Role: Assistant Private Secretary
Organisation: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Sector: Civil Service
Do you feel comfortable being out at work?
I recently joined the Civil Service and was pleasantly surprised by the tolerant culture in my department. I’m openly bisexual at work and I believe my experience hasn't been different to that of someone who identifies as heterosexual.
My work has a supportive LGBT+ network, which allows others and me to express ourselves at work. We wear rainbow lanyards proudly, which makes me feel special just as much as it completes my dull-coloured outfits. I do notice people looking at my lanyard, but it’s usually out of curiosity.
How has the network impacted your experience?
It’s important to me to be surrounded by people who are going through and overcoming similar struggles to me. While I appreciate support from a place of sympathy, it makes a difference to receive some empathy sometimes. On some days, I may feel a bit isolated and I may feel like I’m different, but it feels nice to just pass by a fellow network member and share a reassuring smile.
How do you think being LGBT relates to other parts of your identity?
Being bisexual has had a big impact on my identity. Having been brought up in a Muslim country, and in a multi-cultural family, I have often had to justify my feelings. I have had to take some time for myself to figure out how to identify as both Muslim and bisexual. This ongoing struggle has been worsened by my mental illness, which I’ve also had to manage. I’ve always felt that I am constantly juggling different identities in my work and personal life. However, as tough as it gets, I have never wanted to change who I am. And I’m thankful for the allies in my life who have been nothing but supportive, even when they don't understand exactly what I am going through.
Why are allies important in the workplace?
It makes such a difference to be able to talk openly about something like a same-sex relationship with colleagues without receiving unwanted reactions. It allows you to feel comfortable and at ease. It’s very important for me to be open (as I am really bad at hiding things), so it makes me feel much more relaxed to know that allies are around.
What advice would you give to an LGBT person at the start of their career?
I would advise them to seek out what their employer offers as support and go from there. If there’s no support available, maybe they should initiate a conversation. No doubt others will come forward as LGBT people or as allies!