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5 ways you can be a better LGBT ally at work

With the rights of the LGBT community coming under threat, here’s what you can do to support your colleagues.

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From homophobic slurs disguised as “banter” to transphobic bullying; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face workplace discrimination on a daily basis.

Whilst YouGov polling from 2015 revealed that one in five people admitted to making offensive remarks about LGBT people in the last year, it seems straight and cis-gendered colleagues have been letting it slide.

Within the space of one month, 63 per cent of people who had heard offensive remarks aimed at LGBT people didn’t do anything about it, ultimately sending the signal that this kind of behaviour is acceptable.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We have spoken with some of the UK’s leading workplace equality experts and here are some of their tips on how you can become an LGBT ally.

1. Read up: Empower yourself

“If you want to be a good ally, then don’t ask the individual colleague to explain what LGBT means,” says Megan Key, Equality and Diversity Manager (Midlands Division) at the National Probation Service. “Go away, find your information, that’s your starting point.”

Whether you consult Google, YouTube, LGBT media or an online resource, give yourself a good idea of what it all means. Learn the differences between L, G, B and T as well as Q, I, A, P and N-B.

It may seem like a lot of terminology but all identities are valid and come with individual challenges. Bear in mind that in addition to this, people may suffer multiple levels of discrimination based on gender, skin colour, physical ability, age and background.

2. Step up: Be visible

“Being a good ally can range from wearing a lanyard of support, joining Pride activities, communicating with others or, for people who manage employees it could be raising inclusion topics at staff meetings,” says Karin Cook, Group Director, Operations and Executive Sponsor for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity at Lloyds Banking Group.

Vicky Constance is Client Group Manager at LGBT rights lobby organisation Stonewall and she has more visibility tips: “Talk about articles that you read at the weekend or things that are happening at the moment that are particularly pertinent to the LGBT community.

“You don’t know if there are people at work who aren’t out because they don’t feel they can be, but if allies have those conversations around you it creates a much more inclusive culture and says we value diversity here.”

3. Speak up: Empower your LGBT colleagues

In a survey asking 3,000 people from 60 countries, 57% of those who had overheard anti-LGBT discussions said they were too scared to say anything and 49% were worried people might assume they are gay too if they did – another sign that those negative attitudes are still permeating our society.

“It’s just not good enough to stand by and let that culture carry on,” says Key. “People need to stand up for each other.”

“For the minority in the workplace it is difficult to constantly be the one that steps up and challenges inappropriate behaviour,” says Constance.

“Now that LGBT rights, women’s right and equality are under close scrutiny, it’s more important than ever to speak loudly and united to ensure equality isn’t taken away from those communities.”

4. Set a policy

LGBT people are protected by law but companies should strive for diversity policies on top of this. “One of the assumptions is that because you can’t see the trans people you think they’re not there,” says Key.

“But if you don’t have policies that show trans people are going to be protected when they come out then they’re not going be visible.”

One company that has done this well is Lloyds Banking Group; they were recently named number one on Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index.

They also became the first UK-owned company to extend their private healthcare provision to include treatment for gender dysphoria, a policy that was put forward by transgender employees and their allies.

“It’s changes such as this that make a real difference to and promote an environment in which everyone feels safe, accepted and included,” says Cook, herself a good example of how workplace equality works particularly well when the tone is set from the top.

5. Listen

Last but not least: listen. Having someone to talk to can make a world of difference when you’re in the minority and you should be proud of the fact that someone sees you as their trusted ally.

Bear in mind, however, that just because someone has come out to you it doesn’t mean they have revealed their LGBT status to everyone or that they are ready to do so.

“When I came out I was scared that I would lose my job,” says Key, adding that she was lucky that her employer had a transgender policy and a Diversity Manager.

“They were really helpful, they agreed to meet me offsite to speak about things and they supported me all the way for about three years throughout the whole process.

“Even though they never had anyone who was trans before, they had a policy and a willingness,” she says, concluding that she doesn’t think her experience is typical but that more organisations are understanding the importance of integrating diversity.

Karin Cook of Lloyds says she encourages workplaces to have inclusion at the heart of their business strategy – and that allies play a crucial role in promoting a culture of inclusion: “Put simply, this is about helping to remove barriers, raising awareness and getting people involved.”


Award-winning journalist Matthew Todd gives his verdict on the current situation facing LGBT employees: Why it’s still not ‘Mission Accomplished’ for LGBT workers


Read our 5-step guide below on how you can be a better LGBT ally at work. 

lgbt_workplace_ally

Want to learn more on how you can be an LGBT ally? LGBT Foundation delivers a wide range of services including courses around LGBT inclusion. The training includes how to provide appropriate services to LGBT people, support around Gender Identity, Trans Status and Sexual Orientation Monitoring, myth busting, and confidence building with staff around terminology and appropriate language. For further information call 0345 3 30 30 30.

