June is Pride month, a moment to reflect on the struggle of LGBTQ+ individuals to free themselves from shame, persecution, and indifference. It changes the focus of the game from survival to tolerance to celebration. It’s an energiser. It’s freeing.
We don’t just celebrate diversity this month. It’s something our firm celebrates every minute of every day. We work our best inclusively, both with clients and with each other. It makes our firm an incredible place when everyone can bring their full selves to work and know they are supported and celebrated for being exactly who they are.
With an out and (very) proud LGBTQ+ community, we also have an incredible group of allies. Our Diversity Forum actively works to continuously evolve our progressive and inclusive culture. Here some of them express their thoughts on the importance of being an ally, both this month and each day.
Talk to us – we’re happy to share our experiences. Additionally, there are resources available to help organisations become better allies:
Straight Allies: How they help create gay-friendly workplaces
Human Rights Campaign: Being an LGBTQ Ally
Rosie Carrie she/her/hers
Supporting my LGBTQ+ friends and family is hugely important to me. It’s also important to me that the wider circle of people I meet know that I’m an ally. That’s for a couple of reasons. First, so that it’s clear that I won’t tolerate discrimination towards LGBTQ+ people. And second, so that LGBTQ+ people feel comfortable talking to me about their whole lives. We also do that in simple ways: a rainbow flag takes centre stage on our kitchen noticeboard all year round, for example.
I was really proud when a close friend told us he’s gay, shortly followed by “I knew none of you would care” (in a nice way!) Having said this, I know I could do much, much better and I have a huge amount to learn about what it means to be an ally.
What does it mean to regard myself as an LGBTQ+ ally? I think different people will answer this in very different ways. It may be that some of us have never had to put the concept to the test. In my own experience so far, being an ally seems to have manifested itself in two main ways. One: actively thinking “To what extent does X topic matter to (or have a positive or damaging effect on) the LGBTQ+ community? Are we, am I, looking at the holistic view?” That thinking goes into views on policies and culture at work, and into talking about society and politics with friends – and openly probing when I think I’m encountering bigotry or not thinking broadly enough. Two: outright telling off people if they use language that is littered with flippant offence – like “Don’t be such a girl” or “Oh that’s so gay” when they are belittling someone or something. I believe that difference of all kinds in our world is inevitable and normal. That should be understood on a fundamental level. For me, then, being an ally is, at its core, about the comfortable acceptance of and creation of space for that difference.
Joshua Green he/him/his
Around this time of year, I often see various publications telling people how to be a better ally, or a more vocal ally, or an ally full stop. These come in the form of ad campaigns, posters on the Underground, or company websites. I very rarely read two which are the same. That tells me that being an ally means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To me, an ally is someone who works to improve equality, and makes an active effort to understand issues about which they themselves may not have personal experience.
I’m gay, but I also consider myself an ally; there are many people who fall into the LGBTQ+ group whose experiences I cannot directly relate to, but I like to think that I make an effort to educate myself about those experiences. We’ve come a long way in terms of gay rights, but equality ultimately means equal rights for everyone and not just a few members of one particular group. I think allies (no matter if you do or do not consider yourself a part of the group you are advocating for) have the power to make the world a much better place for a lot of people. It does take work, but please remember that there are a lot of great resources available and people to talk to who have a lot of great knowledge to share.
Abi Heath she/her/hers
Being an ally can sometimes seem daunting for people… What does it mean? What does it involve? Do I do enough to call myself an ally? But, at its core, being an ally to the LGBTQ+ community means you want the world to be a better place for LGBTQ+ people, and crucially that you will do whatever you can to make that happen! For me, an important aspect of this is calling out homophobic or transphobic behaviour whenever you see it. This can take many forms from obvious to subtle and, in my experience, it can be hardest to call someone out when they are “just making a joke”. It is easy to think this person doesn’t have malicious intent - perhaps they don’t even realise what they are saying is offensive - and to let the moment pass by. But jokes can have a very real and hurtful impact and, as an ally, you need to be visible in your support for the LGBTQ+ community, as well as encouraging people you interact with to be allies too. Remember, actions speak louder than words so if you hear a comment or “joke” that is not ok – don’t be silent!
Tom Leonard he/him/his
Allies, in particular early in my career, gave me the confidence to stay true to myself. The positive effects of even small gestures from allies to signal their allyship can’t be understated.
As I continue in my career, I hope I can be an ally to members of communities outside my own, to further the culture of encouragement, acceptance and awareness of what it is like to feel “othered” and offer my support to those groups in turn.
Josh McLennon he/him/his
Being an ally can be as simple as asking people how their partner is doing, rather than asking after a particular wife or boyfriend, for example.
Small acts like this normalise the fact that not everybody has a partner who is a different gender and raises awareness of the assumptions we might make about others.
Gwilym Roberts he/him/his
When I was at University (a while ago now!), my planned flatmates for 3rd year were my best friend and another mate we got on well with. Towards the end of 2nd year, the other mate came out – a very big deal back then. At that stage people would still come up (mostly male…) and “talk to me about it”.
I remember being bewildered even then that it could be an issue, reacting to them not one jot, and getting on with a good – no, better – friendship over the next year. He was a resilient guy, but I know that my best mate and I helped with his courageous move. He’s still married now to his uni boyfriend.
Mehreen Sattar she/her/hers
I’m proud to work at a firm that actively celebrates diversity and raises awareness of the importance of Pride month. It is important for allies to not only simply acknowledge the existence of the LGBTQ+ community, but to create and maintain an inclusive environment where individuals are comfortable to bring their true selves to work. I feel that it is my obligation to constantly educate myself and increase my understanding of the hardships that my colleagues may face, whether that’s within a work environment or their personal lives. Not only do I perceive this to be crucial in bridging the gap between the LGBTQ+ community and rest of the world, but it enables me to truly be there for anyone who may feel victimised from circumstances or behaviours that should not be condoned.
Lauren Stallard-Stephens she/her/hers
I think that allies are a very important part of the LGBTQ+ community. Allies can help with educating others, providing equal opportunities, diversity initiatives and the coming out process. Allies can step in and help others to understand the importance of equality and acceptance. I didn’t come out to colleagues until I was 26 and one of the main reasons for this was that I did not know how my colleagues would react and LGBTQ+ matters were never openly discussed in the workplace. Thankfully for me, when I came out in the workplace it was a positive experience and my colleagues didn’t even bat an eyelid. However, for many others, coming out can be a difficult step to negotiate and allies can massively help with this. Having someone who openly talks about the LGBTQ+ community or a workplace that openly promotes equality can make LGBTQ+ employees feel comfortable at work. This is why, in my opinion, allies are as important to our community as the community itself. The more allies who show themselves and make their presence known, the more progress we will make!
Diversity, in all its forms, is welcomed and embraced at Kilburn & Strode. Simply put, being yourself at work brings out your best.
What is pride in the LGBT+ context, and why does it matter? Partner Tom Leonard muses on the history of LGBT+ Pride and why it is as important as ever.