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LGBTQ History Month Calendar

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I’m 9 years old and I’m in my school hall on a Tuesday afternoon. It’s our very first sex education lesson. We’ve just watched a video and now the guest speaker is taking questions.

‘How would two men have sex?’ asks my friend Sean.

There’s a moment of silence and secret glances.

‘You’ll have to come back and ask me at the end of the school day,’ says the guest.

This is my memory of Section 28 in action, a clause in the Local Government Act 1988 that made it illegal for schools to ‘promote homosexuality’. I’m part of a generation of students whose questions about their own identities were treated with stigma and suspicion, as teachers feared they could lose their job.

Section 28 was abolished in 2003, and two years later the first LGBT History Month took place in UK schools. Now the silence has been replaced with celebration of LGBTQ people, in our workplaces and communities as much as our schools.

So this year for LGBTQ History Month, I’ve made a daily calendar to help anyone discover new-to-you people, new stories and new histories. LGBTQ people and culture has always been there in history, we just haven’t heard about it in our schools or our media.

Right click to open and enlarge the image

Perhaps your LGBTQ knowledge goes no further than Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Or perhaps like me it’s your identity and your job in one. Whatever your starting point, I hope the simple daily actions give you a chance to go further.

Don’t use it as a daily reminder of what you already know. Use it as a daily opportunity to learn more, so you can do more to support LGBTQ people.

I’ll be blogging everyday with some ideas if you don’t know where to start, and to let you know what I’m learning this month too. And I’ve answered some questions below too. Just ask me if you have anymore.

Happy LGBTQ History Month!

Can I share this calendar?

Absolutely! There’s also a text list of the calendar below or I can email you a version which may be more accessible for you to share with your friends, family and colleagues. Please just credit me where appropriate.

How do I get involved?

As well as sharing the calendar, you can comment on the blog posts and tweet about what you’re learning or doing throughout the month. The hashtag to use and search is #LGBTQCalendar

I’ve missed a day! Do I need to do two actions the next day?

No! This isn’t homework or a challenge you need to complete. It’s a resource you can use and adapt. You can dip in and out of the calendar as you want. I created it because I was inspired by the cute daily calendars from Action for Happiness. Every time I’ve started one, I’ve missed days or stopped doing it halfway through the month.

What does LGBTQ mean? I thought it was LGBT?

LGBT is an acronym, short for lesbian, gay, bi and trans. Q is short for queer. This is sadly still used by a minority as an offensive term to attack others. But it’s also used a positive term of some people’s identity, and as a collective noun to describe the LGBTQ community.

I use LGBTQ here because I have friends who identify as queer. I also use it as a collective noun that  includes intersex people, asexual people and other marginalized identities that LGBT doesn’t cover. It’s important that these identities are represented and acknowledged.

Some people use LGBTQIA or other acronyms, which more explicitly includes intersex or asexual people than LGBTQ. There’s no one right or wrong acronym. I believe our language has to include everyone and that’s a balance. I want to include everyone’s identity while being accessible and understandable. The longer an acronym, usually the harder it is for some people (for different reasons) to understand. That’s why I use LGBTQ.

There’s so much more to learn around labels and language. Just make sure you’re respectful of how people identify themselves, and you’re inclusive in the language you use. This episode of Queer Britain is a good starting point.

The LGBTQ History Month Calendar

  1. Tell someone why LGBTQ History Month matters to you
  2. Learn three facts about the Stonewall riots
  3. Watch an LGBTQ film, TV show or video
  4. Find out what the colours in the rainbow flag represent
  5. Listen to an LGBTQ podcast or radio show
  6. Find out about important laws for LGBTQ people in the UK
  7. Learn about a lesbian role model
  8. Find out who designed the bi flag
  9. Appreciate art by an LGBTQ artist
  10. Learn about a bi role model
  11. Listen to music by an LGBTQ music act
  12. Find out about LGBTQ rights in a different country
  13. Learn about an LGBTQ BAME/PoC role model
  14. Find out how many stripes are in the trans flag
  15. Learn about a trans role model
  16. Visit an LGBTQ venue or history site
  17. Talk or listen to an LGBTQ person from a different generation
  18. Learn about a non-binary role model
  19. Find out when the asexuality flag was designed
  20. Learn about a disabled LGBTQ role model
  21. Find an LGBTQ group in your area
  22. Learn about an intersex role model
  23. Read an LGBTQ book, poem or article
  24. Thank an LGBTQ role model
  25. Learn about a health or wellbeing issue affecting LGBTQ people
  26. Support an LGBTQ charity or group
  27. Be a visible LGBTQ role model or ally today
  28. Commit to one action where you study, work or live
  29. Tell someone what you’ve learnt and enjoyed this month

