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Julie Dennis: LGBT History Month - Why I'm proud to be a LGBT+ Ally

Tuesday 12 February 2019

Julie Dennis discusses LGBT and the workplace.

Julie Dennis Julie Dennis

Julie is a Diversity and Inclusion specialist with over 16 years' experience, gained within the public and voluntary sector. As Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Acas, Julie is responsible for leading and providing expert advice on all diversity & inclusion related matters, with the aim of building an inclusive culture that drives engagement and ultimately performance. She also leads on HR Policy, Resourcing and Employee Health & Wellbeing at Acas.

LGBT History month is always a special time of the year for me because I have been a LGBT+ Ally for as long as I can remember, not because I'm the Head of Diversity and Inclusion, but because I believe that everyone should be able to bring their full self to work.

Research by Stonewall has found that LGBT+ people who do not feel able to be out at work often expend significant amounts of energy on avoiding being outed. Many feel they need to avoid forming close relationships with colleagues, avoiding anything that may reveal aspects of their personal life at work and telling lies about their life simply to avoid being outed. This can have an obvious effect on their performance, and in some cases, their health. They feel less confident, less motivated, unable to put everything into their job and unable to use their personal experiences to develop creative solutions at work. Not being able to engage with others honestly about who they are has an effect on their relationships with colleagues, managers, and customers.

So what can we do to help? Some of you may be reading this and be thinking "I don't discriminate against people, so it's not my problem", but there is a difference between being "to blame" for something and being "responsible" for it. As one of my great friends Emma Dunn from a:gender says, were are not to blame for ice or snow, but we are responsible for clearing it off our windscreen.  It's also natural to say things like "Why are you talking to me about homophobia? I'm not homophobic so you should target the folks who are!" The fact is, as a society, we are allresponsible for fixing inequality, even if we're not to blamefor it.

This is about everybody working together to continue to eliminate inequality in the workplace and being a LGBT+ Ally is one way you can do that.

So what is a LGBT+ Ally you may ask? Anyone who supports equality for LGBT+ people, and who challenges homophobia, biphobia and transphobia fits the bill.  LGBT+ Allies believe that everyone should be able to bring their whole selves to work and I think most of us already fit that description without realising it!

Here at Acas we have an active LGBT+ Allies Network and we all work together to share the responsibility for creating a workplace that promotes LGBT+ equality. We also believe that responsibility should not rest solely on our LGBT+ colleagues' shoulders, as I said earlier, we're all responsible for improving equality in society, and in doing so, we all benefit.

If you recognise yourself in this description then I think it's important that you're visible in your own workplace, because you have a crucial role to play. Find out if your organisation has a staff network and ask what you can do to support their work. Or find out if there are any LGBT+ organisations locally that you can support. You never know where it could lead, and one thing is for sure you will make some great new friends and in turn create a more LGBT+ inclusive society.

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