My Fight for Justice

Kevin Maxwell

Yesterday, it was confirmed that my employer has commenced dismissal proceedings against me. This means that soon, I will be sacked from my 2001 public sector job, something I have never experienced before. Since August 2010, I have been writing articles for newspapers, magazines and this blog, about a variety of subjects including race, sexuality and mental illness. It was Pink News last year, that published my first comment on Black Pride & Prejudice. What led me to writing, was my mental breakdown in June 2009. I became unwell at work suffering with headaches and stomach pains, and these led me to seek immediate medical help. I had never taken a day’s sickness in the previous 8-years, so I was genuinely worried. After various medical assessments, in July 2009 my General Practitioner diagnosed me with severe reactive depression, as a result of my experiences of racism and homophobia at work. Naturally, I was devastated with this news and remained in denial for quite some time.

I have battled with depression now for 2-years, speaking with counsellors and doctors. I continue to take 200grams of anti-depressants daily, something I initially rejected. I was ashamed and embarrassed about being diagnosed with a mental illness at a young age, and the stigma that goes with it. Depression has had a profound affect on my life, including the relationships I have with others. I have never sought ’15 minutes’ of fame, as my integrity is important to me. I do however, believe discrimination and injustice should be highlighted wherever they exist. Racism and other forms of hate destroy people. It is for this reason I started the cause ‘Racism Ruins Lives’, to help raise awareness. Prior to July 2010, I had been battling with depression and fighting for justice privately. This was until I learned that a national tabloid was going to print a negative story, with the intention of discrediting and deterring me. My employer and the newspaper in question have an unethical relationship, so my challenge against discrimination has been harder.

What this leak did, was to make me stronger and more determined to fight for what I believe in. Apart from saying my challenge was a waste of public money, the newspaper was going to make pubic my mental illness and sexuality, again in an attempt to discourage me from seeking justice as to the reasons I became so unwell. The fact that no public money had been spent, was unlikely to be printed. My sexuality and mental illness were not in the public interest, and I am neither a celebrity or have the money for injunctions. I do not like bullies, so rather than allow this tabloid to have a hold over me, I fully came out of the closet in the 100th issue of Outnorthwest Magazine of The Lesbian and Gay Foundation, Manchester on my terms. I should not have had to tell friends that I was suffering with depression, in the manner I did or speak with others about my sexuality. Despite libel letters being sent to the newspaper’s editor and my contact with the Press Complaints Commission about my right to privacy and the lies, the damage had already done by my employer. I was hurt, and my partner and I went through a horrific time. I have no way of knowing, who had hold of my private information and to this day, I still do not know when and if it will be used against me. I cannot live like this, so I am making public the truth about me – as my employer has now instigated expedited dismissal proceedings against me, and I prepare for negative media.

My breakdown was my body’s way of telling me ‘enough was enough’. I have never tried to make out to others, that I am perfect. I have my flaws, just like everyone else. But, what I do know is the difference between right and wrong, and that I am fundamentally a good person. I too do not intentional try to hurt others, and strive to treat people like I would want to be treated myself – knowing respect goes both ways. I am thankful to My Mum who died from ovarian cancer in June 2004, for these qualities. The tabloid failed to realise that I had already lost everything. My employer had made me seriously unwell, my career had ended, my salary was stopped, I am in debt through having to claim state benefits and my relationship with my partner has been severely damaged. Not thinking I had been hurt enough, a negative story about me was going to be printed. Despite me asking the newspaper not to make public my sexuality and mental illness, it still went about trying to find information, and even asked myself for a comment. What sort of society are we living in, when people get pleasure from destroying others lives? I became a threat to my employer, because I am telling the truth about my experiences of racism and homophobia. It continues to hold regular meetings about me, on how it can protect its reputation if I went to the press about the racist and homophobic incidents, but it is avoiding the actual problems.

My illness did not convince my employer to help, it just chose to put the shutters down and harass and victimise me. It has done this, because it can get away with it, has power and is untouchable. To this day, the Head of the Organisation who is ultimately responsible for my health and well-being and is aware of my circumstances, has not even acknowledged my experiences or asked me about them. He allows his staff to treat me disgracefully. Where is the leadership? Its actions, have made me question the value of my life on several occasions – I am not ashamed to admit this. When you feel you have no hope, I can see why some choose to end their lives. The tabloid was quick to harm me, even though it never knew the full facts or thought that I might be telling the truth. But, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, as it has destroyed many lives before me. I have sent a copy of this to the editor and its reporter, and ask them what wholesome and moral lives they live? They only publish information on those who are vulnerable, or have no way of defending themselves. What access do I have to the millions of readers it has, to give my version of events? None. Being Liverpudlian, Gay and Black, the tabloid was never going to be supportive of someone like me, even though my challenge against racism and homophobia is real and truthful. The newspaper just wanted to discredit me at all costs, on behalf of my employer.

It was never going to publish that in 1998 before my current public servant job, I was named a National Young Achiever by the Liverpool Echo newspaper, attending a Reception at Buckingham Palace with HM The Queen and other Royals, in recognition of my 12-years voluntary and community service with St. John Ambulance. It was never going to publish that I support many charities, including Macmillan which helped My Mum whilst she was dying with cancer. It was never going to make public, that I too was a St. John Ambulance ‘Cadet of the Year’ in 1996 and ‘Grand Prior Cadet’ in 1994, receiving a further two invitations to Buckingham Palace to meet HRH The Princess Royal, or that I had been a member of the Air Training Corps cadets, with an interest in the Royal Air Force. The tabloid wasn’t going to do this, because this information doesn’t sell its paper. Making out that I am ‘another’ black and/or gay person, who cries racism and/or homophobia at work, does. Shame on them. My experiences are real, and the evidence is the mental illness I suffer with. How can this be justified? I read a quote recently by Bob Marley, and it resonated with me… “who are you to judge the life I live? I know I’m not perfect and I don’t live to be. But, before you start pointing fingers, make sure your hands are clean”. The newspaper does not care what damage it causes others. It is just interested in sales, by telling lies.

