Becoming an Ally – LGBT+
Updated: Jun 25
By Abbie Conneely, NGIN Outreach Officer and Account Executive at Willis Towers Watson
Every year, during the month of June, the LGBT+ community celebrates and promotes self-affirmation, dignity, equality and increased visibility with several events across the globe.
Why was June chosen? Because it is when the Stonewall Riots took place, back in 1969. The Stonewall Riots served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world.
To show your support, why not take time to listen, learn and develop the skills required to be an ally.
Why is it important at work?
Workplace discrimination is still prevelant across our society and in the workplace, as seen by the Stonewalls LGBT Britain Work Report (2018).
More than a third of LGBT staff (35%) have hidden that they are LGBT at work for fear of discrimination
Almost one in five LGBT staff (18%) have been the target of negative comments or conduct from work colleagues in the last year because they are LGBT.
Almost a third of non-binary people (31%) and one in five trans people (18%) don’t feel able to wear work attire representing their gender expression.
Whilst there has been good progress in the Insurance Industry, with both Aviva (45/100) and Aon (87/100) placing in the Stonewall 2020 Top 100 Employers list (UK’s leading benchmarking tool for LGBT inclusion in the workplace), there is still along way to go.
What you can do
Below are three things I found useful when trying to educate myself further on becoming an LGBT+ Ally:
1. Be inclusive in your language:
Use gender-neutral language or a person’s name until they have specified how they are comfortable being referred to. Don’t assume someone’s gender identity or sexuality based on what you think you know. For example, instead of asking: “What does your husband/wife do?” you can ask: “What does your partner do?”. Gender-neutral conversations provide the space for people to self-identify.
Respect how someone identifies and don’t ask what their ‘real’ name or gender is once they have told you. Some people prefer gender-neutral pronouns such as they/their and ze/zir.
2. Understand all facets of the community
Your anatomy doesn't determine your gender identity and your gender identity doesn’t determine who you will be attracted to. In reality, gender is much more like a spectrum – it isn’t set in stone and some people have fluid or fluctuating identities.
I found the infographic below useful for understanding the differences between gender identity, gender expression and attraction.
Gender Identity: One’s internal sense of being male, female, neither of these, both, or another gender(s).
Gender Expression/Presentation: The physical manifestation of one’s gender identity through clothing, hairstyle, voice, body shape, etc.
Sex Assigned at Birth: The assignment and classification of people as male, female, intersex, or another sex based on a combination of anatomy, hormones, chromosomes.
Physically Attracted To: Sexual Orientation.
Emotionally Attracted To: Romantic/emotional orientation.
It is important to note that sexual and romantic/emotional attraction can be from a variety of factors including but not limited to gender identity, gender expression/presentation, and sex assigned at birth.
Each of the five facets shown in the infographic operate independently of each other and just because you know one element about someone, it doesn’t mean you know the rest.
Full definitions at: http://transstudent.org/gender/
3. Know your own limits as an ally
Don't be afraid to admit when you don't know something. It is better to admit you don't know something than to make assumptions or say something that may be incorrect or hurtful. Remember being an ally is a sustained and persistent pattern of action; not an idle or stable noun.
To better understand the experiences of the LGBT+ community and therefore further yourself as an ally, you can:
Read: Straight Jacket by Matthew Todd – a book which discusses the crisis of shaming facing the gay community – and how to solve it.
Listen: LGBT Stories – a series which explores the struggles, questions and triumphs through stories from the LGBTQ community.
Watch: Disclosure (Netflix) – a documentary discussing the larger issues facing the trans community, whilst unpacking a legacy of problematic representation.
Let us know if there is anything you have read/watched/listened to that would be useful for others who are wanting to learn more!!
London Pride 2020
Whilst the Pride 2020 parade in London has been cancelled this year due to COVID-19, many virtual events including dance classes, theatre shows and workouts are still being run; so checkout the Pride in London website: https://prideinlondon.org/events
Stonewalls LGBT Britain Work Report (2018) – https://www.stonewall.org.uk/lgbt-britain-work-report
Amnesty International Website - https://www.amnesty.org.uk/LGBTQ-equality/gender-identity-beginners-guide-trans-allies
Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Website - https://www.glaad.org/transgender/allies