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Being Bi in the workplace

Category: testimonial, Pride Season, bisexual, Pride Month, Capita, Pride Event, Staff Testimonial, LGBTQ+, Pride Network, LGBTQ+ Ally, LGBTQ+ Inclusion, LGBTQ+ Equality, LGBTQ+ Champion, LGBTQ+ Community, LGBTQ+ employee network, LGBTQ+ Culture, LGBTQ+ History, LGBTQ+ visibility, Pride 2022, Pride employee network, LGBTQ+ awareness

LGBTQ+

What it's like being Bi in the workplace

Working in HR for over 25 years has given me great joy and I am one of those people who loves what they do. I feel myself in a place of privilege to lead the people function and to be able to work with rich, diverse work forces. The variety of what we do and being able to create an environment where everyone can be themselves and maximise their potential really drives me, but Pride month has made me reflect on how we are doing with this goal and my own experiences.

I am a proud member of the Rainbow Alliance and I believe all our ENG’s are a real positive force for good in our business. But the reality is we have some way to go to being a truly inclusive employer. We have made great strides in this space in recent times, but I also see examples of where we need to work harder, and this made me reflect on what it’s like being bisexual in the workplace

We all know the acronym LGBTQ+. It’s commonly used and sometimes referred to as the “alphabet mafia” but how accepting are we of colleagues who identify as being bisexual in this community? It’s a statistical fact that bisexual people are over 75% less likely to be open about their sexual orientation in the workplace compared to lesbian or gay colleagues.

As a result, bisexual people can feel more excluded from work and suffer from “bi-erasure” It upsets me that people may feel this way; that they are hiding who they really are and don’t have a workplace that they feel safe in and can be their complete selves.

Growing up in the 80s (yes, I know I am getting old), I don’t recall seeing any lesbian, gay or bisexual characters on the TV. In school I learnt only about heterosexual relationships. Conversations with my friends about lesbian, gay and bisexual relationships didn’t exist.

More recently, we have seen an increase in the number of mainstream TV programmes with lesbian, gay and transgender characters. Yet, bi-erasure is still evident.

This doesn’t mean being LGBTQ+ is accepted in society or in work, but I do think we have made progress. However, from my own experiences I don’t think this is so for the B in LGBTQ+ with a lot of bisexual people instantly being judged and the idea that they could be bi being dismissed. “You are either straight, gay or lesbian. There are no other options”.

So, from my own experiences, what I have learned? The B in LGBTQ+ is real. It isn’t a choice. Just like being straight isn’t a choice. Or gay. Or lesbian. It isn’t about being indecisive or greedy. You can’t control or change it. It is what it is and in accepting that we can find a better balance in our lives – something I have only recently achieved but it feels good to have got there!

I have learned to think of gender and sexuality as being on a spectrum. I am not my sexuality. I am more than that and I am not defined by my sexual orientation. I embrace everyone in my community and the workplace; whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, questioning, queer, intersex, straight. It doesn’t matter to me.

And it shouldn’t matter to you – the same as with any type of characteristic. That’s how we build a truly inclusive place to work.

Finally, from my many years in HR and reflecting on my own experiences, what can we do to support bisexual colleagues in our workplace?

  • Educate yourself about bisexuality. Talk to people about it. Start having conversations about sexual orientation. Let’s break the silence!
  • Always remember they may not be ‘out’ to anyone else. Respect that and be sure not to ‘out’ them.
  • Don’t assume anyone’s identity and remember to be respectful.
  • If you have any personal misconceptions or biases about bisexuality, challenge those. Find out where they have come from and educate yourself on the truth.
  • Check your language. Are you using any bi excluding language?
  • Challenge biphobia. If you hear it, speak it. Let the person know what they are saying isn’t acceptable. And become aware of any internal biphobia you may have. Notice what you think when you see a same-sex couple walking down the street. What assumptions do you make about them? Begin to challenge this when you notice it rising in you. It isn’t part of who you are – it is part of the social conditioning you have experienced throughout your life.
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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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Capita

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Business Management Consulting, Human Resources Capita

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