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What does being a part of the LGBTQ+ community mean?

It means being accepted for who you are, not having to prove yourself or label yourself, just be you.

Written by Ronan Porter, Talent Partner at Talentful.

It means being at a bisexual comedy night and having to restrain yourself from yelling out “THAT’S SO ME” at every joke.

It’s finally understanding why you couldn’t stop staring at that giant poster of Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook (2012) on the outside of your local mall.

It’s having a wingman to casually find out if someone is gay at the club, coming back to you with a ‘no’, and then losing your wingman because he’s a much better flirt than you are.

It means hearing a book has a non-binary character and then immediately reading it regardless of genre.

It’s singing in a local LGBT choir where the drama goes down on a weekly basis because the lesbian community in a small town is borderline incestuous.

It means being accepted for who you are, not having to prove yourself or label yourself, just be you.

In terms of open and accepting workplaces I think I hit the jackpot, not only was my first client WeWork (which has a whole Pride of We network) but Talentful have been so incredibly supportive from the start. It’s great when you point out your HR platform doesn’t have a non-binary gender option and the company’s response is “That’s outrageous, I’ll get in touch with them now”.

Shockingly, it’s not easy to tell someone you’re agender (or non-binary), you get a lot of “What does that mean?”, “Is that a real thing?”, or the absolute worst “Um…ok…”. To be honest with you, most of the time I don’t want to make a fuss about it. It’s just a thing that is.

I don’t really know why gender is such a big deal for people. What makes you a woman? What makes you a man? If we remove biology (since sex doesn’t equate to gender – just look at transgender people), what defines your gender? Is it a love of shopping that makes you a woman? Hello, stereotyping much? Is it your love for action films and buff stars that makes you a man? Yeah, right. It’s a gut feeling, it’s something you know deep down – and I’ve just never had that.

I don’t think men and women are that different, we’re all people, we’re all human, society has just decided to impose these definitions and restrictions upon us. We are born and then assigned to one or the other based purely on a handful of physical characteristics. Where’s the logic in that? Ask yourself, if you hadn’t been told you were a man or a woman would you still feel like one?

Every time I meet someone new or encounter a new group of people I have to make the decision, do I tell them? Is it worth the risk? It took me a day with Talentful to decide it would be ok to come out. I would never have mentioned it in an interview setting with any company, at least not about being agender. Making references to the LGBTQ+ community, though, is something I like to slip in just to judge their response. I was the leader of my university’s LGBTQ+ Liberation Group. Are they accepting of this? Did it just make things really awkward? Are they going to boot me from their office yelling homophobic slurs…? Well, probably not – and Talentful definitely didn’t!

Some people ask why do we still need Pride? Why do we need to specifically celebrate LGBTQ+ people? Especially in a country as ‘advanced’ as the UK. The truth is we still have a lot of work to do, our laws are still written in binary language, I can’t be non-binary on my passport, and although people hold up gay marriage as the pinnacle of equality even that is still illegal in Northern Ireland.

There was a survey done in 2017 by the British government, one of the biggest surveys of LGBTQ+ people done in the world, that found among other things that 68% of respondents avoided holding hands with their same-sex partner in public. Just this past week a couple were viciously attacked on a bus for being openly gay. Two women were holding hands when a pack of teenage boys decided to harass them and force them to kiss for their own gratification, beating them when they refused and robbing them.

There are still ongoing protests at schools in and around Birmingham against teaching kids that LGBTQ+ people exist, just that we exist! We’re apparently not ‘age appropriate’, yet heterosexual relationships are? This isn’t sex ed., this is basic existence.

Pride also serves as a beacon of hope, yes the UK is doing pretty well for LGBTQ+ rights, but how about the rest of the world? There are around 11 countries where you can legally be sentenced to death for being LGBTQ+.

So yes, we still need Pride, and I’m so glad that Talentful are starting a new tradition this year and taking part in the Pride in London parade.

Now, what can you do in your workplace? Having a supportive company can make all the difference For starters see what your company is doing for their LGBTQ+ employees. Is it something that’s spoken about? Could you see one of your employees coming out and being praised, or shunned? Work with your HR department, do they have policies in place to cover diversity, inclusion, rights and protections for LGBTQ+ employees?

The easiest and most essential thing you can do is to call people out. Let people know it’s not ok to be offensive, negative or abusive – even saying “That’s so gay.” (Unless you are LGBTQ+ in which case – reclaim it!) You don’t have to be LGBTQ+ to call them out!

Get involved – help an LGBTQ+ employee set up an LGBTQ+ Staff Network Group; organise a lunch and learn about LGBTQ+ issues and current events; celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month in February and other awareness days (there are a lot of them!). March or get involved in your local Pride! Do your research, read up on current terminology and speak to known LGBTQ+ employees and get their insight. Always work with your LGBTQ+ employees if they’re out.

Lastly, never underestimate the effect of a rainbow flag in the office – think Captain Holt in Brooklyn 99 – it’s just a lowkey way to show that this is a supportive environment. Trust me, I’d notice it.

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