Rachel Coventry, a Young Person Recovery Worker at With You, talks about navigating being LGBTQ+ in the workplace.
Society has come a long way with equality for the LGBTQ+ community. I’m sure we can all agree that it’s amazing workplaces now have ‘Equality and Diversity’ schemes and training to ensure they’re more inclusive and members of the community feel supported.
However, there’s still room for improvement and a lot of professionals still feel the need to hide part of their identity. According to the 2018 Stonewall report “LGBT in Britain — work report”’:
- more than a third of LGBT staff (35%) have hidden that they are LGBT at work for fear of discrimination
- nearly two in five Bi people aren’t out to anyone at work
- one in eight Lesbian, Gay and Bi people (12%) wouldn’t feel confident reporting any homophobic or biphobic bullying to their employer
- one in five trans people (21%) wouldn’t report transphobic bullying in the workplace.
- almost a third of non-binary people (31%) and one in five trans people (18%) don’t feel able to wear work attire representing their gender expression.
With previous employers, I’ve personally experienced micro-aggressions and homophobic slurs. I’m always nervous to start a new job because you just never know how staff and clients are going to react. I used to work with high risk offenders, and I was told by my employer that it would be safer for me to not share or insinuate about my sexuality as a lesbian, to prevent myself from further harm.
In another job as a Teaching Assistant a student asked whether I had a boyfriend and I explained that I had a girlfriend. The students were very welcoming and understanding. However my boss at the time found this unusual and pulled me into her office and said that it was not appropriate. I asked her whether the students know that she has a husband, she said yes, so I simply asked, “what is the difference between your relationship and mine?”
In contrast I started my role as a Young Person Recovery Worker at With You in March 2022 and staff have not only authentically accepted my sexuality but have even encouraged me to engage with further advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community. They welcomed my interest in starting an LGBTQ+ support group, and they’ve continued to encourage any ideas I’ve had to better support the community. Since starting, I’ve created an ‘Understanding Me’ group in a Catholic school to help young people. I have spoken openly about my experiences and sexuality, and I have also secured a place for With You to march at Liverpool’s Pride. And I am just getting started.
My managers (Jan, Akeem and Liam) and colleagues supporting me have not only had a positive impact on the young people we work with and the organisation as a whole — but me personally. I feel confident within both myself and my sexuality and I am proud of my journey. But mostly, I am elated to be the person for young people that I desperately needed when I was younger.
Read the full blog post here.
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