#LGBTQCalendar Day Two

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The Stonewall riots aren’t the start of LGBTQ history, but it’s a great starting point for us. Last year was the 50th anniversary of the riots so now’s the perfect time to learn about this pivotal event.

You can easily find out about the Stonewall riots on Wikipedia, YouTube or in LGBTQ history books.

 What three facts will you learn? Here’s some questions to help you:

  • Where is The Stonewall Inn?
  • When did the Stonewall riots happens?
  • What prompted the riots?
  • Who were some of the people there? What was their identity?
  • What happened the following year?

We know about the Stonewall riots from the people who were there, which means there’s always more voices and stories to hear about it. It was a watershed moment in global LGBTQ rights because different people took a stand.

What have you learnt about the Stonewall riots? Comment below and tweet using #LGBTQCalendar.

#LGBTQCalendar Day One

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Happy LGBTQ History Month! Today’s action on our daily calendar is a chance stop and think before we start.

Why does LGBTQ History Month matter to you? Maybe it’s so you can do more to stand up and campaign for equality, or because there’s specific LGBTQ friends and family you want to support.

If you’re struggling to articulate why it matters to you, think ahead to the end of the month. What do you want to have learnt or be doing differently?

Then tell someone. This could be a coffee break a work, a message in your group WhatsApp chat, a Facebook post or ringing your Mum.

You could also use it as a chance to talk to someone who doesn’t know it’s LGBTQ History Month. Whoever you tell, at the end of the month, you can share with them what you’ve learnt.

Don’t forgot to comment and tweet using #LGBTQCalendar to share why this month matters to you. I’ll be tweeting why it matters to me later.

Nine queer moments that made me

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Nine years ago today on a sunny Friday in Southend I told my Mum I’m gay. No rainbow flags or unicorns or cute boys to kiss. Just us.

Perhaps you know that already. I’ve made a lot of narcissistic noise about my official Outiversary before. But that scene is just one episode in my coming out story arc. Like many other LGBTQ people, it’s a story that spans more seasons than any TV network would commission.

Because it won’t make it to screen any time ever, here’s an abridged version of nine queer moments that made me.

When I came out to myself, sometime in 2005

It was a Monday, I was 15, sat in the music corridor waiting for my saxophone lesson. And there I scribbled a letter to myself, to God, to both of us. Even though it was conditional and silent (‘I think I’m gay’), it was the first time I’d found the words.

Last day of school, 2008

Walking into Warwick Chaplaincy, October 2009

When I arrived at University, I knew I wanted to join the Christian Union and I thought I’d found them at the Freshers’ Fair. Turns out it was the LGBTQ inclusive Christian Focus instead. Thank God.

The friends I made round cuppas in the Chaplaincy and the choir showed me you can be an LGBTQ person of faith. They’re the first ones I came out to without any doubt. ‘I’m gay’. And then I went home to tell Mum.

Teaching the Joey Dance to my choir friends

My first time, September 2010

My first time having sex was awful with an even worse fall out. I hate how one bad early experience made me retreat. Now I can look back and see some positives in what happened.

Me in Summer 2010

My first kiss, February 2013

It was in Revenge, Brighton on a birthday weekend away with my friends. Mysterious, magical and drunken. I was hugging the hostel toilet afterwards.

Pre-drinks in our Brighton hostel

That conversation with Rev Mel, March 2016

Rev Mel was a local church minister unconditional in her support for the oppressed. I didn’t know then the vulnerability that comes with being visibly queer in a heteronormative world. ‘Don’t ever forget you are a minority Joey.’

The local church where Mel was minister, now closed

Soho vigil, June 2016

At least 7000 people gathered in London’s Soho the day after the Pulse Orlando shooting. This is what the LGBTQ community does. We remember, we protest, we party.

