LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual, and all others from a gender, sexual or romantic minority group. For more information about this subject, take a look at our previous LGBTQIA+ toolkit here.
June is Pride month. This is a chance for everyone in the LGBTQIA+ community to come together to celebrate our achievements, show solidarity with each other, and consider where we need to be in the future. It’s also a chance for allies to show their support, and many organisations will be adding rainbow colours to their logos and joining the conversations about gender, sexuality and love. But it’s important not just to focus on appearances – the organisations that make real differences will be the ones who start looking inside first, and consider the needs and wishes of the LGBTIQA+ people who work for them.
Gendered Intelligence is a charity that exists to increase understandings of gender diversity and improve trans people’s quality of life. Cleo Madeleine from Gendered Intelligence told us that there is no direct correlation between LGBTIQA+ identity and poor mental health – just because you’re gay or trans, it doesn’t mean you’re mentally ill.
“However, LGBTIQA+ people do experience higher rates of some mental health issues compared to the general population, including anxiety, depression, and suicidality,” she says. “This can be attributed to a number of factors, including intolerance, poor access to support services and healthcare, economic precarity, and lower standards of living.”
And while organisations should be thinking of ways to support all members of the LGBTQIA+ community, it’s important to remember that they may be facing different challenges. “Trans people are particularly at risk in the UK right now,” Cleo explains. “Gender identity services are unable to keep up with demand, leading to wait times in the years. Increasing hostility towards trans people in the media and from the government has worsened exclusion in the workplace, education, and healthcare and support services, compounding the isolating effects of the pandemic.”
And Trans people are more likely to experience serious mental health issues than other LGB+ demographics, and also the most likely to experience discrimination when seeking support. “It is more important now than ever to work to ensure services are visible and accessible to the trans community,” adds Cleo.
How can employers support the mental wellbeing of their LGBTQIA+ staff
Cleo suggests that making the workplace a safe space to talk about mental health issues can benefit all staff. “LGBT+ employees may have been the victims of discrimination or forced out of previous employment because of their identity and/or their mental health, and may not feel comfortable talking about their support needs,” she says. “Ensure that LGBTIQA+ acceptance isn’t just assumed, but actively promoted at work.”
It’s important too to ensure that there are clear guidelines around discrimination in the workplace, and enforce them consistently. This will help send the message that discrimination or harassment against any minority group will not be tolerated.
And since LGBTQIA+ people might be facing difficulties holding them back from opportunities, you can help by making sure that LGBT+ employees have access to the necessary resources and training to progress their careers, and maintain diverse hiring practices – especially for senior roles. “If you’re not sure about how to promote LGBT+ wellbeing, consider seeking out training from an organisation that supports the community,” Cleo says.
Extra support for transgender staff
Trans staff might have specific needs that could be a source of anxiety in the workplace. “Make sure that you have a transitioning at work policy with guidance and support for employees who are beginning transition, as well as their colleagues, managers, HR, and other staff,” suggests Cleo. “Be mindful that trans people who are medically transitioning may need additional time for doctor’s appointments, and this should be factored into work plans.”
Sadly, there is a lot of hostility towards trans people in the UK in general right now, and trans people might be under a lot of stress or struggling with poor mental health. Cleo suggests you are prepared to allow additional time and space for those affected, and have clear guidance available for managers on how to support employees who are struggling.
You might want to consider workplace training for your line managers to ensure they understand best practice. For example, Gendered Intelligence offers a variety of training options that might suit your organisation. Find out more here.
If you are LGBTQIA+, there are ways you can find and offer support within your organisations. For example, by joining a staff network, you might be able to find colleagues who understand your experiences. “The expectation should never be for LGBTIQA+ people to work for their own acceptance – this has to start from the top and be enacted through policy and management,” Cleo explains. “However, LGBTIQA+ people can help by being open and honest about their needs. If you’re struggling with your mental health, tell someone. If you experience discrimination at work, report it. And if you want more visibility for your community at work, stand up. If you take the first step to start a Pride group or ask for better support, you’ll probably find that there are others who follow suit.”