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Up Front: Tasha McNaught

Tell us a bit about yourself and what your role in the transport industry involves?

I’m Tasha, my pronouns are she/her and have been my whole life. Up until this summer I worked for a transport museum, right at the intersection of the cultural and rail sectors. As a marketer you could sum up my former role as getting people excited about the railway, the organisation I worked for and its collection.

Growing up my crushes were Li Shang (of Disney’s Mulan), Han Solo and Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood. I spent my teenage years heartbroken by unrequited love for any boy who made me laugh. All of the relationships I’ve been in have been with men, and when I kissed a woman at the age of 18 I didn’t care for it. 

So I continued to write off my bicuriosity as nothing more than “girl crushes” until four years ago at the age of 23. I realised I was bisexual during a long-term relationship with a man, who I am still with and love dearly. 

What common misconceptions do you hear about bisexuality or the bisexual community?

One of the biggest misconceptions that caused me a lot of confusion and internalised biphobia was the idea that being bisexual means having the exact same kind of romantic or sexual feelings for all gender identities. For me that just isn’t the case.

For example, I’m attracted to a huge variety of physical features and personality traits, often varying according to gender expression. While I absolutely adore confidence rooted in a sense of self in many women and androgynous and femme people, I find it a huge turn off in most men. 

Another example is the way I’m into someone. With gender expressions that resonate personally with me, I often find that my attraction gets wrapped up and interwoven with the kind of person I want to be and my sense of self (see: Antia Doth in the 1993 video for No Limit). Whereas with gender expressions I don’t relate so strongly to, my attraction can often be much more simple or surface level (see: Adam Driver in everything). 

I’m sure all of this is influenced by gendered constructs and growing up on heteronormativity. But that doesn’t make it any less of my reality (another misconception I’ve heard about all identities within the LGBTQ+ spectrum!). 

What impact did your sexuality have on your role?

Sadly, I don’t think my sexuality impacted my role as much as I now wish it had. Before I realised I was bisexual I didn’t have any qualms about speaking out on issues facing LGBTQ+ people, advocating for more visibility and against exclusionary practice. As I realised I was bisexual I became more timid – a result of leaving my identity at home while I figured it all out. 

I think I also felt a new sense of vulnerability. Most of my colleagues knew I had a long term partner who was a man, and so assumed I was hetrosexual. Heck, even I thought I was when I started. So discussions around LGBTQ+ inclusion and exclusion remained somewhat… academic. Conversation stemmed from an understanding of LGBTQ+ lives and experiences, rather than from lived experience.

I felt invisible and vulnerable. Even well-meaning colleagues who I respected and admired could say something that would rattle around my head, affecting me in a way the conversation wouldn’t affect them.

How, if at all, has working in the transport industry helped to shape your sexuality?

It hasn’t shaped my sexuality, but it has shaped my perspective on just how bad things are for those of us within the LGBTQ+ spectrum – particularly in the transport industry.

In my former role I was responsible for managing our social media presence. It was a great way of understanding the railway family and forging new friendships. As an organisation within a larger group of cultural attractions – most without links to the transport sector – I had a unique audience with its own unique challenges.

One Friday evening, just before finishing work I uploaded a Pride post to our Instagram and Facebook pages. An hour or so later I took a peek at the posts just in case anything had cropped up. This isn’t unusual practice for social media managers, in fact I had better work/life social media boundaries that many I knew. There I was, enjoying a drink in the pub, scrolling through dozens and dozens of hateful comments.

Anything mildly inclusive – and despite my best efforts as social media manager, I really do mean mildly inclusive – would attract trolls and bigots. The organisations in our group that didn’t have links to transport did not experience this problem.

Looking to the future, where would you like to see the industry in a year’s time?

We absolutely should not be writing off hateful, discriminatory, prejudiced views as a matter of opinion. We should absolutely get used to organisations telling bigots that they aren’t welcome. It is simply not enough to welcome LGBTQ+ people like me to your trains, your venues and your brands. You also have to protect us from your customers who would do us harm. I think LNER’s customer service team have had successes at this, and elsewhere BBC Sport’s Hate Won’t Win campaign is doing some good work.

And finally, what’s your favourite type of crisp?

The salt and vinegar chipsticks that make your lips turn white.