Blogs 15th June 2021 7 minutes read

How can we all be better LGBT+ allies?

How can we all be better LGBT+ allies?

We asked two of our Senior Consultants at Green Park to share what Pride means to them, and some tips and methods for facilitating LGBT+ allyship inside and outside of the workplace. Here is what they had to say:

 

What does Pride mean to you?

Corine Sheratte, Senior Consultant, Diversity, Inclusion, Culture and Ethics (DICE) Practice at Green Park:  Pride is dedicated to celebrating and affirming LGBT+ [1] communities all around the world. It is also about raising awareness of the damaging impact of homophobia and transphobia, LGBT+ oppression, and Pride history, teaching tolerance and continuing to move the dial towards LGBT+ equality.

Although Pride month is a time to celebrate and recognise the LGBT+ community, it is important that both individuals and organisations work to avoid performative allyship by merely rolling out the ‘rainbow carpet’ with little commitment or accountability taken to visibly drive LGBT+ inclusion. To avoid virtue signalling, we need to ensure that our words reflect our actions by maintaining consistent support for the LGBT+ community in and around Pride month.

Andrew Stilwell, LGBT+ Champion & Senior Consultant, People Solutions at Green Park: Pride is the recognition of all the people that have sacrificed so much to allow everyone that follows them to feel comfortable and accepted in their own skin. Pride is recognising the hardship and pain that the LGBT+ Community has suffered historically due to ignorance. It is an opportunity to celebrate our differences and be proud of who we all are.

 

What is one of the biggest challenges affecting the LGBT+ community today?

CS: In our work as Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) specialists, we frequently witness the exclusion of certain subcultures within the LGBT+ community. To elucidate, we often observe that underrepresented subcultures such as bisexual, lesbian, and trans[2] men and women frequently report feeling socially isolated and excluded from the LGBT+ narrative, despite the safe spaces created by LGBT+ communities and networks. This is due to reports indicating that the LGBT+ narrative is often perceived to be dominated by gay men.

Additionally, it is important to acknowledge the high rates of discrimination that the trans community face. In fact, approximately one in eight trans employees (12%) are physically attacked by colleagues or customers each year (Stonewall, 2018). Furthermore, 28% of trans people experience crime, compared to just 14% of cisgender[3] people in the UK, while trans people of mixed or multiple ethnic backgrounds are more likely to experience crime than their white counterparts (ONS, 2020). Despite approximately two in five trans people (44%) feeling optimistic with the direction LGBT+ rights are going in the UK, it is worth noting that, in contrast, three in ten trans people (30%) are disillusioned with the pace and progress of the LGBT+ rights movement in the UK, with many citing the negative personal impact of attacks against trans people conveyed across (social) media outlets (Stonewall, 2018).

AS: In the LGBT+ community there have been many positive strides made to create more acceptance, and this has been clear through the significant change in narrative in the media over the past decade. However, there is still much further to go; the lack of understanding and education around LGBT+ means that many members of the community still do not feel comfortable to be out and proud at work or in their personal lives.

 

What do you think people can do this Pride Month to raise awareness about important issues that impact the (global) LGBT+ community?

CS: Despite positive changes in laws and norms surrounding same-sex marriage and the rights of the LGBT+ community globally, the acceptance of LGBT+ people remains divided. In fact, according to the Human Dignity Trust (2021):

  • 71 jurisdictions criminalise private, consensual, same-sex sexual activity.
  • 43 jurisdictions criminalise private, consensual sexual activity between women using laws against ‘lesbianism’, ‘sexual relations with a person of the same sex’ and ‘gross indecency’.
  • 11 jurisdictions impose the death penalty for private, consensual same-sex sexual activity. At least 6 of these implement the death penalty (Iran, Northern Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Yemen), and the death penalty is a legal possibility in Afghanistan, Brunei, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar, and UAE.
  • 15 jurisdictions criminalise the gender identity and/or expression of trans people, using so-called ‘cross-dressing’, ‘impersonation’ and ‘disguise’ laws.

These statistics are alarming; however, we need to adjust to being uncomfortable and use our discomfort as a catalyst for learning about the (global) challenges that LGBT+ communities face in order to take actionable positive steps towards LGBT+ equality.

To facilitate awareness, learning and action, make a concerted effort to read literature written by LGBT+ authors and recommend books you find insightful to friends. You could also watch LGBT+ films and recommend and review them, go to Pride events and take others along, consider putting pronouns in your LinkedIn bio and email signature and, most importantly, learn how to constructively call out transphobia/homophobia inside and outside of the workplace.

