The 2010 Equality Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees, job seekers and trainees because of their sexual orientation. Despite this, we continue to see inequality displayed in workplaces across the UK.
‘Straight ally’ is a term used to describe heterosexual people who believe that lesbian, gay and bisexual people should experience full equality in the workplace.’ – Stonewall, Straight Allies 2011.
Allies are incredibly important in the fight against prejudice and adversity, with many people in privileged positions having considerably bigger platforms on which to speak and influence. Straight people within the workplace can have a huge effect when it comes to educating their peers and creating a safe space for LGBTQ+ colleagues – often simply because they themselves are not gay. By realising that the responsibility of creating a comfortable working environment should not fall on the shoulders of their gay counterparts, straight allies are able to make real change by pushing for fair and inclusive treatment across the board.
With that in mind, listed below are a few easy steps to follow to commit to making the workplace more secure for your LGBTQ+ friends:
1. Think about your own views and opinions. One of the main characteristics required of a good ally is the ability to acknowledge your own prejudices, no matter how uncomfortable this might make you feel. This is one of the key pillars of effective ally ship – challenging your own belief system to push for real change.
2. Do not be afraid to call out any anti-LGBTQ+ comments or ‘jokes’. These can be incredibly harmful, even if they are framed as humour. Calling it out is the best way to nip it in the bud and let the team know that it’s not acceptable practice.
3. On a similar note: stand up for your LGBTQ+ friends! If you see someone behaving in a way that you acknowledge to be offensive, let your friend know that you stand with them. Chances are a lot of people will go out of their way to avoid getting involved, which does nothing to prevent offensive behaviour.
4. Never assume someones sexuality. Treating everyone as if you don’t know could potentially give someone to courage to come out. Sexuality is a wide spectrum and not to be assumed.
5. Don’t worry if you feel like you don’t know enough about the LGBTQ+ community – this is the perfect time to educate yourself and learn. Listen to your colleagues and friends! Rather than worrying about saying the wrong thing, do your research. Read books and watch shows written by queer people. Knowledge is power and your LGBTQ+ peers will appreciate the effort put in.
6. Push for change within your organisation. Do you have the power to implement recruitment processes? To initiate LGBTQ+ related events and campaigns? Depending on your employment level, think about small practices you can implement into the culture at work.
Above all, be yourself and focus on how you yourself would like to be treated. Apply this to your attitude towards the LGBTQ+ community both in work and the wider world.