Being an LGBT+ ally
Why visible ally-ship is so important
For me — being an LGBT ally is just like being a feminist — if you believe in equality, you are one. But it’s not enough to do this quietly and internally — you have to wear your heart on your sleeve and show your allyship for the world to see.
I’m a feminist, an LGBT+ ally, and my purpose in life and work is all focussed on inclusion and equality. Essentially, I have a huge opportunity, if not an obligation to proactively use my work to support my role as an ally for the LGBT+ community. There are many disturbing, troubling and downright upsetting stats you come across in working in the inclusion space.
One which has stuck with me above all others was something I discovered when researching for an allyship and awareness session. According to a recent TUC report, just over a third (36 per cent) of young people in the LGBT+ community felt comfortable being out at work.
I couldn’t get that statistic out of my head. Imagine having to filter yourself continually during your working day. To hide who you are, who you love, and to constantly fear being found out. As part of allyship sessions I’ve run I ask people to have a conversation with the person sitting next to them about their weekend, without using any gender-specific pronouns, names or locations. The concentration on the faces of those in the room is a telling reveal of how difficult it is to filter yourself to that extent — even for a few minutes. And those not out at work are spending roughly 70% of their waking hours filtering.
I still can’t get that number out of my head — that such a huge proportion of the LGBT+ community are having to expend so much energy on filtering whilst at work. It reminded me again how important it is to be proactively inclusive. For so many people, inclusion is still perceived as an absence of exclusion — this is simply not correct. To be truly inclusive, we have to wear our hearts on our sleeves, and show that we not only accept, but celebrate the value that difference brings.
I know from hearing my colleague Eloise’s story that a lack of really actively inclusive behaviour can leave those who feel “outside” feeling incredibly isolated and afraid. So my focus as an ally is to be as proactive as possible when it comes to sharing and celebrating the stories of my LGBT+ friends and colleagues — to let as many people as possible know that they are safe and supported to be their real selves; that difference is not only ok, it’s wonderful. And for me, I’ve found the openness of some of my amazing LGBT+ colleagues has inspired more bravery in me — to bring my whole self to work each day, and not a filtered version.