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Navigating work in the Civil Service as a black and queer person

Category: testimonial, LGBTQ, Government, Jobs in Government, Staff Testimonial, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, UK Government, black, DCMS, LGBTQ+ Ally, LGBTQ+ Inclusion, LGBTQ+ Equality, LGBTQ+ Champion, LGBTQ+ Community, black British, Black community, LGBTQ+ employee network, Black culture, Black female, LGBTQ+ employee network group, queer, Black employees, LGBTQ+ Culture, Black Queer, LGBTQ+ Rights, Black LGBTQ+, LGBTQ+ History, Black Employee Network, LGBTQ+ visibility, Pride 2022, LGBTQ+ network, LGBTQ+ awareness, queer community, LGBTQ+ communities

LGBTQ+

DCMS - Pride flag painted on road - flag with black, brown and trans stripes.

I joined DCMS in late 2021 working within the HR department. Starting a new job in the public sector was something I was apprehensive about because I had little knowledge of the experience of LGBTQIA+ people in the Civil Service. I often wondered whether I would be able to show up authentically as my full self as someone who identifies as black and queer.

June is Pride month; a time to acknowledge and celebrate LGBTQIA+ individuals around the world. It is also a time to highlight voices not often heard such as black, disabled, neurodiverse and gender-diverse queer people.  I thought this would be a great opportunity to offer some advice on how to navigate the workforce as someone who is black and queer, and to highlight the support DCMS provides to LGBTQIA+ employees from similiar backgrounds.

At work, I do not hide my queerness, however, I never attempt to overemphasize it either. I am simply coming to work as I am. I have put together some useful advice on how to navigate through the world of work as a black and queer person.

Three useful ways of navigating work as a black queer person

  1. Network/communities:  I typically keep in mind that in most spaces I enter, I am usually the  the only black queer person. This can be isolating and can affect a person’s confidence, therefore one way I recommend to tackle this is by getting involved in work social groups and networks, especially those related to one or multiple parts of your identity.  For example,  I am a part of DCMS’ BAME Network and LGBT+ Network.  Getting involved can often mean you find people who can relate to one part or more parts of your identity. These people can often act as places of support in terms of careers, mentoring or if you would just like a friend!
  2. Coming out:  It is important to not feel the pressure of having to ‘come out’ at work. Coming out at work can be daunting and for many black queer people often is not an option, let alone a thought. I found it useful to remain as authentic as possible without having to verbalise my queerness. I believe this has helped me because it normalises the fact that LGBTQIA+ people work amongst non-LGBTQIA+ people, whether you notice it or not. It also means that if I am perceived as heterosexual and I talk about LGBTQIA+ topics or particpate in LGBTQIA+ work to support collegues - it normalises the fact that its okay for anyone to have openly talk about queerness in the workspace, whether they are a part of the community or not.
  3. Departmental support: When work or personal issues arise, I found it helpful to familiarise myself with mental health support or workplace adjustments avaliable at DCMS because being a black queer person can come with a plethora of challenges as amazing as it is. DCMS have a variety of support whether that is speaking to your line manager or seeking support from DCMS’s Employee Assistance Programme which offers free counselling and 24/7 support. Anyone is able to access the resources so I would encourage people to look into the resources available and make use of the support if they are struggling in any way - or even in advance of needing them.

Ultimately, there is no correct way to show up as yourself in the workplace - do what makes you feel comfortable. I am glad I can be myself at work and that is also a testament to the inclusive culture and work that takes place at DCMS to support LGBTQIA+ colleagues, and others with a combination of intersections, on a personal and professional level.

Are you interested in joining DCMS? Take a look at the current job opportunities here.

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