LGBT+ Allyship – Why is it so important?

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A blog from Dom Rust, with an introduction by Tricia Driver

I’ve talked before about how important I think my role as an ally to my LGBT+ colleagues and friends is, and in this Inclusion Week at Capgemini, I’m super proud to be able to share this blog from my colleague, and fellow OUTFront Ally Lead, Dom Rust. Dom and I have worked together for a while now, and he’s someone who genuinely cares about his colleagues and wants them to feel supported in their working environment. We’ve talked a lot about his journey to being an Ally Lead, and I know he won’t mind me saying how hard he’s thought about this blog. I know it’s been brewing for a while, and it’s something which really matters to him.

For both of us, it’s been increasingly apparent that being a “silent ally” isn’t enough. We have to be as open as our LGBT+ colleagues have been, and vocally and visibly demonstrate our support. I’ve talked a lot before about how inclusion is so much more than an absence of exclusion. So I guess the context of Dom’s words below is his realisation that he needs to explicitly “come out” as an ally, and wear the support he’s been providing for years on his sleeve (or maybe on his jumper with his OUTfront pin badge).

Dom says:

I’ve always considered myself to be open minded and someone who treats people for who they are. However recently I had the realisation I needed to more visibly add my voice and support on the debate about inclusion. Initially I guess my moment was because as a father to two young daughters I was hearing and seeing the impact of biases whilst still primary school age. I passionately don’t want either of them to experience anything that my female friends and colleagues may have as they contemplate careers. Then it took another turn, in that as they grow they will be looking to work out who they are as they develop into young adults. Listening to the stories of LGBT+ colleagues I was appalled to hear about the stress their sexuality could cause them and the prejudices they still experienced in society. I don’t want this for them and I certainly don’t want my daughters to experience anything like this as they find themselves in the future. Therefore having been quietly supportive for a number of years I decided to take a positive step by being more involved. Starting with becoming an LGBT+ ally within Capgemini.

Since making this decision and ahead of writing this blog, my first ever, I considered why I’ve taken so long to make this visual step. It got me thinking and I realised one of the reasons is that over the course of my career I’ve had people at times question my sexuality. Whilst I am “straight” I started my professional career in catering  and I can still recall the stereotyped question from colleagues “you’re a male in catering ….. are you gay?” I’d handle that question somehow but would have varied emotions and I think this did impact my voice of support as the notion of being an ally wasn’t quite there in the late 90’s. I’d like to say that my early experience in HR was different but it wasn’t. To this day I remember a HR colleague at a previous employer turning round out of the blue and asking my fellow male colleague and I which of us was gay! The rationale for the question she said was that a report said that 1 in 2 men in HR were gay….. “we know x isn’t, you’re both single so which of you is it”?! Looking back it was an absolutely unbelievable question to which we both indicated no, however how is that sort of questioning inclusive? An interesting side note here, “Jamie” (not his real name), a few years later did reveal he was gay, he’s now happily married and a few years ago I saw him in a Top 50 most influential LGBT+ list. Something that makes me extremely proud, but I do often wonder if he recalls that conversation and what was going on in his mind at the time. If he sees this blog perhaps I’ll find out!  Thankfully things have moved on, but for a number of years I now realise I unconsciously made the decision to be quietly supportive, treating people how I’d like to be treated but not wanted to be visibly supportive.

However there is still so much to be done, not just from an LGBT+ perspective but across the whole spectrum of inclusivity. Recent events and conversations have strengthened my resolve, recognising the power and importance of being a visible ally. I, and likeminded colleagues, can help individuals be who they are whilst in work without having to worry about how they will be perceived. If we get this right, it’ll help them more easily be who they are and critically focus their energy and talent into their work. What we are now doing internally shows we are on the right path, but by being a proactive ally I hope to help us achieve even more.

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