We are who we are
CEO Sarah looks at why it can be difficult for some people in the LGBTQ+ community to be themselves at work.
I stole the title from the recent TV show, that explored friendship, love, and identity. At Choice Support we have been talking about the concept of being able to be who you are at work every day. I was talking to a colleague, Becca Neaves, who helped me understand that this is not as easy for everybody. Becca also helped me write this vlog, so a lot of thanks go to her. Almost 2.8 billion people are living in countries where identifying as gay could lead to imprisonment, corporal punishment or even death. In stark contrast, only 780 million people are living in countries where same-sex marriage or civil unions are a legal right.
Up until the 1950s rights were largely discussed within the context of the law. And it was in the decades that followed that we saw a change in the dialogue around identifying as LGBTQ+. Attitudes started to change when things began to be communicated in a different way. It was no longer the law saying that being gay was wrong, but influential people advocating for the gay community. Celebrities like, Oprah Winfrey, David Beckham, Princes Diana, Lady Gaga and Harry Styles, and there are so many more, have all been recognised for their support to the LGBTQ+ community.
Celebrity support helps create a platform and a sense of normality. However, behind the scenes, history is full of people who have been speaking up from, and on behalf, of the LGBTQ+ community, for many, many years. For example, in 1854, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, a German Civil Servant, was sacked for speaking out against discrimination of gay men. Bayard Rustin, a close advisor to Martin Luther King, and an openly gay activist, frequently put his own life at risk by being an openly gay Black man, while pursuing social justice work in the public eye.
We live in a time of heightened fear. And it is worth going back to something that Martin Luther King once said: “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”
During LGBTQ+ history month we will be talking about this at Choice Support. Fear exists because of not knowing and not communicating. And I want to be clear, as an organisation we stand united with, and accept all our colleagues and the people we support from the LGBTQ+ community. Creating a sense of belonging and acceptance of others’ sexuality is not negotiable. Until we can do this, we cannot achieve our aspiration of people being able to be who they are at work.
As we head off into the weekend, to all of you who were born in the year of the Ox, have a very happy Chinese New Year. I, for one, will be celebrating with you.