To celebrate this LGBT History Month, Kat Woodman, one of our Careers Advisers, talks about why the month is important to her. 

Prejudice and protected factors

I have a few friends who are LBGTQ+ and one who is demigender, which in their case means sometimes identifying as he/him and sometimes as they/them. I’ve seen friends struggle with their identity and be made to suffer for it. My demigender friend came out as gay at sixteen but not as demigender until many years later; their hesitation largely due to stigma.

It costs me nothing to respect the identity of my LGBTQ+ friends and makes no difference to my life whatsoever, but think of the hugely positive implications it would have for them, knowing that you accept them for who they are. I’ve never been able to understand why someone’s race, gender or sexuality should trigger prejudice in others, and I wish LGBTQ+ individuals were able to feel safe enough to express their identities to the full without fear of a backlash. Yet there is always a backlash against inclusivity for protected factors.

Gestures are important

The safety pin campaign of 2016 was launched in the UK as a response to a rise in racist incidents after the Brexit vote. Its creator wanted to show solidarity with immigrants or foreign nationals living in Great Britain after a Polish cultural centre near her home was vandalised. In response, she suggested people wear a safety pin as a sign that they are a safe person to sit next to on a bus, walk next to on a street, and generally against racism.

Everyone who participated in this campaign had their own reason; some wore the pin to show solidarity with Muslims who were targeted for wearing Burkas. The safety pin campaign was a positive gesture, but how sad that at this time we feel the need to mark ourselves out as a “safe place” for people.

And how sad, too, that the gesture met with its own backlash (accusations of “slacktivism” for starters), when it was merely about declaring support for curbing racism and never for one second about kidding ourselves that we’ve solved the problem.

It is strange that people are offended by gestures that recognise the existence of inequality. During the Black Lives Matter protests, especially when athletes began to take the knee before sports matches, I heard people trying to shift the narrative. “Surely all lives matter,” grumbled people who apparently saw the gesture as an affront. But “Black Lives Matter” is not about diminishing the value of other lives. It’s a tragically necessary reminder of inequality and injustices that still exist. Not Black Lives Matter More Than Yours, but Black Lives Matter, too. I’ve heard the same about Pride marches—literally, “Why aren’t there any straight marches?” Because heterosexuality doesn’t have to struggle to be recognised.

LGBT+ History month: much more than a gesture

LGBT+ History Month is a lot more than a gesture, though Pride marches and the month itself are gestures in that they signify support. But they’re a lot more than that, too. LGBT+ History Month especially is a reminder–and one I echo wholeheartedly—for people to learn, to think about others, to recognise the rights of others to identify differently. Why not take a little time this month to learn something about other identities?

Creating positivity

I’m a Careers Adviser based Wiltshire. I love what I do—no two days are the same and I enjoy meeting and helping people. I write or give guidance on a lot of CVs and I’m fascinated by how each individual has their own career (and life) story.

I often counsel individuals with mental health issues, people who lack confidence or have low self-esteem. I help to motivate them, sometimes using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and have first-hand experience of how people can completely reprogramme themselves to be more positive.

My favourite thing about my job is helping people to progress from having no confidence or belief in themselves to being excited about their future, inspired and ready to take the next step in their career. It’s a hugely rewarding experience. One thing it has taught me is that no two people are the same. We’re all different, all unique. Protected factors are just one element of our identity.

There’s plenty of wrongs to right in the world and a bit of positivity wouldn’t go amiss at this moment in time. Let’s embrace the things we can get right. If people could channel their anger productively and against issues that really do threaten us, we could make the world a far safer place.

#LGBTHistoryMonth #ShiningALightKeepingItLit #LGBTplusHM 

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this blog, here are some of the many organisations who provide support:
 Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline: 0300 330 0630
 National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0800 999 5428
 LGBT+ Hate Crime Helpline: 0207 704 2040
 National Conversion Therapy Helpline: 0800 130 3335

Adviza is proud to offer staff a platform to share their views on a wide range of diversity and inclusion topics and acknowledges that these are, as they should be, many and varied. We champion equality and diversity which means all views are welcome.

Our vision is for all young people and adults to make better decisions that help them achieve their full potential. That includes following the path that makes them happy and being the most authentic version of themselves.

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