It’s embarrassing that we still work in environments where people have to disguise their sexuality.
Working in consulting, I can confidently say one of the best things about the job is the people; my colleagues are kind, considerate, supportive, and a lot of fun. My sexuality is open — a brief look at my wardrobe and messenger bag is often all anyone needs on that front — but neither is it something I have explicitly brought to the table. In part, it’s because sexuality is not a discussion point among the team. I never feel remotely concerned about the way my colleagues would react if I chose to announce my sexuality during a meeting. In this, I am lucky, because the troubling reality is that many LGBT people are actively hiding or disguising their sexuality in the workplace.
According to Britain’s largest LGBT charity, Stonewall, more than 35 percent of LGBT people hide or disguise their sexuality because they fear discrimination or negative reaction from their colleagues. Despite the troubling work culture these figures point to, many LGBT people who endure negative experiences feel unable to call them out, with one-in-eight lesbian, gay and bisexual people, and 21 percent of transgender people, saying they would not feel confident reporting bullying to their employer.
Statistics like these should have no place in the workplace of 2018. It’s also not something employers can passively hope will improve with time; the highest proportion of LGBT people who hid their sexuality in the last year were aged 18–24, which means many organizations are failing their future LGBT workforce as much as their existing one.
However, all hope is not lost. A current topic for many employers is using their business platforms to enact social change. As we band together, we will notice that we have a platform and a privilege — one we can claim only when we are a role model and an ally to those who are like us, and those who are not. The most influential advocate for equality is the one who speaks for others. We can all be better LGBT allies at work. It means educating yourself on LGBT issues, creating open and inclusive environments, and calling out intolerance and discrimination if you ever see it within your organization.
For the LGBT people who feel able — as so many don’t — it means all of the above, and also being open about your sexuality to normalize LGBT experiences at work. Because, as so many of those who have made significant differences have said, “if one part of the LGBT community gets left behind, we all get left behind.” So, now is the time to make changes and make the future the place we want it to be. How will you make it better?