This June, we asked some of our LGBTQ+ Adzunians to share their thoughts on Pride, coming out at work, and how we can all stand by the LGBTQ+ community and be allies. Many thanks to our wonderful contributors!
What does Pride mean to you? Will you be doing anything to celebrate?
Johan: Although Pride might come across as a big celebration, it is first and foremost a protest against inequality. It’s a reminder that we are still fighting for equal rights, not only in this country, but in many places around the world where being LGBTQ+ can mean you may face losing your friends, family, livelihood, basic freedoms (i.e. jail time), or even your life.
Pawel: Pride means acknowledging the fact that we live in a much more open society than it has historically been the case and not ever taking it for granted. It took a lot of human effort and sacrifice to let that evolution happen. I try to be aware of that daily, not just on occasion, but I support the idea of having a committed time for remembering and celebration in society.
Have you had positive or negative experiences coming out at work?
Pawel: From my personal experience, once you accept your identity, the rest falls into place relatively smoothly. If anything, I think things usually tend to work out much better than anticipated.
Johan: I tend to bring my husband up in interviews to gauge whether the company would be a place I would want to work. This only accounts for the hiring manager of course, but it’s a good starting point and I haven’t had any negative experiences to date.
How can we be allies to the LGBTQ+ community?
Johan: Standing up for us when we’re not in the room; calling out offensive, demeaning comments made by others, whether in your personal life or in the workplace; supporting political candidates with a good track record on defending LGBT+ rights.
Pawel: Developing the understanding that the LGBT history is really our collective human history is enough. After that, educating yourself about and becoming more sensitive to LGBT issues is a natural consequence.
Is there someone that inspires you within the LGBTQ+ community?
Pawel: There’s many figures that come to mind, but I honestly think everyone who is willing to be themselves in spite of the consequences, whether real or imagined, deserves respect and has an inspiring story to tell. Hearing a personal story from one of your friends or colleagues can be much more impactful than learning about particular role models. Both are good ways of educating yourself.
Johan: I try to not focus on specific people as role models because people are fallible. I prefer to focus on the ideas. Ideas like Pride are bulletproof.
How do you perceive attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community in workplaces?
Johan: In London, I think attitudes towards diversity as a whole are quite good. There is always room for improvement, but I receive fewer ignorant (and sometimes offensive) questions here than I did when I lived in South Africa.
Pawel: I find UK workplaces to be tolerant, I expect largely reflecting the attitude of the whole society. I’m aware that not all European countries are as progressive in that sense and could learn from the UK. Poland, which is my native country and in some way a reference point, seems to be particularly affected by the backsliding not just in democratic values, but also in the level of openness of the society. I can only hope that international corporations can foster tolerant attitudes within their workplaces and counterbalance the impact of the current political narrative.
Has there been an improvement in attitudes over the years? What further changes do you hope to see?
Johan: I am a white cis male living in one of the biggest, most progressive cities in the world so my personal experience has been positive. There are still a lot of people in our community that have a different experience to me – transgender and specifically transgender people of colour for instance still experience a lot of discrimination.
Pawel: The conversion / reparative therapy ban needs to be implemented. The fact that society still accepts the possibility of marginalizing sexual identity as a developmental flaw also creates the possibility for discrimination.
💡 Read more: The most LGBTQ+ inclusive cities, regions & sectors