I have played my part, and served my country for over 20-years, but it has never been enough. How many of those who are fortunate to be privileged, have served Britain as I have? I have given, not taken from my country and yet, I am not accepted as an equal because of who and what I am. This is the Big Society I live in. It doesn’t matter, how hard I try to fit in or how many qualifications I obtain to show my worth – to some, I will always be below them. When the Prime Minister and others speak about the failings of multiculturalism, they should have a closer look as to the real reasons for these ‘perceived’ failings. When black and gay people are made to feel worthless and treated discriminatory, what hope have they got? When was the last time the Prime Minister was discriminated against? When was the last time he was called a nigger or a queer? When was the last time he had no hope for the future, because of unemployment? It was only a couple of weeks ago, that I received my first hate mail telling me… “you are a fucking nigger and fucking batty boy and fucking scum”. What kind of Big Society are we living in when people feel it acceptable to send such hate to others?

When I became unwell, legal action against my employer was the last thing on my mind – I still had 20-years of work to do. I just wanted to get better, and have its support and help. But, because I dared mention racism and homophobia, it pursued me vigorously and viciously to silence me. It even sought ways behind my back to dismiss me earlier, this being inconceivable. I contacted numerous government departments, agencies and public bodies for help and support and they all ignored me or told me it wasn’t in ‘their remit’. Fighting discrimination and injustice, should be in all our remit. Black and gay people, are disengaged with society because they are often not treated equally. I do not have a problem with those who are privileged, but do not tell me that racism and homophobia does not exist – when I live it. Denial might make you feel better, but it does not make me. It’s a sad day, when I am no longer proud to be British, and most of my friends are white, like my partner is. I will never stop being true to myself, I am proud to be both black and gay. The values which I thought were embedded in the UK, have not helped me. I have loved and served my country, but it has failed me greatly. Some may say… well leave Britain then, but where does someone like me go to? I was born in Liverpool like my white mum was in 1936.

The government and others in power, do not listen to people like me because they do not want to hear the truth. The newspaper can print what it wants, because I have given up caring. I am only answerable to myself, and have no regrets in life. No one is above the law or morality, and that includes my employer and the tabloid. They just have access to funds which portray they are, and I do not. I too do not feel sorry for myself, I have to live with the cards I have been dealt with. There is no ‘poor me’.

Yesterday, not only did I find out that I am the subject of dismissal proceedings, my partner and I established that we now have to move home. This is because of the financial situation we are in, with my illness and fight for justice. Keeping me employed and not receiving a salary, has been another way my employer has had a hold over me. As I am legally still an employee, I am not allowed to seek alternative work if I could or name it or talk about the incidents which made me unwell, as I can be dismissed for bringing it into disrepute. Yet, it can continue with a detrimental campaign against me, hiding behind the law. Where is the fairness and justice here? It has been hard for me having to claim state benefits, knowing I have worked all my adult life and the cause was not my fault. This system is also flawed, for honest claimants.

Britain is broken, not because people like me have damaged it, but because those in power have been allowed to abuse it. My resignation would be a scenario my employer would welcome, but this has not been an option for me because I believe in equality. I am fighting for justice, so I can move forward. The past 2-years, have been the darkness of my life and I had thought watching My Mum die from cancer would have been. I am glad she is not here, to see what I have gone through. No parent would want to watch their child suffer as I have, and want to end their life because they think it is worthless because of bullies. I cannot imagine the pressure my partner has been under, and somehow we are still hanging on together. He has been my rock.

It’s important that when we have been treated differently, that we stand up for what we believe in, regardless of the consequences. This is how I was brought up. You only get one life, and I have to do the right thing by me. I am not trying to change the world, but what I am doing is trying to make it a better place for my nieces and nephews. I have wrote this today, because I am under no illusion that when I am dismissed from my job in the next few weeks or months, that the same newspaper will progress with its negative story in some way. I am not beholden to anyone.

The law says, with my current employment destroyed at 10-years that I must mitigate my future losses. It is ironic and perverse that, I must make sure I do not cause my employer any detriment. Where is the justice here? It is for this reason I have chosen to write and pursue documentary filmmaking, to try and give a voice to those who do not have one. I have provided enough information here for the tabloid to print what it wants about me, and have even included a photograph. It does not have to search for sensational stories about me, or try and find people I have been in past relationships with and so on – I am happy to provide this information also.

A court has ruled that my case will be heard in public in October of this year, despite my employer continuing to do all it can to prevent this. I have to endure a 6-week trial, to show independent people how racism and homophobia at work caused my illness. My hope is that this outlet, my blog and the book I have been writing about my experiences, will prevent anyone else suffering like I have in the future. It is too late for me, as I have already been ‘Broken’. I do not have the luxury of publicists or influential people to speak on my behalf, so I have to stand up for myself. At least I know, I can sleep at night – because I am doing the right thing. Institutional discrimination in Britain is real, and I challenge anyone who say’s it is not.