Even though we’ve made some big strides forward, it can still be very difficult living as an LGBTQIA+ person in the UK in 2023. Sadly LGBTQ+ hate crime reports in England and Wales have risen, with government statistics showing a 41% increase in homophobic and biphobic hate incidents and a 56% increase in transphobic hate incidents between 2021 and 2022.
And we are regularly exposed to news stories where LGBTQIA+ people’s lives are being subjected to ‘debate’ – such as whether the cruel practise of conversion therapy should be banned, or whether trans people should be able to access gender-affirming medical treatment.
This environment adds a significant amount of stress to our lives – and we know being LGBTQIA+ makes someone more likely to experience poor mental health.
When you’re working at a smaller employer, you might find it trickier to create ways to support LGBT+ colleagues. Your organisation might not be big enough to support an LGBTQIA+ network, for example. You might not have the budget to host events, or have enough staff to make a visit to a local Pride event worth your efforts.
But, even if you don’t knowingly have any LGBTQIA+ staff members right now, there are still steps you can take to create a culture of acceptance. Not only is it the right thing to do, it also means anyone who joins your organisation in future who might be LGBTQIA+ will feel welcomed – and anyone who is LGBTQIA+ but not comfortable sharing that information with you yet will also benefit.
Here’s my top tips for creating a safe, inclusive environment for LGBTQIA+ people for smaller organisations:
- Ensure you have an equality and diversity policy which mentions LGBTQIA+ people and their needs. You might think you don’t need one right now, but that can be the best time to start! It means when someone does join your organisation who might be affected by it, you’ll already have guidelines in place on how to best support them.
- Use gender-neutral language where you can. Instead of saying ‘he/she’, use ‘they’ instead – it’s more inclusive, and it saves space!
- Make sure any policy you already have in place includes LGBTQIA+ people. For example, that might mean checking your parental leave policies to make sure you’re including same-sex couples and not exclusively referring to parents as ‘mother’ and ‘father’.
- Adding your pronouns to your email signature is a really easy way to show you are an ally to trans people. Simply stating if you should be referred to as ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘they’ or something else shows anyone you email that you care about their identity and will respect it.
- Do not tolerate anti-LGBTQIA+ speech. Even jokes can be harmful – they can help create a culture where othering people for their identity is acceptable. Regardless of whether an LGBTQIA+ person is there to hear it, make sure you put a stop to it.
- Keep an eye on the news for stories about LGBTQIA+ people if you can. Sadly, there’s a huge amount of discussion and ‘debate’ about LGBTQIA+ people’s lives at the moment, and it can be very stressful to feel at the centre of a political firestorm. Check in with colleagues who might be affected by negative stories.
- But also remember to highlight the positive stories too. You could mention Pride or LGBTQIA+ History Month in internal communications, for example. Remembering being LGBTQIA+ can be a joyful, rewarding and fulfilling identity can help offset some of the negatives we sadly still experience.
Check out these resources below, which can offer you more advice and support on becoming an LGBTQIA+ friendly organisation, no matter your size.