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7 Comments

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  1. Laurentiu Sunday, 5 Feb, 2017 at 12:57 am

    Considering that is not natural,to be a part of LGBT is a disability and should not be pin in front all the time. To be accepted is one,to be carried as a flag is a little too much.

    • Jenny Saturday, 13 May, 2017 at 2:27 pm

      a) How is something you are born with “not natural”? Did you choose to be heterosexual?
      b) To be able to love someone, whoever that is, is NOT a disability!
      c) We do not all “flaunt” who we are, we just fight misunderstanding and prejudice like this. We have to stand up for ourselves somehow! I personally am against Pride in spite of being bisexual because I don’t want to be so defined by it. The only reason I am so open is because I won’t lie.

  2. sandy young Wednesday, 8 Feb, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    when consideration and respect of others can be achieved throughout the work place, also when society begins to accept difference within an ever changing world and begin to have an understanding attitude towards each other that will then change perceptions.

  3. Yasser Elhakeem Saturday, 13 May, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    I totally agree and believe that everyone has the right to chose their life. Without anyone questioning or mocking this life style. I’m a heterosexual and i worked with people way back and my very last job as a manager, I’ve worked along with another manager from the LGBT. And I’ve never asked him anything about his personal life, we were very good friends abd colleagues. And above all i was shutting up anyone who would talk behind his back. I call it simply respecting people’s lives. And i think no matter your colour , religion, race or identity, we should all be treated the same and equally what we don’t like to happen to us i.e. Someone bulling us, so we should do the same with everyone. Treat people the way you wanted to be treated. Then it’s all peace. I know I’m gonna get out a bit away from the topic but still on the same point which’s discrimination. As Right now I’m facing a discrimination, I’ve never ever seen it or felt it in the UK since i came here 14 years ago. I know it % why? Simply because I’m a Muslim!!! I’m out of job hopefully temporarily as I’ve got a fantastic record of employment and CV. But I’ve been brushed with the same brush as the fanatics which i hate the most. And I want them all behind bars. But it’s becoming mission impossible to get a descent job which i utterly deserve. I’ve even applied for a job with my Muslim name and got rejected almost immediately. Then i applied again for the same job with a Christian name and i chose Christian instead of Muslim and I got a progress in the application, leading to an interview!! Which was more than enough evidence for me. And it shouldn’t be this way ever not all Muslims are terrorists. I actually hate Isis and all the extremists from my heart. And I’ve a boy 13 years old and a girl 10 years old who’s mum’s is British and she catholic Christian. Who raises my kids to a fantastic level of everything including raising them as Muslims but on my own way the moderate Islam the religion of peace. And i couldn’t ask for a better mum to my kids ever not even dream about it. For me she’s doing a 100 times better job than a Muslim girl would do. And what I’m saying would be completely taking against me from the extremists and they call me infidel or non believer or whatever and deserve to be killed. That’s the way they think even with Muslims abd i understand Islam 100 times better than them. And still in this day and age and in the most diverse abd equal country in the world. The mother of all democracy. I for the first time find it very difficult to get a job to support my kids and my self. So yes the LGBT have their rights of course and so do i. We all unfortunately getting discriminated against for no good reason. I honestly don’t know if you will put my comment or not? But i hope you do.

  4. David Saturday, 13 May, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    Beyond being an amicable person, I don’t understand the need for treating LGBT people as if they’re weak, emotional and in need of constant protection from offence.
    This article highlights why social justice is hurting our economy- by advocating for affirmative action you are stating that LGBT people aren’t as capable as the rest of society. The bigotry of low expectations is rife and as a trans woman I feel annoyed by the constant pandering people like you show.
    I don’t want an easy pass because I’m trans. Do you really think that I am so pathetic that I can’t even take banter, without you getting offended on my behalf?

    The lady who wrote this seems to think she speaks for LGBT people, but I never wanted anything of the sort! My queer friends are also horrified by the way people are treating us as weak precisely because of articles like this.

    What ever happened to Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of all men being judged by the content of their character? I don’t want people like the author to boss people around and claim it’s for my benefit!

    HOW TO BE AN ALLY:
    Don’t treat us any differently from your straight, non-trans colleagues! Don’t think we are as pathetic and helpless as then author wants to portray us as.

  5. Richard Scott Monday, 15 May, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    I wish you would put as much effort into supporting anybody regardless of sexual preference, trying to find employment!
    I have just shown your article to my friend who is openly Gay and at 46 has been for four years and i will not print his respnse but the words” politically correct bull excrement” are sort of what he implied. Also that an office full of sycophants is the last thing he would want.
    As a straight man with several Lesbian and Gay friends, all i can see is that they deserve equality but not special treatment, and to my knowledge would all hate to be fawned over and fussed around.
    Equal NOT Extra.

  6. jasmine Thursday, 18 May, 2017 at 7:23 am

    I would love to dress at work but l live at my ex’s so it would be hard as this is why we have separated

    Jasmine is my fem Mame

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