Where’s Joey? I’ve kept the Soho vigil centrefold photo from The Guardian

Mighty Hoopla, May 2017

I’d just started work at Stonewall, moved back to London and was utterly unsure in myself. Heading to a festival with my new colleagues sounded like a pleasant distraction. I honestly thought if I wasn’t having fun, I could make it home in time for Songs of Praise.

This was a bright day in the dark season of Spring 2017. It was an excuse to wear nail polish and a crop top for the first time. Now the only excuse I need is sunny spells or a night in Vauxhall.

On the way to Mighty Hoopla

Joining London Frontrunners, June 2018

When I’m at work or running, I don’t need to explain who I am. I just am.

Last summer, I joined LGBT running club London Frontrunners to make more friends and improve my running. My 10k time still hasn’t improved, but I felt instantly embraced by a crowd who accept my idiosyncrasies and go to karaoke every Thursday night.

An Easter Croissant Friday with my Frontrunner friends

When Oliver left, January 2019

We met at my favourite club night and only had a month until he was moving out of town. We didn’t have time to play it cool or hold back. He wasn’t my boyfriend but it was a relationship. And suddenly it was the end. I left him at the bus stop in the morning. He went to Australia, I went to Angel.

Club DJ Darren and I. Later that night I met Oliver.

I still have those pinch me moments of euphoria when I’m dancing with queer friends in a queer club. ‘What feels normal also feels like an incredible privilege’* (and it really is, when discrimination and hate crime makes LGBT nightlife in the UK unsafe for many people).

The gay man I am now wasn’t made the day I came out. I’m excited for another queer year and seeing what moments come next complete with rainbow flags, unicorns and cute boys.

Lorraine, the mini unicorn a friend gifted to me

*tweet by Hugh Montgomery.

The Cloakroom, The Club and The Toilet visits… The Power of Four

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When you want to run away on a Sunday night as fast you can before Monday catches up with you, head to a drag show. The camp world of of glittery gold backdrops is the perfect school night escape.

And last weekend’s Bank Holiday meant London’s usual Sunday night drag shows were bigger, busier and boozier than usual.

I headed to the Two Brewers in Clapham for the Power of Four. That’s a marathon four drag acts over six hours, starting with the omnipresent Mary Mac.

Promo poster from The Two Brewers

My second favourite Scottish Queen (after Queen of Daytime, Lorraine Kelly), you can see Mary most weekends at the Admiral Duncan, the Brewers and other venues around town.

She’s prolific because she’s damn good and gets the gays through the doors. The Brewers front bar was packed by 6pm before the cloakroom even opened.

In some ways it’s a by-the-songbook drag act: a dress made from the sticky shiny paper you used in primary school collages, musicals mixed with nineties pop hits (Streisand followed by Steps) and snarky comments, always with love, about other queens and the audience.

And yet put altogether, it’s more than that. My words can’t tell you how awestruck and happy the familiarity of Mary’s show makes me.

The utter campness, love and laughter radiates form the stage to the crowd. I’ve felt that collective joy even on nights when I’ve been sober, by myself and awkwardly stood next to a bad hook up from the month before.

Mary Mac performing The Two Brewers. Photo by Joel Ryder for Boyz Magazine.

That love is easy for me to feel as a gay man in a venue that is 99% gay men. When I stand out among the grey or checked shirt dress code of Clapham Gays, and Mary tells me ‘it looks like Neil Buchanan puked on your shirt’, I’m in on the joke because I’m in the crowd.

But when acts make racist comments or sound like breakfast TV hosts in their attempt to turn non-binary identities into a joke (as the queen who followed Mary Mac did, in an otherwise entertaining show), they’re attacking people who are already excluded.

Half of BAME LGBT people and a third of trans people have faced discrimination within the LGBT community.

The Two Brewers is one of London’s very few fully step-free venues with an accessible toilet (but not gender neutral toilets) and it hosts an implausible amount of fundraising nights for LGBTQ community groups.

That good work doesn’t stop me feeling let down when someone on their stage is ridiculing a part of our community already under daily attack, for the sake of their punchline.

On Sunday night, scouse queen The Vivienne and Brewers mainstay Sandra continued the show tunes, pop bops and gentle ribbing as crowd became boozier and busier.

