How to be an LGBTQIA+ ally: A workplace guide

Recovery Navigator Phoebe Horrocks recently become LGBTQIA+ lead for Second Step’s Community Rehabilitation service in Bristol. In this role, she proudly supports and advocates for our LGBTQIA+ clients and team members, as well as keeping an eye out for any exciting opportunities, training courses, and events for the community.

Phoebe also acts as a point of contact for colleagues for any queries or LGBTQIA+ related questions. Here she shares some guidance on how to be an ally to LGBTQIA+ colleagues.

Stonewall has reported that over a third of LGBTQIA+ people feel they need to hide who they are at work, and one in five LGBTQIA+ people were the target of negative comments about their identity at work.

Statistics from Stonewall’s website show that:

  • More than a third of LGBT staff (35%) have hidden that they are LGBT at work for fear of discrimination.
  • Almost two in five bisexual people (38%) aren’t out to anyone at work about their sexual identity, compared to seven per cent of gay men and four per cent of lesbians.
  • One in four transgender people (26%) aren’t open with anyone at work about being trans. This number increases to about two in five non-binary people (37%) who aren’t out at work.

We all like to think that we value and support our LGBTQIA+ colleagues and try to make our environment as inclusive as possible, but sometimes it can feel clunky or awkward to advocate for safer spaces.

  • We can worry about virtue signalling or making empty statements of celebration.
  • We can worry about not having enough understanding or it ‘not being our place’ to speak up.
  • We can worry about appearing preachy or ‘overly concerned’ about certain topics.

So how do we really help the community feel more accepted in a genuine way?

Some easy ways to accommodate your LGBTQIA+ colleagues and help to create a safe environment include:

  • Adding pronouns to your email signature, e.g. (He/Him).
  • Incorporate gender-neutral and inclusive language into your vocabulary.
  • Celebrate and uplift your LGBTQIA+ colleagues, particularly if they come out to you, this can take a lot of courage and strength.
  • Try not to assume someone’s sexuality/gender without asking, it is okay to ask someone’s gender or pronouns if you aren’t sure.
  • Use They/Them pronouns if you are not sure of someone’s gender identity yet, they apply to everyone.
  • Educate yourself on terms and vocabulary you don’t understand.

Remember that you don’t need to fully understand someone’s identity to accept and respect them.

Phoebe works in our Community Rehabilitation service which supports people in Bristol who are facing complex mental health challenges to pursue their goals and live as independently as possible.

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