Pride month: Be inspiring, be you, and make a difference
June is the month chosen to celebrate pride as it was the month of the Stonewall 1969 riots, the protests that changed LGBTQ+ rights for people across the world.
Pride month is open to everyone to celebrate and learn more about LGBTQ+ communities. To support this, Jason Harper, Primary Care Transformation Lead and Shadow Board member at NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), shares his story of working as an LGBTQ+ senior manager.
Did you know that most LGBTQ+ people choose not to disclose their sexual orientation? The Human Rights Campaign Foundation found that 46% of LGBTQ+ individuals are closeted at work. And 31% say they have felt unhappy or depressed at work.
A counter argument that is often bandied about is why does anyone need to know someone’s sexual preference? The below passage from HuffPost in November 2017 - Megan Evans explains it well:
‘Well, for most, the following is a very straight forward conversation:
"My wife and I are going shopping for a new sofa"
"I'm going out with the girls as my boyfriend is away watching football!"
"I'm taking my girlfriend away for a romantic weekend as it's our anniversary."
If you identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) then these casual conversations will at some point likely have filled you with dread. The first day at a new job should be an exciting time but can be made even more daunting: Who do you put as your next of kin? What pictures do you put on your desk? What do you tell them if they spot your wedding band? All of this is constantly running through your brain if you are not out as LGBTQ+ at work. The result? You are ensuring that you cannot be fully yourself and therefore be fully productive in your role.
Coming out is not something anyone in the LGBTQ+ community does once, you do it almost every time you start getting to know someone. This is true both personally and at work.
I have worked across a multitude of careers, from my early days at Safeway (for those old enough to remember), to an end-of-life hospice, the Department for Work and Pensions, several outsourcing companies and currently the NHSBSA.
The NHSBSA is the place I have felt most comfortable to openly declare my status as a gay man and this is due to the open and inclusive environment everyone here strives for.
After I was initially promoted into senior management, I felt I should become more visible so that other LGBTQ+ people know that this is a safe environment to be who you are. This is also what prompted me to apply for the Shadow Board and co-chair the Lived Experience Network to make a positive difference for my LGBTQ+ colleagues.
It was not an easy decision to make, as it could negatively impact my career or even impact upon my personal safety and mental wellbeing. It is always a risk but one that was mitigated substantially by the environment created by the people who work here. It is important to note that I do not regret this decision at all.
Of course, any minority living in a world built for the majority will likely never find it easy. That goes for all people with protected characteristics, hence why it is so important to ensure our voices are heard and help support those in similar positions. I would also encourage any allies to actively engage with your local community and be visible in your support where you can, the smallest sign of support can make a world of difference.