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U.K.'s Lesbian Ambassador to Ukraine: 'Used to the Double Take'

Judith Gough

Judith Gough says her host countries, even homophobic ones, have been welcoming, but some diplomats from elsewhere question her posting.

For a lesbian ambassador who's served in homophobic countries, the major problems have not come from the host countries but from other diplomats, says the U.K.'s Judith Gough in a new interview with BuzzFeed.

"I've had some quite biting comments" from diplomats representing other countries, said Gough, 43, who became the British ambassador to Ukraine last year and previously served in South Korea and the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Those comments, she told BuzzFeed, include "Somebody like you shouldn't be posted in a country like this" and "You shouldn't be doing the job you're doing."

"There is a level of difficulty sometimes in dealing with other countries where they do not have the same approach to LGBT issues as we do," she continued. "But then I've also had comments that 'as an ambassador really you should be at home with your children, and not being a full-time ambassador.'"

She responds, she told BuzzFeed, with "a couple of things. One is: I'm here because I'm good at my job and I have the right expertise, and the second is: I represent the U.K. and we are a diverse country based on a certain set of values. I therefore reflect that country."

Representatives of her host countries have generally been courteous, she said, even in Ukraine -- where antigay protesters shut down an LGBT event Saturday (Gough's interview took place prior to the incident).

"You get used to the double take," she said. "But I get that for a couple of reasons. One is because often when I'm introduced to people they think I am the ambassador's wife. So I get the double take. I've had said to me, 'Oh, but you're young and female, you can't be the ambassador.' And then if you introduce a female partner, yes, you get another double take. But on the whole in those situations people are polite."

Gough and her civil partner, engineer Julia Kleiousi, have two children, aged 3 and 11. The ambassador told BuzzFeed she's had nothing but support from the U.K. Foreign Office, which she has served since 2001, just 10 years after it opened diplomatic posts to LGBT people, once considered a security risk. "I can genuinely say that within the Foreign Office I have never experienced discrimination or harassment on the grounds of sexuality," she said.

Read the full interview here.

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