The rainbow that symbolises LGBT+ lives is appearing everywhere. It must be June!
Company LinkedIn profiles, websites, lanyards, social media – the list is seemingly endless. From supermarkets to railways, local cafes to corporate giants – it’s Pride month and companies want us to know they’re a LGBT+ friendly workplace.
The cynic in me suspects that some businesses talk about Pride to look good, or give the impression they’re an inclusive business, even though this may not be backed by genuine support and a commitment to diversity. I have decided I don’t care. As someone who has identified as gay since I was 15, I’m a fan of this increased visibility. It was unimaginable when I came out, and I am confident genuine support will follow.
Growing up gay
I grew up in the 1970s and 80s in Sydney, home to one of the biggest gay celebrations in the world, Sydney Mardi Gras. Lots of people think that because of Mardi Gras, it was the ideal place to grow up gay. But like nearly all minority events that are now a celebration, Mardi Gras’ roots were founded in protest, violence and hatred.
The first ‘solidarity march’ held in Sydney in 1978 resulted in police violence against participants. The newspapers subsequently published the names of the protesters arrested, causing many to lose their jobs. This linked private lives to public consequences. ‘Outing’ people became a weapon against our community.
Zaizi is what I would like to call naturally inclusive. We have a real mix of people working here and a culture that encourages openness, acceptance and flexibility
I came out to my friends around 1985. It was not a safe time to be gay. Violence was still very common. Daily abuse of one kind or another was the way it was. Bars and clubs were mostly underground and discovered by word of mouth. Only the very brave were out at work. I was lucky. My first real job at the age of 18 was in the arts and I was able to come out at work. I have been since.
“So what?”, I hear you ask. “It’s your private life, why does it matter at work?” Tell that to Rebel Wilson and Dame Kelly Holmes. Coming out is still newsworthy – and still something that can be used to threaten you. Maybe we’re not as far along the happy path as we thought.
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Working in an LGBT+ friendly workplace
The reality is that our choice of employer is greatly influenced by who we are and whether we feel as though we will fit in. For me, a big chunk of who I am is intrinsically linked to the work I do, and the interactions I have while I am working. Because of this, I want to work somewhere that feels like I belong. Zaizi is what I would like to call naturally inclusive. We have a real mix of people working here and a culture that encourages openness, acceptance and flexibility. We’re not perfect and we’re always working on it. But we don’t have to try too hard to maintain our sense of community. I feel I belong here.
I don’t get this feeling from being given a rainbow lanyard to wear. But I do get it from seeing other people wearing theirs. From wishing me a Happy Pride. Or acknowledging that being gay is part of who I am. Non-LGBT+ colleagues showing their support, in whatever small way, still matters. For those of us who have been around a while, it matters a lot.
So, it’s June. Happy Pride everyone! Spread the word.
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