At LGBTed we think it’s vitally important that children and staff have role models from the LGBT community. The old adage, you can’t be or understand what you can’t see rings so true and for someone who didn’t have any role models at school, I know how damaging that can be.
We know self-harm is disproportionately high amongst members of the LGBT community and we know that the average life expectancy of someone from the Transgender community is 35. This makes me unbelievably sad that someone should feel so isolated and ashamed to the extent they would harm themselves, often with devastating consequences. If people have role models who are proud to be members of the LGBT community that can send such a powerful message to our aspiring leaders of the future (staff and children). It says: I’m me, and you can be you too.
I wasn’t always out at work, but after one particularly difficult experience I vowed never to hide who I was again. I would be me and I would make sure that I chose places that allowed me to do so.
I consider myself a role model at work, to my team and my peers and I am committed to living by these rules every single day.
Lead with pride: Talk about what you did at the weekend, be open about who you are, talk about the things that you are passionate about and champion initiatives you feel can make a change. It’s important to be a leader who knows who they are and isn’t afraid to show it.
Enable others to be themselves: By leading with pride you’ll give others the confidence to be themselves. Remember diversity isn’t just about LGBT, it’s about diversity of thought, of working style and communication. We need to encourage people not to fit in with the dominant leadership style and to bring their true selves to work.
Speak up against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia: For that matter, speak up if hetero and cisnormativity dominate your organisation. People probably don’t know they are doing it – but it can be stifling.
Be honest: Always.
Integrity matters: Even if it feels uncomfortable, it’s important to persist in championing diversity even if it isn’t always easy to do so.
Allies are important: As an LGBT role model it’s important to understand who your allies are; they can be a powerful driver of change in your organisation.
Never give up: Never. Give. Up.
Last week I was speaking at the Festival of Education and was asked: Why do we need diversity in schools and organisations? My answer: That’s like asking why do we need the heating on in the building in winter? It’s critically important to our well-being that we see the richness that exists in society and to know that we can be a part of it.