First gay Scouts head hails importance of LGBTQ+ leaders after being made a dame

Dame Ann Limb said it would not have been possible for an openly gay person to lead the Scout Association 20 years ago.

Ann Limb, lately chair of the Scout Association, who has been made a dame for services to young people and philanthropy in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, at The Atheanaeum Club, London (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Ann Limb, lately chair of the Scout Association, who has been made a dame for services to young people and philanthropy in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, at The Atheanaeum Club, London (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The importance of young people seeing leaders from LGBTQ+ communities is “huge”, the first female and openly gay chair of the Scouts has said.

Dame Ann Limb, who held the position from 2015 to 2021, has been made a dame in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to young people and philanthropy.

Speaking after hearing about her honour, Dame Ann said she does not think “it would have been possible” for an openly gay person to lead the Scout Association 20 years ago.

She said: “The reality is that societal attitudes have changed significantly in this country towards recognising each of us as an individual identity, and how we choose to identify ourselves has become too important, really.

Dame Ann Limb (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

“Just being a woman who loves another woman – in my case I’ve loved women and men deeply in my life – but being a young person who is not sure about what their gender is, to see people like me, that’s the critical thing, in roles of importance. They might not be roles they want to do… the important thing is it does not matter.

“When I was younger, both at school (and) when I had a career in education… you couldn’t say you were gay if you were a teacher – we all know what it was like not so long ago.

“I think it is a huge, huge thing for people to recognise the fact you can see in your own families and in society as a whole that there is no overt prejudice and stigma attached just to being who you are.

“It certainly never, ever came into the equation as far as me being chosen as the first woman and openly gay chair of the Scouts.”

During her time as head of the Scouts, Dame Ann encouraged young people, aged four to 25, from all backgrounds, to gain key life skills, a role she dubbed an “immense privilege”.

More than 1,000 Scout units opened in areas of deprivation throughout her tenure.

(PA Graphics)

She called her time working with children an “amazing experience”, with the organisation offering a way of learning which “complemented” school education.

Talking about her honour, Dame Ann added: “The sound of it is something I need to get used to, I do not think myself as Dame Ann Limb at all. I’ve been for so long, and will remain, Ann Limb.

“It feels quite tingly, really, it feels amazing to be amongst people who are well known.

“You get to talk about Dame Judi Dench, who is a personal heroine of mine… but being amongst those people and recognised is a humbling thing, actually.”

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