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Today, of all days, is time for acceptance.
A worldwide celebration of sexual and gender diversities, 17th May marks International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, drawing attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by people with diverse sexual orientations. Launched in 2004, the day was originally chosen to commemorate the World Health Organisation’s decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental health disorder, and is now celebrated in more than 130 countries – 37 where same-sex acts are still illegal.
Hard to believe, right?
Unlike many other businesses, Bray St. doesn’t believe in rainbow-washing, or writing a corporate blog about the calendar day that isn’t credible. There’s enough noise out there. With queer people at the heart of our business, from the permanent team to our pool of freelancers, we genuinely believe we can speak about this important cultural moment with authenticity and authority.
From the beginning, Bray St. was built to celebrate independence and champion uniqueness, and these are brand values we have upheld ever since. It’s a place where everyone can bring their authentic selves to work. Express themselves in how they dress, what they say, and how they act. Somewhere they feel safe, comfortable and proud. Because we believe that when you’re truly being yourself, you can focus on your job, rather than worrying about being exposed or outed. The work is better, the creativity is stronger, and everyone is happier. Because of such, there’s a genuine sense of community and togetherness at our agency that truly sets us apart, which makes me so proud of the culture we have created.
Overlooked and ignored
Like most gay men, I’ve experienced homophobia many times, both in work environments and in social situations. Not only that, but I’ve had instances where my ideas haven’t been listened to, or I’ve been overlooked for a project or a promotion. It’s important to remember that discrimination doesn’t always come in the form of aggression or violence. It can show itself in a lack of respect, too. Unfortunately, much of the queer community is used to being marginalised, but that’s no excuse to keep letting it happen. We have to speak up to stop it. And what better day than today to take action?
As a business owner, I believe that change can begin within work culture, and filter out from there. Companies have the power to influence that change and harness their resources to do so. But there’s no reason why change can’t begin today. After all, the smallest changes can often have the biggest impact.
Here, I’ve compiled my top tips for creating an open and accepting culture at work. Read them, implement them, share them!
1 Celebrate your team’s individuality! Everyone is different and their diversity should be encouraged. Help them to express themselves in what they say and do. Allow them to be themselves in what they wear and how they act. And appreciate the colour they add to your work culture.
2 Understand your colleagues by listening to their concerns and addressing their needs. Empower them to speak up and say what they think and how they feel. Give them a voice and make sure they know it’s heard.
3 Implement change within your company informed by the queer community itself. Ask LGBTQ+ members of the team what they would like to see done differently. Lean on the queer people in your agency to leverage their expertise.
4 Be authentic in all aspects of change-making. You can’t really go wrong!
Remember, while 17th May is important to remind us to reject discrimination, it’s just a single day in a calendar year. Change needs to happen each and every day, 365 days of the year, to make real progress. So, make today the day you start ¬– but keep it up and carry on. Consistent change is key.