Ahead of IDAHOBIT, some tips on how to be an LGBTQIA+ Ally at work
Fearing judgment, nearly half of employees who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual or in any other way outside of hetrosexual (LGBTQIA+) avoid coming out to their colleagues or managers, a recent report from the Human Rights Campaign found.
Ahead of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), acknowledged 17 May 2023, The Sector is sharing the following advice about how to be an LGBTQIA+ ally in an early childhood education and care (ECEC) workforce context.
A number of ECEC professionals have publicly spoken about the challenges of a career in early childhood education and their sexual orientation, outlining the importance advocacy and support from their workplace has played in managing the concerns of others.
What is an ally?
An ally is someone who takes action to support and advocate for the equal treatment of a community other than their own – especially when it’s challenging or uncomfortable to do so.
In an LGBTQIA+ discrimination context, an ally is someone who uses their voice and position to create a safe and welcoming environment for others. Even those who are LGBTQIA+ can be allies to others in the community – like someone who is a lesbian demonstrating allyship towards bisexual people.
How can allies provide support?
- Listen and learn: there is a rich diversity of experiences within the LGBTQIA+ community – even among those who share the same LGBTQIA+ identity. Understanding these experiences can help allies prepare to engage in more allyship from a place of genuine understanding. Listening with an open mind to the experiences of LGBTQIA+ colleagues, friends and family, even if they are difficult to hear, can support here.
- Seek input from outside: seeking to learn from those outside of your local community or immediate circles can also broaden perspectives and build a better ally position, especially when it is with identities which may be new or unfamiliar.
- Follow or engage in LGBTQIA+ media: follow content creators, organisations and podcasts from people of different LGBTQIA+ identities, including those who have intersectional lived-experiences, like those who are also living with a disability, people of colour, or Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
- Speak up: stand up for LGBTQIA+ people when others don’t respect them. This includes speaking up when you see discrimination occur, even if the person being talked about isn’t around.
- Seek out professional development opportunities: attend LGBTQIA+ inclusion training or guest speaker sessions to gain a deeper understanding of how to put these learnings into practice, and ensure you’re learning from the most up-to-date sources.
- Model inclusive language: learn about and use terminology that is inclusive of LGBTQIA+ people. For example, instead of saying ‘ladies and gentlemen’ you might say ‘welcome everyone’.
- Respect and protect: an LGBTQIA+ person may only be ‘out’ to a small, select group of people. Someone’s orientation is not your story to tell. Always ensure you have permission to share anyone’s identity, and keep questions appropriate and professional.
- Avoid assumptions: using gender neutral language when you don’t know someone’s gender helps to avoid assumptions. For example, you could ask a new employee what pronouns they would like you to use when introducing them to families.
- Be visible: due to frequent experiences of discrimination LGBTQIA+, people often assume that a space or person is not inclusive until shown otherwise. Displaying visible LGBTQIA+ symbols of inclusion signals to others that you’re someone who understands and supports them. This could look like:
- Displaying the progress pride or rainbow flag, wearing a rainbow pin or lanyard, or displaying inclusion posters
- Sharing your pronouns – try wearing your pronouns as a badge, or including them wherever your name is published, like your email signature or social media profile
- Re-sharing content from LGBTQIA+ people and organisations
- Creating environments where others feel comfortable being visible allies too
- Helping to organise events and initiatives that seek to build LGBTQIA+ inclusion
- Signing petitions and advocating for law reform in the areas that LGBTQIA+ people in Australia and the world still face discrimination
- Supporting businesses and charities that are owned and operated by LGBTQIA+ people.
A toolkit to help celebrate IDAHOBIT is available here.
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