There is a lot of uncertainty when it comes to talking about or showing support for the LBGTQ+ community. Wondering if we’re saying the wrong thing. Unsure of where to look for news and information. Not certain how to be an authentic ally. And whilst there have been many steps in the right direction this fear often makes the gap for those in the queer community feel even bigger. So we spoke to the BBC’s first LBGTQ+ Correspondent Ben Hunte - a leading voice in the community about what we can all do to create truly inclusive workplaces.
What we can do as individuals
Empathise & Respect
The key to all of this is simply understanding and empathising with the struggles members of the LBGTQ+ community face. Understanding of the human aspects of being part of the community can really help to change your perspective. And this level of empathy and respect goes for pronouns too, “If someone’s asked for specific pronouns to be used then please take them seriously.” How you’re addressed can have a massive impact on how members of the community think or feel.
What you can do as a leader
Don’t back away from deeper questions
As a manager or leader, having empathy is one thing, but looking out for your team is another. Ben suggests going deeper than surface level, “It’s about speaking to people and asking how they actually are. If I want a reaction from someone, I’ll always ask twice. Asking those deeper questions is really key.” To lead, you need trust and respect from every member of your team, so checking in on their wellbeing is essential, especially for those in the LBGTQ+ community.
Seek advice from an expert
Sometimes we don’t know all of the answers. Ben says to speak to members of the community who want to help, “If you’re genuinely worried about making mistakes just speak to people like me. Slide into some DMs, drop an email, just reach out. Don’t struggle in silence, speak to people about it.” But also remember it’s no one’s job to educate you - if they don’t reply or don’t have the time respect that. You can try asking someone else or reach out to specific LBGTQ+ organisations for assistance.
What you can do as a company
Ben sheds a light on intersectionality, “I’m not saying that every organisation needs a black, gay individuals network. It’s just the understanding that when you’re being encouraged to bring your whole self to work some people can’t do that in 2022.”. Often we see companies show support by offering groups or networks of those with ‘similar characteristics’. However, every employee is a multi-hyphenate individual who won’t fit into one box but many.
“It’s very easy if you fit a cookie-cutter definition of what it means to be you and the broad stereotypes of your identity. It’s very easy to have those broad brush strokes, ‘we’re going to put this in place to make sure that person feels supported’ but for me, I really needed a bit deeper digging from my workplace”, Ben says. And whilst there isn’t a simple answer to this, what we can glean from Ben’s experiences is that employees should be viewed on an individual level. Supported by the overall culture of a company from the top down.
Speakers and stories
“Have speakers in.”, Ben notes, “If your workplace isn’t diverse then make it diverse by having external events. It’s a really great way to make sure people feel seen and that they feel understood”. This not only benefits those from minority groups such as those in the LBGTQ+ community. It will also give all of your employees a better depth of knowledge as well as provide a place to ask questions. Fostering a more open and inclusive company culture, where every individual feels seen, heard and understood.
We hope that this journal has helped you to see some steps you can take today to be a better LBGTQ+ ally. Ben is a fantastic correspondent and creator who openly shares his life as a member of the community but also reports on ground-breaking LBGTQ+ news for VICE. So be sure to follow his Instagram here to keep up to date. Or, if you’d like him to do a PepTalk for your business on LBGTQ+ inclusion, get in touch with our team today.