Havas UK's Ari Humirang explains why we all need to play our part in making sure that everyone can be in a work environment where they can be safe and away from negative judgement.
"To be or Not to be" someone great once said, I personally prefer "To Be" over the other option but this is easier said than done considering we still live in a society where being different is not acceptable. Thankfully, despite this allies are all around us, helping the community progress forward and standing with communities who are underrepresented like the LGBTQ+ and help fight the good fight to full societal acceptance.
Why is it that it’s not enough for the queer community to stand in solidarity? Because there are still spaces in our society where queer people are thought to be less than and by having allies in these spaces who can actively use their power and influence to benefit and support people they are allies of, be it the LGBTQIA+ or other communities. As an ally, you can be as upfront or in the shadows with your support because your presence alone affects and impacts people in underrepresented communities including the LGBTQIA+.
It is everyone’s duty to learn how to be a good ally, especially in the workplace because we all need to play our part in making sure that everyone can be in a work environment where they can be safe and away from negative judgement and I understand that many are not lucky enough to have that but the upside is that you don’t have to part of the community to make the difference. Educating yourself on the community’s history through current affairs or books or even through TV drama series/documentaries will help you understand and give you insight into what we as queer people have gone through and for some still do to this day.
We all have biases and one way to be a good ally is to uncover your own bias by increasing your awareness around your implicit bias and by doing this, you are helping yourself learn more about how to be an ally to the LGTBQ+ community. Another way you can be a good ally is to join an LGBTQ+ employee resource group. You do not need to be in the community to be a part of it you just need to have open-mindedness, acceptance, care, and respect for your queer colleague(s). I’m very thankful that Havas has an employee resource group dedicated to and for the queer community to which I am currently the Trans & Non-binary representative that ensures we do have a safe space where we can work and be our authentic selves.
Use gender-neutral greetings especially if you are unsure of your colleague(s) gender identity. Many make the mistake of assuming a person's gender identity by using binary-specific greetings like 'Hey Dude'. Instead of going for the binary-specific way of greeting someone why not make it more general and gender-neutral like 'Good Morning Team' or refer to them by their name. The same applies to pronouns, many assume an individual's pronouns based on the binary they present in and that’s not always the case. I am a non-binary, born male who presents as a female about 90% of the time so more often than not I get referred to as she. You can always ask the question if you are unsure, most people think it is rude but it is actually even ruder not to ask. Personally speaking, I am not one to care about the pronouns or greetings because to me the most important thing is that you communicate with me with respect.
No one queer person has the same story or experiences and to be a good ally you need to understand that. Understanding their experience and how it affects their daily lives will help you be a better ally, especially in a workplace set-up. One other to be a good ally and this one is my personal favourite which comes after you understand their experiences is standing up for your LGBTQ+ colleague(s) during times of adversity because knowing someone is behind them to back them up when people make anti-lgbtq+ remarks can really help someone, especially if they are scared to speak up or do not have the confidence to stand up for themselves. Don’t be silent when you hear derogatory remarks about people in the queer community, let them know that that kind of language is not only inappropriate but also hurtful. In the UK, more than half (56%) act differently at work than in their personal lives to avoid discrimination, almost half (49%) of LGBTQ+ workers dress differently to 'fit in' at work, and over 1 in 3 of the LGBTQ+ community (37%) hide their gender identity and/ or sexual orientation in the workplace, and nearly 1 in 4 (24%) LGBTQ+ workers have taken leave due to workplace harassment. Standing up for LGBTQ+ colleague(s) will help you build the trust and connection an ally needs because you are showing affirmative action and you are not just saying you are an LGBTQ+ Ally for the sake of saying it.
Allyship is a driving step towards equality and we as human beings need to acknowledge this. It is most important for the queer community to remember as ultimately allies are here to help us progress forward and not to act as a hindrance to us being able to live freely as our authentic selves.
You being an Ally doesn’t make you less than it makes you a human being who knows that care, love and acceptance are not specific to a binary that society teaches us it’s more and beyond that.
Ari Humirang is the Trans & Non-binary Representative at Havas UK and a member of the IPA iList.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and were submitted in accordance with the IPA terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.