A Pansexual Accountant's guide to LGBTQ+ People

26 June 2020

When I was first approached to come up with something to write about regarding the issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community within the context of Fortus to honour the month of PRIDE, it took some consideration. I have been working with the firm for nearly 7 years, on and off, with my not-so momentous ‘coming out’ being part of my time with the company too. I have been fortunate enough to have not faced many of the common obstacles cited by many so I’m keen not to overshadow the spectrum of voices that make up this amazing, wonderful and vibrant community – so take this as my guide, as a pansexual accountant, through the very basics of do’s and dont’s to the LGBTQ+ community.

A Minefield of Terminology

The easiest place to start is for me to break down some of the common terms that are used, for example you may have seen the title of this article and thought ‘pansexual’, that’s a new one! I’ve heard the array of terms associated with LGBTQ+ community described as anything from ‘political correctness gone mad’ to ‘everyone wants a label now’ – but honestly, once you get used to using them a few times, it isn’t as confusing as it might first appear!

L – Lesbian: Women who are attracted to other women

G – Gay: Men who are attracted to other men

B – Bisexual: An individual who is attracted to both men and women.

T – Transgender: An individual who identifies as a gender that differs from their biological sex assigned at birth. (No, not ‘tranny’ or ‘ladyboy’ or ‘transvestite’ – these are all slurs and considered offensive even if your intentions are not to offend when using these).

This is probably the acronym that most people are used to – all fairly straightforward stuff so far right?

LGBTQ+

This brings me onto the ‘newest’ standardised acronym, that especially this month, being PRIDE, you may have seen floating about on social media – it takes the original 4 letters and adds some additional areas to cover those not fully represented in the initial acronym:

Q – Questioning: This is anyone who isn’t sure how they identify (but specifically in regards to their gender identity) – it can also be used to mean ‘queer’, however this is muddy waters as it is still a slur against the gay community but some people are choosing to reclaim the word to describe themselves particularly where an alternative label doesn’t fit their perspective.

+ : This is added to the end of the acronym to incorporate the plethora of identities that cannot be abbreviated, or we would be constantly adding letters, think of it as the equivalent of an ‘etc.’

Obviously, given the modern age and the amount of choice that exists when looking for a partner, if you wanted to cover every potential label, it can get as long as ‘lgbtqqiaap’ (and then some!) so some of the other terms that are banded around are as follows:

Pansexual – as you’ll have noticed from the top of the article, this is how I choose to identify. No, funnily enough I am not sexually attracted to saucepans (you’ll be surprised how common that joke is) – what it basically means that regardless of gender, or biological sex, I choose my relationships based on the individual person (not the specifics). It’s very similar to ‘bisexual’ but takes the transgender community into account (as ‘bi’ implies there is only ‘two’ genders).

Asexual – these are people who are not sexually attracted to others and tend to be celibate.

Cis (or Cisgender) – these are people who have a gender identity that matches the biological sex they were assigned at birth.

There is also a whole spectrum of terms that cover people who identify as transgender, or reject the traditional concepts of gender, this is complex and would take a whole article itself to cover off completely. It is separate to sexuality, which is what this article aims to cover, though the two are obviously linked. If you are interested in learning more about trans issues, or the wide spectrum of terms surrounding the LGBTQ+ community below are some useful additional links:

Stonewall – FAQs and Glossary terms

BBC – We know what LGBT means, but here’s what LGBTQQIAAP stands for 

GLAAD – Transgender FAQs

Curiosity killed the cat…

This brings me to some common questions/comments that I can confirm drive me absolutely up the wall with frustration. Often, these will be asked relatively innocently (though not always), and therefore I want to raise them in this article.

“Who’s the man/woman in your relationship?”

“How do you have sex?”

“Aren’t your parents disappointed you won’t get married and have children?”

“You just haven’t met the right person yet”

“Can I watch?”

“Oh, it’s just a phase”

“You don’t look gay?”

“I thought you were normal!”

“I didn’t realise you were a [insert homophobic slur here – choose from any of the selection listed on Wikipedia – or quite literally, don’t]”

In my experience, and from speaking to my close network of gay friends (yes, it is okay to call them gay – just not in a mocking or discriminatory way), these are all surprisingly common, and I can confirm, that in my relationship with another woman, I do not have a man in my relationship, that would make for a complex dynamic if I am honest!

How bad can stereotyping really be?

There are often stereotypes glorified by media representation in soaps or films for example, about the roles that individuals play in their own personal relationships, or what people in those relationships should look like – but they are exactly that, personal. This doesn’t extend to all relationships and it isn’t anyone’s place to try and undermine the relationship by making it fit the same norms associated (rightly or wrongly) with a heterosexual relationship. It is, by definition, most common for a man and woman to be together but that doesn’t mean that the 1.1 million people in the UK in 2019 who identified as under either lesbian, gay, bisexual or an umbrella term similar to these should be discounted as not in ‘real’ relationships that will break down over time.

