Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Nothing to see here: LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace

By Robbie Turner, RPS Director of Pharmacy and Member Experience.

Later this week I will be speaking at the Pharmacy Business Diversity Conference on a panel exploring LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace. I came out as a gay man at 15 and have been out (openly gay) at work ever since. I’ve never knowingly suffered homophobia at work, and I know how lucky that makes me. Too many LGBTQ+ people’s experience of work is not as positive as mine.

Addressing microaggressions

When reflecting for the upcoming panel, I realised that, even for people who were not subjected to some of the awful examples I’ve heard about, working life can be exhausting. Although microaggressions can seem trivial to those not on the receiving end, they create a culture where people feel the need to hide who they are and make work unwelcoming. Most people can understand that shouting homophobic language across an office is wrong. Talking about microaggressions seems to be much more challenging, which is why addressing them in a workplace requires conscious and positive action.

Being truthful

Correcting people when they ask about my ‘wife’ or the ‘mother’ of my children always feels a little bit uncomfortable. I know people are not being mean or nasty – far from it, they’re usually being absolutely lovely. But, when it’s on top of the same conversation that morning with the taxi driver (equally lovely), or the offer of two single beds in the hotel room (which still happens). When it’s done in an environment where I have never felt comfortable holding hands with my partner, such as on a shopping trip in Leeds (homophobic attacks have almost trebled in the last five years), you can start to see how simple small things can build and build until you tell the lovely taxi-driver; “no, I’m single… no, no kids,” instead of the truth. Because it seems simpler and easier in the moment. It’s not, though. Denying yourself is horrible.

Life is hard enough for too many people for us not to be building more inclusive and welcoming workplaces where people don’t ever need to deny themselves or their lives.

I’m really looking forward to speaking more about LGBTQ+ inclusion at the Pharmacy Business Diversity Conference this Thursday, December 9.

We will be launching our sexual orientation-related microaggressions reference in February as part of LGBTQ+ History Month. If you can help shape the reference, contact RPS Head of Professional Belonging Aman Doll via [email protected]

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