Rosie Dowen – Programme Team, Student Education Service

Why do you think it’s important to have LGBT allies?
It feels like we spend more time at work than at home during the week, so it is important to be able to be both professional but also comfortable in our working environment.  Standing up as an LGBT+ ally is an opportunity for me to be a supportive colleague and friend to anyone who is part of the LGBT+ community.

I believe in equality and inclusion, and this includes acting as a visible supporter for difference and diversity. LGBT+ allies, especially in a workplace, are important to ensure colleagues who identify as being part of the LGBT+ community feel comfortable, accepted, supported and welcome. Gender identity and sexuality is only one element of someone’s identity, but because of the potential for discrimination and prejudice surrounding these elements of an identity it is important that allies amplify the voice of LGBT+ communities.

What difference can you make as an LGBT ally?
Different areas of the LGBT+ community can be allies supporting one another – but as a cisgender (cis), straight ally I am acutely aware of the privilege I benefit from in society – meaning my gender identity corresponds with my birth sex and I have not experienced prejudice or discrimination based on my sexuality.

I can use this position of privilege to visibly and vocally question behaviours and attitudes which may be out of step with the culture of acceptance I expect at work. I support LGBT+ events and promote understanding and education regarding the LGBT+ community and its history. Listening is a big part of being an LGBT+ ally, it’s a great opportunity to learn about someone else’s lived experience.

What can we all do to make the University of Leeds a better place for LGBT staff and students?
Learn something new – the LGBT+ landscape evolves quickly, and new language is coming into play all of the time. If you are unsure of a term that someone uses either Google it or ask someone. You may wish to refer to the Stonewall glossary of terms.

Question assumptions – everyone has a different lived experience, this doesn’t make your experience invalid, but be aware when you are making assumptions about someone’s identity. We can’t stop subconscious bias, but we can reflect on and be prepared challenge the assumptions we are making.

Speak up – if someone is speaking or behaving in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable challenge it – raise your concerns either with the person directly or a manager.