It's not all rainbows
If you live in a somewhat progressive city such as London, it will be hard to miss the rainbow flags popping up on every street corner and shopping aisle. It’s Pride month and, with that surprisingly not just a marketing opportunity for large corporations, but an important time to recognise all those who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Pride today is an incredible, colourful celebration of all queer people around the world. But we can’t walk the parade and wave our flags without paying tribute to those who paved the way to make it what it is today. Pride was born out of struggle, violence, hardships, and oppression. It was a radical, queer liberation spearheaded by LGBTQ+ activists from the black community who were even further marginalised by their sexual orientation. It is commemorated following the New York Stonewall rebellion in 1969, which was the start of a national reaction that brought much-needed activism and visibility to the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights.
So, we acknowledge those who fought the hard battles, from fighting discrimination and injustice, to moving towards acceptance and inclusion, and even celebration. We have come a long way and in some pockets of the world, and it’s almost surreal how much support and acceptance there is. With all of this progress made, you may be wondering why the LGBTQ+ movement continues to push for more recognition and equality.
Well, it’s great that we’re seeing more rainbows in shop windows, but the reality is that there are times when we still get harassed on the street. Unfortunately, some public spaces are still not safe for queer people to simply exist. It feels like there will always be nasty comments, judgement, staring, oversexualisation, and times where you can’t even hold hands with your partner out of fear for your safety. And all of this can be felt in a country where being gay is legal.
So, the least we can do is create a workplace where people can be safe, and feel comfortable bringing their full selves to work.
Here are a few ideas on how we can do this:
- Appoint workplace allies – allyship is about stepping up for your colleagues and wanting to gain a greater understanding of their experiences through observing, listening, and most importantly through hearing. Allies don’t have to form part of the communities they’re supporting, and in fact it is crucial to have them engaged in order to spread awareness and facilitate positive change.
- Set inclusive hiring practices – and review them regularly. Inclusive language in job descriptions, diverse interview teams, and blind hiring can be beneficial for both the employer and potential candidates.
- Take discrimination seriously – homophobia in today’s corporate world is often subtle and sometimes almost hidden (the same goes for racism, sexism etc), but those small comments and nuances can be just as harmful as blatant discrimination. Ensure you have the right policies and processes in place to deal with these situations effectively.
- Sometimes, the best thing you can do is listen – you may not relate to or fully understand the journeys of your queer colleagues but lending an ear can often be the most effective way of making them feel heard and recognised.
- Create an LGBTQ+ network or similar forum for open conversations – this is a powerful way for LGBTQ+ people to come together, share experiences, exchange ideas, solve issues, and create a safe space where like minds can collaborate. Allies can also form part of this.
- Review your benefits and ensure they are inclusive – for example, some companies offer spousal equivalent domestic partner recognition or gender transition coverage.
- Educate yourself – remember that everyone is different and the LGBTQ+ community covers a large and very diverse group of people, so you can’t paint everyone with the same brush. No one is expecting you to know everything; terminology is continuously changing and preferences for things like pronouns and labels vary significantly across the community. However, avoiding assumptions, reading up on gendered language, and being open to learning and being corrected when it’s due, can go a long way.
- Other ways to show support – small gestures such as having a flag in your email signature or a statement on your website around inclusion and acceptance for all can be a small but powerful way of showing recognition and support for your LGBTQ+ colleagues.
This list is not exhaustive and the approach to inclusivity should differ for every company. At Finyx, we support the LGBTQ+ movement and aim to foster a working environment where all our employees feel comfortable bringing their full selves to work. We are doing the work to become more inclusive, starting with updating our benefits policies and expanding the maternity/paternity leave pay to include adoption leave, which will include same sex relationships.
Although there have been major advancements and the world continues to move in the right direction, discrimination does still exist, and although it might not be immediately obvious in your company, there need to be measures in place to ensure that it doesn’t become a problem. So once this Pride month is over, let’s continue doing the work to become more inclusive, and continue being visible and vocal in empowering, encouraging, and uplifting our colleagues who form part of the LGBTQ+ community.