What’s your job role and where do you work?
I am a civil servant in the Ministry of Defence and I am currently working on a short-term project looking at our Head Office and governance.
How long have you been an ally?
I’m not sure that I know – but I suppose it would be fair to say I have thought of my activity in that way much more in the last couple of years, in particular since we started formalising ally roles, for example through Stonewall’s training package.
Why do you think it’s important to be an ally, and to have allies within an office?
As an ally I am responsible for educating myself and taking that knowledge into spaces where LGBT+ people are under-represented (or not represented at all) and where the issues facing LGBT+ people are not understood/not considered. I am responsible for spotting and understanding ignorance, prejudice and phobic behaviour in the workplace, and addressing it. I make myself available – and publicise that availability for example through our internal LGBT+ networks – to people to come and talk about their experiences. And it is my responsibility as an ally to make a particular effort to support LGBT+ people, to help address the imbalances in our workforce and culture, and the structural/systemic barriers that exist, by helping them to achieve their potential.
The problems that we are trying to solve on behalf of the taxpayer are too complex to address without change: if we are to have a hope of being successful we need to be more diverse in our workforce and more inclusive in our workplaces. Without being able to recruit and retain the very best workforce from the population we will lack the skills, experience and perspectives that will help us to develop innovative and lasting solutions. LGBT+ people need to know that they can be themselves in government, that they will be supported and developed to achieve their potential, that this is not a tolerant or neutral working environment but one of welcome and celebration. That is something that I strive to show as an ally, both within the department and outside.
What have you done to be a visible ally within your office or what do you plan to do?
Over the last year I attended the Royal College of Defence Studies – studying international relations, leadership and strategy with military and civilian colleagues from across the world. While there I focused on regularly raising questions in lectures and seminars around the particular impacts of conflict and global issues on LGBT+ people and their rights. I learnt about queer theory alongside my main course studies and shared that learning with colleagues. I organised a course trip to Flare – the British Film Institute’s LGBT+ Film Festival – and helped to organise publicity for Pride Month in the College. In May I visited Eastern Europe to understand more about that region; while there I attended the launch of Moldova Pride alongside Her Majesty’s Ambassador Lucy Joyce, and I organised opportunities for our visiting group to meet LGBT+ advocates and activists in Moldova and Romania. Having returned to the Ministry of Defence I am looking forward to acting in support of our new LGBT+ Champion, attending LGBT+ events as a delegate and a speaker, and continuing to learn as much as I can about queer history and culture.
Civil Service allies Week is a chance to highlight the important role of LGBT+ allies in the Civil Service.
Find out more about Allies Week