Harassment of LGBTQ+ individuals at work is a significant contributor to mental health issues, so here we are going to talk about how to be a good LGBTQ+ to employees and co-workers. 

LGBTQ+ individuals experience discrimination and harassment; this directly and negatively impacts their mental health, and LGBTQ+ adults are more than twice as likely to experience mental health conditions and are at higher risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviour. So, here we are going to talk about how to be a good LGBTQ+ ally regardless of whether or not you have individuals in your workplace who are out as queer.

Homophobic/queerphobic slurs are the biggest contributor to the harassment of LGBTQ+ people at work, and in general. Most of the time these slurs are used unconsciously and are not intended to be harmful. Though regardless of the intent these words do cause harm.

How to Be a Good LGBTQ+ Ally

So are some good places to start when it comes to being a good LGBTQ+ ally:

Start with Yourself

    1. Educate yourself on the LGBTQ+ community. Knowledge is power, this not only helps you to have the information you need to approach LGBTQ+ people with respect, but it gives you the opportunity to support them through starting to educate others as with some of the examples below.
      • Consider checking out sites like TheSafeZoneProject for terminology, PFLAG a website for families and friends of LGBTQ+ people, or GLAAD, an organization devoted to shaping conversations about LGBTQ+ folks.
    2. Don’t make assumptions. Assumptions are typically based on stereotypes as well as conflate heterosexuality as the ‘norm’. A simple change we can make to be more inclusive of LGBTQ+ people is to not make assumptions about gender identity based on the way someone looks as well as not assuming the gender of someone’s partner.

In Interaction with Others

Not only is it important to educate oneself on the LGBTQ+ community and the issues they face, but it’s important to make conscious efforts to be a supportive LGBTQ+ ally when interacting with others.

    1. Don’t ever out someone. If someone comes out to you that means they trust you, so don’t break that trust by outing them to others.
    2. Be conscious of your language. We form habits around the use of some words or phrases and sometimes forget the intent behind those words. For example; ‘that’s so gay’. Although this phrase is becoming less common it used to be used to describe something that was seen as negative. Take a moment to think about how using phrases such as this could have a negative impact on people in the LGBTQ+ community.
    3. Don’t let slurs slide in others. Addressing others’ use of slurs can be a bit more challenging. When addressing problematic language consider the context of the situation, it may make more sense to bring it up with the person later rather than confronting them in public or in front of colleagues for example. Consider whether or not they are using the slur intentionally. If you’re unsure assume they’re not, approach the situation calmly and explain that their use of language is offensive.
    4. Don’t allow others to make queerphobic jokes. Simply asking someone to explain the punchline of a problematic joke can help them to understand why it is problematic.
    5. Stand up for others. This may look like standing up against harassment or bullying, this is particularly important in the workplace. But it can also mean ensuring that everyone is treated equally, for example; making sure that people are using the correct name and pronouns for someone.
    6. Make space for LGBTQ+ voices. If you have LGBTQ+ individuals in your workplace make sure you give them equal opportunity to participate in all discussions as well as asking their opinion on issues that directly impact them.

Final Thoughts

When you first start to learn about the LGBTQ+ community and how to be an advocate for your friends and co-workers it can feel a bit daunting. Don’t worry, that’s normal. There is a lot of diversity in the LGBTQ+ community and you are not going to gain a comprehensive understanding of the community overnight. But we all have to start somewhere, educating ourselves on the basics and being able to recognize problematic language and behaviour is a great place to start. Know that you don’t have to be an expert to stand up and let someone know that their words or behaviours are problematic. So, when it comes to being a good LGBTQ+ ally the best place to start is with a good intention to do so.