It’s hard for me to accurately review their acts, given how many doubles I’d had by then. They too have the wit, audience rapport and outstanding outfits.

Vivienne’s wig seemingly sheared from a sheep especially left me gasping, and her rendition of Defying Gravity brought back my young queer memories of trying to work out where I belong. Now I know it’s wathcing drag shows.

The Brewers’ front bar and stage turns into a dance floor between acts giving time for more Steps, Kylie and both versions of Better the Devil You Know. On busier nights the bigger backroom club is also open.

Unlike the front bar, you don’t need to use your elbows to get to a drink. Huge thanks must go to Liz, my yoga instructor, for giving me the core strength needed to stay standing amidst the bustling crowd pushing past you.

But the compromise with more space is worse music. The backroom club is usually playing a remix of a song that isn’t as good as what’s playing in the front bar, even when that better song is Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley.

A packed front bar at the Brewers during Mary Mac’s show. Where’s Joey?
Photo by Joel Ryder for Boyz Magazine.

By this time Mary Mac had already left, performed another show in Greenwich, changed out of her outfit and as promised returned to join us and judge us on the dancefloor.

And so it was at 2.30am, propping myself up against a pillar that that Mary spotted me and gave me that friendly smirk. Nine hours since I arrived I knew then there was no going back, only going home on the night bus.

Mary’s genuine love for performing and for her fans is obvious, bending over backwards to give the greatest show. It’s her signature encore that makes her a stand out act on the drag circuit.

Looking around the crowd, you can spot the wide mouthed first-timers taking the feat of performance endurance happening in front them. And you see the fans knowing exactly when to raise their phones to get that snap for Instragram.

You know they’re loving every second of it. They’ll be back to hear Mary perform the same kind of jokes and same kind of songs next week. And I want to be back there too.

Mary Mac at the Brewers. Photo by Joel Ryder for Boyz Magazine.

The Essentials

The Cloakroom is £2 cash. They give you a wristband so no need to worry about losing your ticket.

The club Is free before 8pm and £5 afterwards on a normal Sunday, or £8 on a Bank Holiday Sunday.

The venue is one of London’s only fully accessible LGBTQ venues with step free entry and an accessible toilet downstairs.

Drinks are averagely priced around £5 for a pint. Doubles are served as standard, so you quickly spend £7.50 on one drink. The early evening Happy Hour on most days has £4.50 doubles.

It’s a venue dominated by gay man in their 20s, 30s and 40s. There’s no dress code, but the crowd tend to dress for going out out in a way I don’t.

The toilets are male toilets (with urinals and cubicles) and female toilets. On busier and weekend nights there are attendants offering you perfume or aftershave. There is an accessible toilet downstairs.

The songs you’ll always hear are Scared of the Dark by Steps, This is Me from The Greatest Showman and inspirational song of the millennium, Reach by S Club 7.

Joey’s kiss count: Two. I was genuinely surprised this was my first visit to the Brewers without someone I’d already kissed being there. There was however an Instagram crush I’d asked out before.

The Power of Four is on every Sunday at Two Brewers, Clapham High Street. You can find out where Mary Mac is performing on her website.

The Cloakroom, The Club and The Toilet visits… Push The Button

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‘This Friday night, do it all again.’ Katy Perry, Last Friday Night

A night at Push The Button is a night dancing through gay pop culture and history.

There’s the venue itself. Royal Vauxhall Tavern in South London is Britain’s only listed LGBTQ venue which has seen police raids and Princess Diana on a drag night out with Freddie Mercury.

There’s the soundtrack dominated by pure pop songs that only seemed cool once before, at the Year Four Half Term School Disco.

And there’s my recent dating history: those I’ve dated, kissed or tried to kiss all on the same dancefloor as me

Me with PTB DJ Darren. I haven’t tried to kiss him yet. Photo from Push The Button.

Push The Button (not ‘Pull The Plug’ as my Mum called it before I gave her some Sugababes homework) has been playing the hits for eight years.

Every month focuses on a different artist with Janet Jackson and Carly Rae Jepsen featured so far this year, as well as a special live performance by Nadine Coyle.

