“Pride Month presents us with an annual reminder to be sensitive to the needs of members of the LGBTQ+ community,” urges dean Jon Foster-Pedley. “It’s easy to forget the daily challenges of these family members, colleagues, and peers who constantly navigate a minefield of prejudice, indignity, self-harm, substance abuse and even violence, within their work and living communities.”
“I decided, therefore, to put together a checklist that one could run through at the beginning of each workday this month. Let’s remember that awareness leads to thoughtfulness, and thoughtfulness, to inclusion. After all, isn’t that what we all want?” he continues. “To be a useful part of a productive, fair, cooperative community?”
• Be a good listener
Too often, we assume that we know where people are at in their heads, and we often act on the basis of these assumptions. Take the time out, however, to actually listen to what people say. This attitude will bring positive changes to all your relationships, and specifically here, will change the attitudes of people towards you in the business environment, and your leadership. Probably the most frequent complaint amongst employees is that they aren’t being heard. Imagine, then, the additional concerns of the LGBTQ+ employee. Walk that proverbial mile in that other person’s shoes, and listen with an open, non-judgemental, learning heart.
• The gift of time
Apart from our honesty, time is one of the best gifts we can give to those around us – be they family, colleagues or friends. When you give your time to the concerns of the LGBTQ+ people that you value, do so wholeheartedly. Don’t check your phone, send e-mails or peruse documents whilst engaging. For those moments you’ve put aside, the person with whom you’re conversing needs to be the most important person in the universe to you.
Make the effort to understand the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ persons. You will never know precisely how the world looks through their eyes, but take time to feel; develop that empathy that is required of you, their fellow traveller.
• Take a visible stand against bigotry
Whenever someone directs an unkind remark towards members of the LGBTQ+ community – even if there are none present at the time – speak up! Make it clear that it just isn’t acceptable. There’s no need to be aggressive about it, however, as that will interfere with your message. Just explain, in a firm and friendly manner, that it’s unnecessary, and is neither kind nor decent.
• Interrogate your bias
Understand how bias comes to exist. After all, you can’t successfully eradicate negative behaviours unless your truly understand what their root causes are, and frankly there is some in all of us, I imagine. Be like the doctor who seeks to find the root of an illness, rather than just medicating the symptoms.
• Increase your interactions
Put some effort into regular and ongoing conversations with your LGBTQ+ family, friends and colleagues – and not in a patronising fashion. This will help you to engage with them as fellow humans, and not stereotypes. We need to internalise the fact that “the gay guy in Accounts” is actually just “the guy in Accounts”.
• Extend the checklist
Although my concerns this month have been particularly with the LGBTQ+ members of our society, I should stress that we should extend the same thoughtfulness to all of those with whom we come into contact, to understand our common humanity, regardless of ethnic, religious, cultural differences, and indeed differences in physical appearance and ability. Fight for social equity. After all, we all have the same need to feel accepted, and to contribute, as equals, to our workspace or community.