By choosing to come out you will be bringing more of yourself to work and the business.
Antonia Belcher is a founding Partner of MHBC which was established in early 2007, and has 40 plus years’ experience in the construction and property industries. She transitioned in 2000 in a very male dominated working environment, where there was no history or visible LGBT influences to draw on. Recognised three years running as one of the OUTstanding/Financial Times Top 100 LGBT Business Executives, in 2014, 2015 and 2016, she was also recognised in 2016 as one of the City’s most inspiring women in the City A.M. Power 100 Women List.
Pride in London sat down with Antonia after our Pride in the City event to get her thoughts on how best to support the Trans Community in the workplace.
What Pride in the City ( PIC ) Theme did you cover?
“How to support the Trans Community in the Workplace”
What made you feel you wanted to support this event?
I am a transwoman working in the Construction and Property Sectors, and a founding Partner of my firm, MHBC, which is based adjacent St Paul’s Cathedral. I transitioned in a very male dominated working environment during 2000 to 2003, where there was no history or visible LGBT influences to draw on. I have been fortunate in my journey, remaining married to my partner, with whom I celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary this year, having converted our marriage to a same sex marriage last year, and sharing my authentic daily life with my three adult children and my partner. At work my journey has been no less rewarding, since I created MHBC in 2007 with colleagues who worked with me before I transitioned, and they have been the ultimate Allies.
Have you been involved with Pride in London before?
No, but I have been an early member of OUTstanding, and they see me as a Role Model, and I have been recognised three years running as one of the OUTstanding/Financial Times Top 100 LGBT Business Executives, in 2014, 2015 and 2016 recognising my commitment to help create a fair and inclusive workplace for all, with a particular focus towards helping business become more Trans-aware, Trans-friendly and Trans-ready.
How do you feel your PIC Theme impacts you in the business world?
I know only too well, that if you can see that the business in which you are Employed/Work, and your business colleagues working directly with you day to day, are Trans-Aware/Friendly/Ready, then you have the opportunity to bring your whole self to work. If you chose to come out, then you will be bringing more of yourself to work and the business will benefit. I know this because it applied to me, and I now want the Business world to see that ‘power of authenticity’.
If you were to give one bit of advice to future business leaders, what would it be?
The statistics we hear about the LGBT population, and the proportion of transgender people within it are very likely wrong, with the proportions more likely to be much higher than we have been informed. I would suggest the Trans spectrum is surprisingly greater. As a business, if you are not a welcoming business to all, then you are making your search and recruitment of future talent much harder.
In relation to this year’s Pride in London Theme, Love Happens Here, are there any stories you would like to share about ‘falling in love’ ( with anything/one ) in London.
I am one lucky Transwoman. I am loved by my wife, and my children without question or stint……... For 5 years they were totally unaware that I was leading a second/double life whilst at work in London, although my authentic life albeit somewhat nocturnal and truncated. Prior to my transition, for 5 years I left work in the evening to become Antonia, and thru those 5 years, created a second life for Antonia, making new friends and learning about Antonia, to only return to be Anthony in the morning at work. My family were blissfully unaware. When I decided that I could perpetuate that lie no further, fuelled by the loathing I had for myself in deceiving my family and loved ones, I found myself telling my wife one evening on holiday over dinner, and crashing her world by saying I was going to transition. Two years later, after much heart wrenching, my wife said to me ……I have mourned Anthony’s death, I have grieved enough, and I see a brighter world. Tony with a Y has gone, but this other Toni, Toni with an “i”, has come into my world, and I would like to spend the rest of my life with that Toni. My wife is a remarkable woman, and our love for one another remains unassailable.
Thanks for your time! Are there any other issues facing the LGBT community you’d like to raise before you go?
LGBT portrayal in the media is historically not good. It is certainly not good for Transgender. By 2010, after transitioning 7 years previously, I decided to be more visible – Out, Loud and Proud as a Transwoman, as I call it. I had tired of reading harrowing accounts of transgender journeys, with the Press revelling in the heartache. After speaking with my family, I secured their permission to put my head above the parapet, so I could tell whoever was interested about the circumstances of my transition, and that I had ‘successfully’ [ if that is the right way to describe it ] transitioned both at home and in work, and remain happily ensconced in both family and business spheres. None of the harrowing storylines that the Media want to sensationalise. Even the Daily Mail had to see this when they featured me on 11th March 2016 in their Woman pages. I have always said to my three children, now 34, 30 and 25, to call me Dad at home if they wish, explaining I am their Dad, and nothing will take that away. So when my daughter got engaged to marry, earlier this year, I wondered what she will do regarding giving the bride away. The wedding is to be in July 2018 and we are in the thick of organising now. A few weeks back, she told me “I am giving her away” – saying you are my Dad and no one else is doing it.
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