Alongside lesser played album tracks and B-sides you didn’t think anyone else knew existed, there’s the best pop bangerz from the nineties, noughties and now.

Yes, The Saturdays counts in this category as well as schlager, scandi pop and Eurovision favourites.

I feel at home whenever I walk through the RVT doors to PTB, usually in a crop top. It’s my outfit of choice for feeling cute and cool. Whatever time of year it is, the RVT is hotter than the Chariots over the road.

The club reaches peak ridiculousness after midnight, with a drag show followed by a mass singalong complete with song sheets. Last month’s choice was I Want It That Way by Backstreet Boys.

The joy in singing and sharing music you adore like you would at a gig doesn’t just happen when everyone has the words in front of them.

Even when I don’t know the song that’s playing, seeing someone else on the dancefloor living their absolute best life makes me happy.

For what other nights can you go and dance to X My Heart with people who already know it was Azerbaijan’s criminally underperforming 2018 Eurovision entry? (The answer is obviously Eurofest and Douze Points, which we’ll review on this blog in time).

With a mix of regulars and newcomers there just for one themed night, PTB always has an attitude-free crowd where everyone is respectful (most of the time, I’ve met some smiley guys who turned out to be dicks there)

It’s a night full of familiar faces I know from Twitter and London’s LGBTQ scene who won’t leave me standing by myself all night long. My friendship with Carlo started last summer when he screamed FUEGO! at me.

Me with Carlo (front centre) and all the Eurovision friends I’ve made this year.
Photo from Push The Button.

The night’s downfall is its popularity, making it heavily crowded and hot. But the the slight inadequacies of cramming into an iconic venue makes it more magical for me. And I’m always happy for another reason to get my top off.

Even on the nights I’ve been sober at PTB, I haven’t thought about leaving before 2am. Nowhere else mixes mainstream chart hits everyone knows with the niche tracks just for fans quite like it.

That’s why I keep coming back every last Friday of the month to do it all again.

The PTB dancefloor at RVT. I’m praying to the pop gods for them to play Neon Blue by Steps.
Photo from Push The Button.

The Essentials

The cloakroom is £2 cash

The club entry costs £8+booking in advance, or £10 cash on the door. There’s step free entry but no accessible toilet.

It gets very busy from 11pm and stays crowded until the stage is open after the drag show.

Drinks are averagely priced around £5 for a pint, single or glass of wine.

It’s a mixed crowd of LGBTQ people and allies where gay men are the majority. There’s no dress code.

The toilets are three gender neutral cubicles by the bar. On the other side of the stage is urinals and one cubicle.

The songs you’ll always hear are Cut To The Feeling and Fuego.

Joey’s kiss count (the number of people I kissed): Two. One was quite bitey.

Push The Button takes place at Royal Vauxhall Tavern on the last Friday of the month. Their Britney themed night is on Friday 26th April.

You can listen to Push The Button to the Max Martin! And Pride 2018 playlist on Spotify.

The Cloakroom, The Club and The Toilet

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‘I didn’t just come here to dance, if you know what I mean, If you know what I mean.’ Carly Rae Jepsen.

Except some nights, I did just come here to dance. And those nights will mostly be Push The Button at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.

Actual footage of me coming here to dance. Photo from Push The Button.

This night is home for my queer heart. When I first moved to South London, I never went out on the scene (going to gay bars and LGBTQ nights) just down the road from my flat in Vauxhall or Clapham.

I’d walk pass places like RVT and The Eagle with noise pulsing through their blacked out windows, not knowing what it was like and not wanting to find out without friends to go inside with.

But one Friday now living in a lonely East London flat share, I got bored of staying in. I’d seen on Twitter there was a Carly Rae Jepsen night and I wanted to go dance. So I did.

And it was magic. Magic, with a large side of drunkenness, drag and a Celine Dion sing-along.

Carly Rae Jepsen night at Push The Button, June 2017. Photo by Michael Chapman.

Nights like Push The Button don’t exist for you to go home with someone (though that can happen if you want it to). They exist for the love of the music, dancing and unapologetic queer fun.

But maybe like me you don’t know that until you go there and despite a club night’s inclusive values being clearer than a freshly douched ass, you don’t realise guys will be kissing guys.

Or, immeasurably worse, you don’t know if there’s a gender-neutral dress code until you get turned away at the door.