AS: Employers and organisations should be talking about LGBT+ openly so that people can understand the different strands that make up the community and feel comfortable enough to have conversations when there are challenging situations. People should be looking at the still shocking statistics of attacks, suicide, etc. affecting the community. Many people feel that Pride is no longer needed, but without understanding the issues that are still being faced we will not be able to move forward and save countless people’s lives and create a more inclusive society.

 

What are some small ways in which people can make Pride celebrations more inclusive and diverse as they go about their festivities?

CS: Pride celebrations can be more diverse and inclusive through the intentional inclusion of underrepresented subcultures that, according to research and our observations, more frequently feel excluded from the LGBT+ narrative. This includes trans communities. Some small steps, therefore, are to ensure trans people not only have a seat at the table, but also take on leadership positions in Pride planning, and are actively consulted and listened to.

From an intersectional perspective, it is also important to recognise and actively welcome those whose LGBT+ identity intersects with other diversity strands (i.e., the protected characteristics from the Equality Act (2010) and beyond). For example, the conflicts between religion and sexual orientation can make it even harder for some LGBT+ people to come out within their own communities. This can result in covering[4] or concealing their identities to conform to the dominant culture. Culturally, the intersecting aspects of someone's diversity can make this much more challenging. Therefore, to make Pride more inclusive and diverse, we should welcome a plurality of identities to ensure that every member of the LGBT+ community and beyond feel included within the LGBT+ narrative.

AS: Through communication and ensuring that everyone feels welcome at the celebrations, not just members of the LGBT+ community.

 

What can leaders do to facilitate LGBT+ allyship in the workplace?

CS: There are several ways we can all drive LGBT+ allyship and show visible support for the LGBT+ community - both during Pride month and beyond. This might include volunteering for LGBT+ charities (e.g., The Trevor Project, LGBT Foundation, Akt) or supporting and contributing towards the goals of empowerment movements such as Black Trans Lives Matter (BTLM).

More specifically to the workplace, leaders can facilitate allyship by visibly championing LGBT+ talent and creating a psychologically safe environment to ensure that every individual, no matter their differences, feels comfortable to bring their authentic selves to work. To ensure the inclusion of trans and non-binary colleagues, leaders should work on taking a gender-neutral approach to their everyday language through avoiding gender-specific terminology (i.e., ladies, gents, guys, etc. when addressing large groups).

Although not an exhaustive list of suggestions, leaders could also facilitate LGBT+ allyship by participating in and/or sponsoring LGBT+ networks (if one exists – and if not, supporting its establishment), ensuring that the network has established clear terms of reference, and that the LGBT+ network works with other diversity networks to encourage intersectional collaboration. Executive sponsoring would involve aligning the LGBT+ network’s objectives with the wider goals of the organisation to ensure alignment of LGBT+ strategic objectives. Sponsoring also includes championing more junior LGBT+ talent at the top of the organisation to promote their career progression and allow them to gain wider exposure across the organisation.

AS: Through distributing LGBT+ awareness material and creating LGBT+ staff groups/socials. Through visibly supporting/sponsoring LGBT+ aligned charities. Through ensuring that their LGBT+ staff feel comfortable in the workplace, and through not assuming that people are out or talking about people’s sexuality/gender without knowing if that individual is comfortable for this to be shared with colleagues and/or clients.

{{imageAltText(storage/images/Corine headshot.jpg)}}

Corine Sheratte | Senior Consultant with Green Parks Diversity, Inclusion, Culture and Ethics (DICE) Consultancy Practice. She specialises in D&I and has HR and Recruitment experience across multiple sectors. 

 

 

{{imageAltText(storage/images/Andrew Stilwell.jpg)}}Andrew Stilwell | Senior Consultant in the People Solutions Practice which offers a consultative and diversity led offering to the market. Andrew provides a variety of recruitment solutions catered to different client needs. 

 

Footnotes:

[1] LGBT+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, plus. These terms are used to describe a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Please note that this acronym varies globally (e.g., LGBTQ+ / GLBT / LGBTQIA).

[2] Trans – short for transgender - is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. People under the transgender umbrella may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms— including transgender.

[3] A cisgender person is a person whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth.

[4] Supressing or concealing elements of one’s identity, interests, or personal life out of fear of reprisal or pressure (perceived or real) to conform. Covering can also take the form of adopting traits or characteristics perceived to be ‘normal’. In the workplace, covering has negative impacts on productivity, and ultimately profitability, as well as on recruitment, attraction, and retention of talent.

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