"I get by with a little help from my friends": Why LGBT Allies matter
My road to becoming an LGBTQ+ ally started at an early age. I was lucky to have been brought up by a family who taught me not to discriminate. Originally from Glasgow with a Catholic upbringing, you may think this would not be the case - however the only thing my parents taught me to have a strong sense of disdain for was a certain blue coloured football team. I was always taught to be accepting of others no matter their race, gender, or sexuality, and I think a big part of this was because I have a gay family member. It wasn’t something that was ever explained to me at a young age or made out to be a huge deal – it was just a fact: the sky is blue, the grass is green, and your uncle in London has a boyfriend. Taking this sense of understanding and acceptance I also believe growing up in the 90s, with Lily Savage hosting Blankety Blank and Queer as Folk dominating headlines, helped to strengthen my belief that I don’t really care if you’re gay or straight – as long as you’re a good person, you’re ok by me.
As I got older and made LGBTQ+ friends in my teenage years, I started to understand that even though I was accepting, others were not. I had no idea of the struggles LGBTQ+ people had and were going through at the time, in particular the legal ramifications of marriage inequality for couples. I had no idea that even if you had spent years with your partner, if you weren’t married you couldn’t receive the same benefits as a spouse in case of illness or your partner passing away. This struck a cord with me. As a straight person I think I take marriage for granted, it’s an inevitable rite of passage we all make when we find the right person. But to think of my uncle or friends being discriminated against on the basis of who they chose to fall in love with really upset me. We all have the right to love and be loved, and who are we to pass judgement on others. This thought has stuck with me all through my adult life, and drove me to participate in LGBTQ+ activities, both in and outside of work.
After moving to London I was very fortunate to join the Student recruitment team at EY, focusing on their apprenticeship offering. During this time I volunteered at Student Pride, and helped to drive LGBTQ+ recruitment as a D&I strategy. I helped to organise a student workplace at our Canary Wharf office focussing on the important of being authentic in the workplace, with 70 students across London coming together for a panel discussion and networking. The importance of authenticity, particularly at work is an important message to articulate to the student market. It can be a very difficult process for some to come out to their friends and family, and to then worry about how this will impact your working life and future can be incredibly daunting for a young person. But to be encouraged to be yourself and use it as a strength in the workplace is a message I have always been keen to share, and reassure students that no matter your sexuality, you can be accepted in your workplace, and encouraged to share your thoughts based on your experiences. Let’s face it, if we were all the same, it would be a boring world – and your life experiences may be your ticket to success.
So why do I think it’s important that the LGBTQ+ community should have straight allies? It’s pretty simple actually – the more people working together for positive change is always a step in the right direction. It’s the reason I think men should stand behind women’s rights, and white people should stand behind the Black Lives Matter movement. We should all be working together to eradicate discrimination, because it really does affect everyone, not just the minority facing the discrimination. I am proud to call myself an ally and will continue to support my friends whenever they need me.
About the author
Harriet Lunney currently lives in London, where she works as a Senior Account Manager at AIA Worldwide. She is a passionate D&I advocate and a lifelong ally of the LGBT+ community.