The CIPD recently published an article citing the highly worrying figure that “more than a third of LGBT people are bullied at work” (CIPD, July 2017). The questionnaire carried out by the Trades Union Congress surveyed more than 5,000 LGBT people.
Some of the startling findings were that just over half of LGBT employees were open about their sexuality at work. Another worrying statistic was that just 12% of LGBT employees who had experienced harassment spoke to HR about the incident.
Clearly this is a complicated issue, one that cannot be fixed with a quick click of one’s fingers. To properly address the issue of homophobia in the workplace and to successfully promote equality and diversity staff should be properly trained, handbooks should be crystal clear surrounding anti-bullying and harassment policy and employers should ensure they’re creating a working environment in which their employees feel safe and comfortable. However, we fully appreciate this is an ongoing commitment and cannot just be implemented overnight so… what better way to start than with the simple ABC’s.
One of the easiest ways to help promote equality within the workplace is just by getting names and terminology correct. Below is a comprehensive and explanatory list that will help you get to terms with the LGBT lexicon:
L: Lesbian, easy right? A woman that likes other women. Kinda… but lately, there is a movement away from lesbian, with many queer (we’ll come to that later) women opting for the term gay woman now.
G: Gay. Probably the most straightforward (if you’ll pardon the pun). A man that likes other men, but can also be a woman that likes other women. Try to not use gay as a shorthand or umbrella term for LGBT issues as some think it lacks inclusivity.
B: Bisexual. A person that likes both men and women. Try not to describe them as ‘between’ gay and straight, they are a sexuality unto their own. Also, try not to dismiss bisexuals as ‘greedy’ or ‘indecisive’ as this can be highly offensive.
T: Trans. Someone whose gender identity (the way in which they present themselves) is different than the gender they had at birth. Do not refer to them as transsexuals or trannies and avoid asking them about any surgeries, this is outdated and offensive. If you’re unsure as to which pronoun they would prefer to go by (he/she/they) then there is nothing wrong with kindly asking which pronoun they would prefer.
Q: Queer. People whose sexuality and gender identity are different to the majority. Many older people might not like using this word, but it has recently seen a resurgence and as long as it is not used in a derogative manner, can be a very useful umbrella term to encompass all members of the LGBT+ community.
Q: Questioning. Another Q?! Yes. This is a term used for anyone who isn’t entirely sure about their sexuality or gender identity. Whether that be bi-curious or gender non-conforming, anyone who has their doubts can be questioning.
I: Intersex. Someone who’s biology may conflict with preconceptions about gender. The outdated term hermaphrodite is a good example when trying to understand what Intersex is. Different to Trans in that there are biological factors affecting someone’s gender experience e.g. hormones or sex organs.
A: Asexual. Someone who doesn’t tend to partake in sexual intercourse. This doesn’t mean they never have had sex, and It doesn’t mean they never will have sex, it just means that for now they’re not really interested in sex. They can still have partners and it isn’t polite to ask about their sexual life, as it isn’t polite to ask anyone else about their sexual life.
A: Ally. Another A?! Last one we promise. An ally is anyone who isn’t part of the Queer community but supports the fight for equality on behalf of their Queer friends. Whether that be marching in parades or simply defending them against bullies, allies often represent the largest part of the LGBT+ community and are a necessary and welcomed asset.
If you can get to grips with this, you’re off to a great start. There is a lot more and this is only a starting point, but if you think more information surrounding this topic is something you and your organisation would benefit from and would like to explore further, whether that be training or more information packs surrounding equality and diversity please contact firstname.lastname@example.org