Queen’s Birthday Honours: The trailblazing gay activists you should know about
Two leading gay activists couldn’t quite believe it when they made the Queen’s Birthday Honours this year.
It perhaps pays testament to their humble characters that neither of the two men who received the accolades could quite believe that they had been royally honoured.
Scott Heath, who has been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for his extensive work inside and outside the office helping LGBT+ people, first thought that the letter was an overdue tax bill.
“You get this piece of mail that’s bigger than an A4 letter. At first I thought I had messed up my taxes. I expected a bill sending me to court, but instead I saw a letter inviting me to receive a medal,” Heath joked.
And Monty Moncrieff was sunning in Lisbon when he received an Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his outstanding work for the likes of Switchboard and London Friend.
“I wasn’t expecting anything like it. I was chuffed. I was on holiday when the letter – I go to the Eurovision every year and I was in Lisbon at the time. By the time I got back, I was horrified to find that I had missed the deadline in the letter to reply. Fortunately everything was ok,” he told PinkNews.
In his role at Network Rail, Heath also volunteers as the Events Deputy Chair of Archway, an LGBT+ network for employees.
Organising events like LGBT+ parent talks and V&A queer art visits, Heath explained the importance of creating an alternative network for LGBT+ people.
“While straight people might have those natural networks – two workers might have their partners drop off the kids at school – there’s an automatic building of connections by virtue of sexuality,” he said.
“LGBT+ have to work a bit harder than that to get it in their working environment at times. Sometimes you might not even be out in the workplace, and you need another accepting environment.
“I remember one time I got into the lift and had a homemade soup. Someone said my soup looked amazing, and asked if I’d made it. My boyfriend had made it, and just for about a second I paused. That pause wouldn’t have existed if it was my girlfriend. That pause exists and that pause exists for a lot of us in the community.”
Heath also works as the Chair of the Board of Trustees at Volunteer Centre Camden, which partners volunteers and charities.
When he’s asked how he manages so much around a full-time job, he laughs.
“I’ve always been a busy person. I’m kind of lucky in some ways because most of the trustee stuff happens after work. It’s Pride month now so it becomes even busier in the summer. March is a busy time for our financial accounts. Things are not busy at the same time.”
“I enjoy doing it – it feels like fun. It’s something I love doing and hugely looking forward to it.”
Moncreiff, who is receiving an MBE for his work, has contributed to the voluntary sector in some way for 20 years.
“When I moved to London I really felt drawn to do something in the community and do something worthwhile,” Moncreiff told PinkNews.
“I used switchboard services as a caller, and I decided to become a helpline volunteer. I joined in 1996. I was a volunteer for nine years, and on the management committee for a couple of years. It gave me a sense of doing giving something back to the community.”
Since then, Moncreiff has been instrumental in training the NHS on LGBT+ health issues, and closing the gap in the services straight and queer people receive for their health.
After running Antidote, the first LGBT+ addiction service, he then moved to head up London Friend, an LGBT+ health and wellbeing charity.
“Being at London Friend is the best job I’ve ever had,” he told PinkNews.
“It’s an incredible environment. We have a small team which is just fantastic. It’s the volunteers that are our backbone though. They’re so dedicated – one volunteer has been with us since 1980.”
During his time, Moncreiff has noticed the difficulties that LGBT+ face in accessing services.
“There’s a growing awareness of mental health links in the community. Levels are disproportionately higher than in society as a whole,” he told PinkNews.
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“Many people have grown up in a time when society was less tolerant and laws are unequal. People are still facing individual attacks and prejudice.”
“Everyone has to come out at the time that’s right for them. Most people find that coming out is a liberating experience. They don’t have to hide aspects of their identity. They find a supportive environment coming out.”
The publisher of Attitude magazine, Darren Styles has also been named on the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2018.
He is to be appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) as a Publisher and Ambassador for the GREAT Campaign, for services to the economy, diversity and charity.