Along the way I’ll also talk too much about my love life, making friends on the scene and the ups and downs of going out alone.

So I’m starting this new blog series, called The Cloakroom, The Club and The Toilet. It’ll be a review of the gay bars and LGBTQ nights I go to across London, telling you how much cash you need for the cloakroom and other details they don’t put on the promo poster.

Come out, come out and dance with me this Friday, or on the metaphorical dancefloor of this blog with my first review next week. I’m starting at home, at Push The Button. Pre-drinks in Peckham.

#LGBTQCalendar Day 28: Looking back

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It’s the final day of LGBTQ History Month. Whether you’ve followed the calendar every day or dipped into it on some days, I hope you’ve learnt more about LGBTQ history, identities and arts and culture.

Use today as a chance to tell someone what you’ve learnt or enjoyed. It could be the same person or group of people you spoke to on day one about why this month matters to you.

I’ve really enjoyed listening to LGBTQ podcasts and being a new regular listener to Nancy. I’ve learnt more about intersex rights.

I’ve thought about the impact of the words and acronyms I choose to use. I’ve realised the power of an LGBTQ community isn’t a shared identity, but a shared movement for human rights and equality.

What have you learnt and enjoyed? Who can you keep sharing that with after LGBTQ History Month?

Thanks for reading and taking part! I’d love to hear what you’ve learnt, and your feedback on the calendar.

Please keep sharing, learning and standing up for LGBTQ rights.

#LGBTQHMCalendar Day 27: Take action

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I hope this month you’ve learnt about some inspiration role models and the discrimination that LGBTQ people can face.

Today is a chance to think how you can help end that discrimination. What can you do where you study, live or work to increase LGBTQ inclusion?

Here’s some ideas:

  • There are specific days to mark and celebrate LGBTQ identities throughout the year. The next of these is Trans Day of Visibility on March 31st (TDoV). Could you hold a talk, film screening or write blog post?
  • Earlier this month we looked at different LGBTQ groups. Could you hold a fundraising event for one? It could be the classic office bake sale, or a personal challenge like a sponsored run.
  • Does your workplace have gender neutral toilets? Who can help you introduce them?
  • Get involved with or set up an LGBTQ network where you work or study. These groups need the support of allies as well.
  • Suggest people say what their pronouns at the start of meeting and introductions, along with their names.
  • Find out when your local Pride is. Could your workplace support it or take part in the parade?
  • Ask your LGBTQ friends how they are, especially when you hear news that might matter to them.
  • Keep being a visible role model or ally. Keep learning about LGBTQ history and identities. Keep using your voice.

There’s no shortage of actions you can take. Think about what you’re passionate about , what you can do and who can help you to make the most effective change.

What will you change?

#LGBTQHMCalendar Day 26: Five ways to be a visible LGBTQ Role Model or Ally today (and every day)

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Wear it

I wear my rainbow laces everywhere and people really do notice. There’s no shortage of t-shirts and badges you can buy with LGBTQ inclusive messages.

Tell your friends

Use your social media accounts to share LGBTQ news stories, role models, campaigns and why it matters to you. You could just share this blog post. Lots of my friends on Facebook are friends I’ve carried with me from school, uni and faith spaces. They may not always hear about LGBTQ inclusion.

Chat with colleagues

Next time you’re in the kitchen, ask them if they know it’s LGBTQ History Month. Or tell them about that really interesting LGBTQ book or article you read.

Make a change

Have you noticed something that can change in your workplace or community group to be more inclusive of LGBTQ people? Email a leader about what’s wrong, how it can be changed and why it’s important. Offer to talk to them more about it in person.

Speak up

The sad reality is it’s not always safe to be a visible role model or ally:

  • Two in five trans people (41 per cent) have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months.
  • More than a third of LGBT people (36 per cent) say they don’t feel comfortable walking down the street while holding their partner’s hand (Stonewall, 2017).

You can report any homophobic, biphobic or transphobic behaviour that happens to you or you see happening. This could be in your workplace, in public, or online. You can also support your LGBTQ friends when you hear they’ve been a victim of an attack.

It’s your choice of when and how you are a visible LGBTQ role model or ally. It’s OK not to be visible all the time.