saw my Nana and Grandad at the birthday party of a family friend. I remember being really worried as to whether they knew and how they'd react, given they grew up in a very different time and are generally quite conservative. My Grandad, referring to my female friend who had just arrived, said "Isn't she beautiful?", I replied "Yes, Grandad", he said "Just not for you though, love?" I said "No, Grandad", he said "Well, your Nana and I don't think any differently of you for it, flower" and that was it, the cat was out of the bag and, if anything, we've only grown closer since then.

William SmithWilliam Smith, Infrastructure Projects & Energy Partner

What queer book, film, tv show, podcast would you recommend and why?

After many recommendations from friends, I finally watched the BBC TV show, 'POSE' – an insight into the trans community and the 'ballroom' scene of New York during the aids crisis. It was simultaneously educational, moving and enlightening, not to mention the amazing sound track! Well worth a watch.

Favourite ally and why? 

My favourite ally has probably got to be Ben Cohen. As you will know, Ben has long been known as a British Rugby champion, but has also been incredibly vocal about his stance against homophobia and bullying. As a young gay boy growing up in a school where rugby was king and ritualistically homophobic, it was empowering to see such a prominent sportsman standing up as an ally. 

If you could tell the 10 year old you something what would it be? 

Be brave enough to be yourself and not who you think people want you to be.

Keith BrowneKeith Browne, Construction, Engineering & Environmental Managing Associate

What queer book, film, tv show, podcast would you recommend and why?

Anything by Alan Hollinghurst. I discovered his books in my teens and have been reading them ever since. His best known is probably The Line of Beauty, as it won the Man Booker Prize, but my personal favourite is The Strangers Child. Not only is he a genuinely gifted author, but he manages to move beyond clichés to capture experiences of gay life both unashamedly and unapologetically.

If there was one thing you could change right now that would make your life easier what would it be? 

Not necessarily a change that would make my personal life easier, but a change that will make millions of lives across the world easier (and, more importantly, safer) will be when outdated legislation that outlaws same-sex relationships and persecutes people for being gay are removed worldwide. Much of this legislation stems from homophobic colonial-era laws, and while there has been some progress, unfortunately in many countries it feels like we are moving backwards. 

If you could tell the 10 year old you something what would it be? 

Life will be fun. Enjoy it.

Rajdip KaurRajdip Kaur, Infrastructure Projects and Energy Associate

Who was your favourite LGBTQ+ character growing up? If they weren’t LGBTQ+, why did their story resonate with you? 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer! OK, I know it's a bit of a throwback but it was the first TV show I watched as a kid which featured queer characters. Not only that, the show was formative in showcasing that it was OK to be a bit different from everyone else and buck 'normal' conventions (Buffy herself included in that description of course). In fact, being a misfit was celebrated. Buffy wasn't a gay character, but her story particularly resonated with me because she was essentially in the closet by virtue of hiding her true identity as The Chosen One. 

A strong female lead featuring the occult and teenage angst – what's not to love?

Favourite ally and why? 

Lucy – my best friend and sister-in-law, who sang her Maid of Honour speech at my wedding (it was over 20 minutes long). She changed the lyrics to Under The Sea (from The Little Mermaid) and One Day More (from Les Mis) – very gay indeed. I also wouldn't have met my wife if it wasn't for her, so I guess I would have to cite Lucy as my fave ally. She's also the LGBTQ+ lead where she works as a senior research scientist, doing tremendous work to develop new medicines for rare diseases. 

My favourite famous ally is Ilana Glazer. Aside from promoting LGBTQ+ rights, Ilana is also a fierce activist in many important matters facing the world right now. She is also very funny and has portrayed queer characters in TV and film. 

If you could tell the 10 year old you something what would it be? 

It's OK to be brown and gay, our differences should be celebrated.

Jan GruterJan Gruter, Investment Management Partner

What has been your most positive experience because of you being LGBTQ+? 

A sense of community. When I was a junior lawyer in London I joined the London Frontrunners, an LGBTQ+ running club, and part of a global network of Frontrunners clubs! I have formed some of my closest friendships in the club, travelled to races in the UK and Europe and had many great nights out with club mates. I also met my husband Ed through the club! Because the club has such a diverse membership, in terms of age, educational and ethnic background, it also opened my eyes a bit more to the diversity in our community. I now live in Glasgow and was delighted to find out that there is a Frontrunners branch here too!

What queer book, film, tv show, podcast would you recommend and why?

I love reading and there are quite few queer books I'd recommend. However, top of the list for me is "Centre of my world" – a wonderful coming of age book written by German author Andreas Steinhofel. It's a about an eccentric and slightly dysfunctional family (Phil, his twin sister Dianne and mum Glass, supplemented by a cast of "adopted" family members) living in a huge bohemian but crumbling mansion in a provincial town in Germany. Each of the main characters is an outsider in their own right. The whole book is a series of anecdotes mainly focussed on the family's past  and the coming of age of both Phil and his sister. A big part of the book is Phil's falling in love with a new school joiner, Nicholas, and the way their lives become intertwined over the course of one summer. However, it is not really written as a queer book as such and Phil's role in the book is not defined by his sexuality. It's a story about adolescence, adventure and escapism and it really spoke to me when I read it. Funnily enough my sister and I read it around the same time (without knowing the other was reading it) and both fell in love with it. 

If you could tell the 10 year old you something what would it be? 

Don't try to fit in and chart your own course in life. Be proud of being different. Things will get better. 

I think all of these pearls of wisdom would have resonated with my younger self. I was quite introverted and especially at boarding school in my teens found it very difficult to let my guard down for fear of being picked on and there was a fair bit of casual overt or unconscious homophobia expressed by both staff and students. Sadly, that is still something many LGBTQ+ kids experience at school today but I am heartened by all the progress that is being made.