It’s Pride Month – and that means companies big and small are adding a rainbow to their logos. Pink-washing as it might be called by the more cynical.
LGBTQIA+ people face tremendous difficulties growing up in a society where heterosexuality is often presented as the only acceptable orientation. We face discrimination and exclusion. Homophobic abuse is commonplace. In some countries and some companies – even those with rainbow ribbons – same-sex couples do not enjoy the same rights and protections and suffer discrimination and problems accessing health care and pensions.
Many queer people hide their sexual orientation at work out of fear of losing their job or turning an interview or meeting into yet another coming out story.
Not living our truth
Sometimes we make a decision that there’s a line between who we are at work and who we are at home. That even though we’re not living our truth, so what? We’re not – to quote a well-meaning (but empty) HR term currently doing the rounds ‘bringing our whole selves to the workplace’.
Of course things have improved – in the UK and most of Europe at least. There’s far less assumption of my partner being female. I can talk about the way my husband has taken three months to finish work on our spare room and not need to come out in the process. But this has all been my decision – I made up my mind I was sick and tired of playing a part and sod anyone who didn’t like it. The funny thing is, I know some people are uncomfortable with my being gay – like I have a choice – but so what? They’re currently living in a society that tells them to shut the fuck up.
But for how much longer? Brexit opened a floodgate to xenophobic and racist comments. The day after the night before I was in Lidl, when the man in front of me asked the Lithuanian guy serving him when he was going back home. He smiled and added how he could ‘say this now’. Trump unleashed the repressed resentment in parts of American society. He made is OK to hate and beat up on people you didn’t like for whatever reason – be they fags or foreigners.
It’s tiring. Everyone has to be forgiven for thinking they just don’t have the time to help everyone or get involved in fights that have nothing to do with them. The truth is we can all play a role in instilling hope and love in the hearts and minds of the queer people in our lives and around us.
Someone who has your back
The word “ally” is a powerful one. It means someone who has your back and is on your side. They know it’s the right thing to do. An “ally” describes someone who may not be part of the LGBTQIA+ community, but is committed to equality for all.
Small but meaningful ways to show your ally-ship
- Stay Informed: If you don’t know the difference between sex and gender or current LGBT-related news and issues, educate yourself. Ask questions, do research, and don’t be afraid to be honest about what you don’t know.
- Speak Up: There are many reasons why people don’t speak up when they hear something offensive, like “that’s so gay”. It can be awkward, people don’t know what to say, or don’t want to make the situation worse. But, words hurt. When you speak up, it educates others, lets them know their words are not acceptable. It may give others the courage to speak up. You can also change how people act in the future. This is powerful.
- Be Honest: Speak openly about family members, friends, and colleagues who are LGBT, if they are out and are comfortable with you discussing it with others. People often assume they will offend others or make them uncomfortable if they mention LGBT topics. Also, remember that occasional disagreement is normal and healthy!
- Support Equality: Support policies at school, work, or other places that help protect LGBT people from discrimination. Even if the issues seem small, they can have a big impact on people’s lives. If you see or hear of an unfair rule or policy, talk to a peer or trusted adult about your concerns. Consider what you can do to make a change.
- Come Out as an Ally: Anyone can be an ally, regardless of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Be proud to support the LGBT community.
With thanks to Youth Engaged 4 Change.