How to be an LGBTQ+ Ally

How to be an LGBTQ+ Ally
How to be an LGBTQ+ Ally

Even in 2024, many LGBTQ+ individuals continue to face challenges in the workplace.

A 2022 report by Glaad found that:

  • Seven in ten LGBTQ people in the US report personally experiencing discrimination, up 11% from 2021 and a disturbing increase of 24% from 2020.
  • A majority of transgender and nonbinary people do not feel safe walking in their own neighbourhoods.
  • Need for the Equality Act: 79% of LGBTQ Americans strongly support federal legislative action to protect them.

Along with demoralisation, this can breed workplace hostility. In the UK, a 2021 study from HR association the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) showed LGBTQ+ workers reported higher levels of workplace conflict than heterosexual, cisgender workers in the UK.

Forty percent of LGBTQ+ employees said they had experienced workplace conflict in the past 12 months, compared with just 29% of non-LGBTQ+ employees. Those numbers were even higher for transgender employees. Many of these reported conflicts were never fully resolved: 44% of LGBTQ+ workers said their conflicts had not been resolved at all, and 38% said they had only been partly resolved.

These findings highlight the ongoing need for inclusive workplace policies. Organisations are increasingly recognising the importance of such policies, as demonstrated by the 2023-2024 Corporate Equality Index, which shows that 97% of rated employers include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in their non-discrimination policies. Additionally, 94% offer at least one transgender-inclusive healthcare plan.

With many people feeling they have to hide their true identity in the workplace, there is something every colleague can do to help make their workplace a welcoming environment and foster an open and accepting culture.

Allies are action-takers

It is easy to call yourself an ally, but a true ally is someone that takes action. Creating a committee in your organisation that can inspire action across the rest of the business can be really valuable. Taking an active role in events and inclusion practices is not only a direct way to improve the culture of the organisation, but also helps you to learn more about allyship and reducing your own bias.

Add pronouns to email signatures

If you feel comfortable sharing your pronouns, add them to your email signature, Zoom handle, LinkedIn profile and anywhere you network and connect with colleagues and contacts. This shouldn’t be mandatory, as there may be people exploring their identity or prefer their privacy, but it is an important way to help people feel safer when sharing their pronouns.

Elevate Pride networks

From regional to international Pride events and charities, having senior leaders championing and sharing these networks and events means your organisation will have voices that encourage inclusivity and diversity. While it is important to have championing voices in your organisation, do be mindful that you’re doing this to put LGBTQ+ voices first. Stand in solidarity, rather than leading the charge from a place of privilege.

Think about workplace language

Using inclusive language is important as an LGBTQ+ ally. The language you use can dramatically transform whether someone feels part of the conversation or offended.

With your language, it is also important not to make assumptions that could influence what you say. For example, talking about girlfriends or boyfriends may be an assumption you are making, which could prevent that person from opening up or being their true self with you.

Learn without interrogating

Organisational training can be a great way to start by increasing your awareness of the struggles and challenges LGBTQ+ people can face, but there are lots of ways you can increase your knowledge. From understanding the terminology and language to its historical struggles and the challenges that many people still face, increasing your knowledge can be a powerful tool for allyship.

If LGBTQ+ friends share stories, then truly listening and asking respectful questions can mean you develop a deeper understanding. Intrusive questions and assuming these friends will be walking encyclopaedias on all LGBTQ+ issues can put a strain on the friendship and it doesn’t show that you’re willing to do the work yourself to learn more about being a better ally.

Remember, mistakes can happen

As with all learning processes, mistakes can happen. Making an active effort to forgive yourself but also correct any behaviour that may have been offensive or hurtful is an important part of the allyship learning curve.


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