June marks the celebration of Pride, a month dedicated to elevating the voices of the LGBTQ+ community while allowing us to advance the visibility and equality of LGBTQ+ communities all around the world. Pride marks the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots which sparked the gay liberation movement and the twentieth-century fight for LGBT rights. Since then, each year Pride is celebrated with festivities, parades, and events to encourage greater acceptance and support for the LGBTQ+ community around the world.
There has been significant progress in recent decades towards lessening the stigma surrounding the LGBTQ+ community with laws passed advancing equality such as the legalisation of same-sex marriage in England and Wales in 2013. However, in many parts of the world, the LGBTQ+ community still do not have the same rights as heterosexuals, and many individuals and groups face homophobia, marginalization, and repression.
Recently a controversial Hungarian law banning the use of materials in schools seen as promoting homosexuality and gender change was passed. Measures like this can perpetuate stigma, discrimination and represent a regression within the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community.
What is an active ally?
An active ally is someone who actively promotes and aspires to advance the culture of inclusion through conscious efforts that benefit underrepresented groups. Being an active ally within the workplace means utilising your voice and using your privilege to help create a more inclusive culture where everyone can thrive. Stats show that inclusive cultures are six times more likely to be innovative, diverse, and collaborative.
If you have privilege, you might not feel you have a right to address these subjects and involve yourself in the conversation. However, your voice matters and can be used to enable change to help improve the lives of lesbian, gay, bi, and trans people everywhere. Being an active ally doesn’t require you to be an expert it just means you are making a conscious effort to include those around you.
Meet Polly Shute
We were recently joined by Polly Shute, LGBTQIA Public Speaker and Co-Founder of Out and About LGBTQ. During our Diversity Network meet-up, Polly shared with the team her own experience of coming out and the current challenges the community face.
One challenge she found through research and her own lived experience was the lack of safe places for queer women. Many LGBTQ+ events are male-dominated and ignore female and non-binary experiences. In London, there is currently only one Lesbian bar with a permanent venue. Further research suggested that the LGBTQ+ community were tired of dating and friendship sites and wanted to meet like-minded others through mutual interests.
This is where Out and About LGBTQ was formed which aims to connect the community through shared experiences, with a key focus on LGBTQIA women and those who identify as non-binary. They are currently creating events and working with different brands offering safe spaces for women within the UK to go to for inclusive and supportive experiences.
Polly who was on the board of Pride for four years and who volunteers for Trans in the City a corporate collaboration increasing trans awareness and education in different industries also discussed how we can become better allies to the community all year round.
How can we support the LGBTQ+ community all year round?
Do your research - researching the history of the community and the current challenges they face can help you stay informed e.g., a 2018 government Equalities Office National LGBT Survey found that more than two-thirds of LGBT people avoid holding hands with their partner for fear of a negative reaction from others. A great place to start is through reading and watching LGBTQ+ content such as documentaries, films, and coming-out stories. e.g the Channel 4 show It's a Sin focuses on the AIDS crisis and how this impacted young gay men in London. This type of content can help you understand their lived experiences and the continued obstacles they face.
Language matters - educate yourself to make sure you are using the correct terminology for the people around you. LGBTQ+ terminology is continuously changing and can be confusing at times. However, it is important to understand the different terms as our words can have a powerful impact on others. If you are unsure what language or preferred pronouns to use, simply ask. Asking humble questions is always better than making assumptions based on external appearance. Using incorrect pronouns could remind someone of their past struggles. When at work, try to incorporate inclusive language within your vocabulary e.g., instead of using gendered terms such as “girl/boyfriend” or “husband/wife” use “partner”.
Confront your unconscious bias - our unconscious bias refers to the hidden beliefs that impact our perceptions of others. Identifying these biases is the first step in undoing them. Creating a safe place where we can have conversations about them, and hearing alternative perspectives and viewpoints can help others feel secure about exploring their own biases. Companies can roll out unconscious bias training to help employees question, reflect and think about how they can confront their unconscious bias.
Listen - providing a safe place for underrepresented individuals to share their lived experiences and for them to be able to be their whole selves is important. Listening and learning from each other can be the key to greater inclusion. Safe places can include workshops and diversity meet-ups.
Ask humble questions - Keeping silent can be just as damaging as saying something offensive. Normalising the type of conversations where you may feel uncomfortable is important to learning and growing. If you ask a question with good intent the chances are the person will not take offense. Asking questions such as “how would you like to be identified?” shows you care about the individual's feelings of inclusion.
Learn more about Out and About LGBTQ here.
Learn more about the best practices for growing inclusion within the workplace here.