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Jane’s our hero!
Friday 12th January 2018 @ 10:48 by Lee Wild
Ashton News Tameside

‘Community hero’ Jane Owen is still coming to terms with being named in the Queen’s New Year Honours.

Jane, a Network Rail Train Running Controller, received the British Empire Medal for services to the LGBT community. 

“I’m still a bit choked by all the interest in this, I’m taken aback with all the thanks and praise I’ve received,” said Jane, from Ashton.

She spoke exclusively to the Tameside Reporter this week about the honour – and how much it means.

Tameside’s Jane Owen has been honoured for her contribution to the LGBT community in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.

Jane has volunteered in a variety of roles since 2008 at various LGBT events including Northern Pride, Manchester Pride and Sparkle.

During her time with Sparkle, a national transgender charity, she helped to set up and run Sparkle Weekend, an event in Manchester that sees more than 10,000 people annually enjoy events, awards and musical acts. 

It culminated in her being named the charities Chair of Trustees before she stepped aside to concentrate on other aspects of her work.

Jane was also heavily involved with Northern Pride in Newcastle, which is the largest free pride event in the country, covering a range of jobs from making security passes, bucket collections and even litter picking.

She said it was quite a shock receiving the news about the honour in the post.

“I saw the official stamp on the back of the envelope and thought ‘oh no, is this something to do with the tax, or what have I done now, but I opened the letter and the first line was The Prime Minister is delighted to put you forward for an honour. I thought: ‘Really, me?’”

After receiving the news in November Jane had to keep it a secret until the official list was published for the new year. She says she’s delighted to receive such a prestigious award.

“I’m still a bit choked by all the interest in this, I’m taken aback with all the thanks and praise I’ve got. I’ve done what I’ve done since 2008 and to get rewarded in this way is fantastic.

“It’s nice somebody thinks this of me, it restores your faith in human nature. I never thought I would ever be named in the Queen’s honours. I suppose it’s because I’ve turned up every year, I’ve done more hours than I said I would over a weekend.

“It’s nice to give something back and like I said these events don’t happen overnight without a team of dedicated volunteers like myself and other people who give up their free time.”

As well as an award for the work undertaken, Jane believes that the British Empire Medal is recognition for society changing attitudes towards the LGBT community: “There is still a lot of understanding to be created out there because a lot of people still don’t understand the LGBT community but it’s moving in the right direction I think.

“The more people that stand up and say ‘I’m a citizen like yourself, I’m just a human being like yourself. My gender and my sexuality do not matter to you. It wont interfere on your life and you won’t interfere on mine’, in return we can do something good.”

Jane now faces a wait to receive her medal. She will not receive the commendation from the Queen herself but instead her Greater Manchester representative, the Lord Lieutenant.

The cherry on top of Jane’s award is an invite to the Queen’s Garden Party later in the year at Buckingham Palace, which excited her greatly: “I’m going to have to buy a new dress and get my hair done I suppose! There’s not many people that can claim they’ve been to the Queen’s garden party.”