LGBT+ acceptance - Are we there yet?
“Hi, my name is Charlotte and I’m straight…” Well that’s not a line you would usually hear, especially from an employee. Neither is “Mum… Dad… I just wanted to let you know, I’m heterosexual”.
I may sound as though I am writing with tongue in cheek here but there’s a sincerity that I want to get across.
I read a blog a couple of days ago written by a gentleman who believed that gay employees don’t have to be ‘out’ at work. Initially I understood the message of the blog completely, in that whatever sexual orientation you have you shouldn’t have to disclose it if you do not wish to. Freedom of choice is important and sometimes we would prefer to keep ourselves a little mysterious!
However, upon further reading it dawned on me that this may not be a personal choice, but a choice made from fear and vulnerability. Within the blog he’d mentioned having an “alter-ego” at work and that avoiding discussions about his personal life made him feel safer. I loved the honesty in this blog, but this was alongside a slight sadness. It highlighted to me that although we see huge changes and developments in this area, we still aren’t quite there.
The reason I’m saying this is because June is Pride month and we should celebrate the developments in acceptance and equality but also to highlight that there is still a large proportion of people who are coming to work as their alter-ego in the fear that their sexual preferences will affect their employment.
Contrary to my first couple of lines in this blog, I’m not straight. I’m very happily civil partnered to my gorgeous other half and have been for almost 5 years. We’ve somehow managed to gain 3 cats somewhere along the way too. Someday soon I’m sure we will have a family of our own… and probably a couple more cats! (I fear more every day for the furniture in our home!)
I’ve never had to bring an alter-ego to work as I am extremely lucky in that Gateway HR promote diversity and equality, not only in the policies but in the actions and culture. Something I admire is the fact that it not only “matters” to recognise diversity, but it also “doesn’t matter” to the extent that my sexuality makes no difference whatsoever to my working life or the way my colleagues interact with me, I am no different. Its refreshing. I don’t need a huge rainbow flag greeting or an LGBT+ weekly meeting setup for me, I just want to be accepted as a human being, and I am.
Widely, this is how many others feel but it is very much something that needs to be embedded within a culture of an organisation with the assistance of HR and management.
So, if you are in a position of authority in an organisation, whether that be a director, senior manager, line manager, team leader or whatever it may be, promote a comfortable and accepting environment where employees can be exactly who they are. Employees don’t need to be forced to disclosing their sexual orientation, but equally there should be no fear of exploitation or repercussion if they did.
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