When I started working in the late 1980s, there were very few openly LGBTQ people in the workplace, very few role models, and personal conversations were trickier to navigate. What’s more, there was no legal protection against discrimination.
Today, as a gay woman in the UK, I feel comfortable, safe and respected. I am fortunate. I haven’t experienced bullying, discrimination, harassment or homophobia, and I can talk openly about my partner in the workplace. I believe that is due to changes in the law, a shift in societal norms, workplace policy and raised awareness of the importance of diversity and equality. But I know there are many places around the world—and even in my own country—where LGBTQ individuals do not enjoy the same freedoms.
According to Stonewall.org, 35 percent of LGBTQ individuals actively keep their sexual identities hidden. This is significant. Not only can experiencing the need to keep part of ourselves hidden constrain careers, but it also can impact mental health. There is still a long way to go to feel truly equal, both in the UK and other cultures.
So, how do we get there?
Pride Month is one way. While I wish we didn’t have to celebrate our identities with a special month, it is an important part of our history and an opportunity to share our stories and highlight the need for diversity and equal rights.
For me, however, it’s our day-to-day interactions that matter most, with friends, community, work colleagues and acquaintances. It’s these smaller interactions that will make the difference and change people’s attitudes. These interactions will help people see us for who we are; recognize our principles and values, as they do with others; and not make judgements based on our sexuality.
My own attitude and outlook contribute to a positive experience. I don’t think of myself as different. I am a woman, I am a lesbian, I am a partner, a friend, a colleague. I am an artist, a project manager and lots more. I have many identities, not just one.
Pride season is an opportunity to open meaningful conversations, learn more about one another and celebrate what makes each of us unique. We all deserve to live openly.