It also doesn’t mean that there has to be a ‘butch’ (typically more masculine) or ‘camp’ (typically more feminine) one in any relationship – and to imply such is often seen as negative, not least because those words can also be taken and twisted to use as slurs for people who do not act in the way society expects them to. For example, if a man wears slightly more flamboyant clothes or isn’t suited to DIY, he may face a level of hate for this – ranging from the minor sniggering and mockery to the more serious levels of verbal and physical attacks that have led (according to Stonewall) to 1 in 5 LGBT people having experienced a hate crime in the last 12 months (2 in 5 for people identifying as trans).

A basic rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t ask your straight colleague the question, it isn’t appropriate to ask someone from the LGBTQ+ community either. Obviously, there are exceptions and if you know someone particularly well, then you might be able to get to a point where these areas can be discussed about the individual but definitely steer clear from asking strangers these questions.

Furthermore, office gossip is one of those inescapable things, we all love a good natter about the antics from the weekend (pre-COVID keeping us all inside every day mind…) but outing people before they are ready is probably one of the worst things that anyone can do.

 

“I am, what I am!” – a brief look at my own journey

I vividly remember my own journey with my sexuality came about when I was talking to a colleague of mine about my new relationship where me and my female best friend of 5 years had finally decided that we actually had feelings for each other. It was new, and exciting, but I was 21 years old and nervous about talking about it. After this conversation, I came into the office for my next day of work and it was like everyone was looking at me, whispering and giggling – my stomach sank and a colleague confirmed my suspicions by pulling me to one side and informing me that this very personal news had actually broken before I was ready to tell it. I look back on this moment slightly sad that I didn’t have the confidence to own who I loved and why I loved her – it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, or has to say, and the minute you act like it isn’t gossip anymore but just a known fact, a lot of the sensationalised drama evaporates out of the situation and people begin to think differently.

None of my colleagues since have ever treated me differently, and neither have clients. I am incredibly fortunate that as an accountant in a very modern and accepting firm, who literally promote inclusive and courageous as part of our core values, it has never been a barrier to development in the way many other people in the community often struggle. In fact according to the charity Stonewall, in Britain 35% of LGBT staff have hidden their sexuality at work for fear of discrimination and 12% of lesbian, gay and bisexual members of staff have said they wouldn’t feel confident reporting any homophobic bullying to their employer (this is even higher in the trans community at 21%).

Why should I care?

The Equality Act was brought into force in 2010, and whilst I am not here to debate the wide scope of the areas it covers (or the political implications of it all) – in short, it does mean that by law an employer is liable should they be found to harass or discriminate against a colleague who identifies as part of LGBT community.

According to Stonewall the benefits of caring about supporting your LGBTQ+ members of staff go beyond compliance with the law and range from retaining talented members of staff to increasing productivity as often if people feel confident and respected in their place of work, their output generally increases too.

Just by having greater awareness, hopefully this blog will have clarified the very basics for you, you can create an environment where people can work side by side without worrying about whether they will ‘slip up’ and expose their sexuality and face any unwanted remarks in doing so. However, if this isn’t enough there are also plenty of further resources online and I will link a few of these at the bottom of the article.

To end this piece, I would like to thank you for getting this far and sticking with the whistle stop tour of the LGBTQ+ community. I really appreciate it, and I would also like to thank Fortus for giving me the platform to raise awareness of these terms and questions. I am fortunate enough to work as part of a very inclusive team who never make my dating répertoire something that acts an obstacle to my job, but so many people in the LGBTQ+ community have struggled, and continue to. However, others aren’t so lucky and there are many causes out there that need support in order to continue educating and supporting those who need their help the most – I have included links to these below.


Useful links

LGBTQ+ causes and charities:

  1. https://www.britishlgbtawards.com/top-10-lgbt-charities-or-community-initiatives-2018/
  2. https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2019/04/03/lgbt-charities-supporting-donating/
  3. https://www.stonewall.org.uk
  4. https://lgbt.foundation

Stories of other individuals from the LGBTQ+ background within their workplace:

  1. https://www.stonewall.org.uk/our-work/campaigns/lgbt-workplace-stories

The main accountancy body (ICAEW) have provided useful organisations to ensure compliance to the Equality Act 2010:

  1. https://www.icaew.com/groups-and-networks/communities/diversity-community/support-for-firms/lgbt

Further information about hate crimes in the LGBT community:

  1. https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/10/23/uk-lgbt-hate-crimes-stats-make-shocking-reading
  2. https://www.stonewall.org.uk/lgbt-britain-hate-crime-and-discrimination

More information about the trans community:

  1. https://www.allabouttrans.org.uk

Further information about LGBTQ+ voices and raising awareness of issues:

  1. https://www.pinknews.co.uk
  2. https://www.stonewall.org.uk/media/lgbt-facts-and-figures
  3. https://www.stonewall.org.uk/about-us/news/lgbt-inclusive-organisations-you-should-know-about
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