Gender neutral legal drafting – not why, but why not?
Pride gives us the opportunity to amplify the lives and voices of our LGBTQ colleagues and the LGBTQ community. We have a very strong LGBTQ network here. I am proud of what they have achieved, and in particular the way that they have reached out across the firm and recruited many allies. I am glad to count myself among those allies. Their efforts have made a difference in one area that I feel particularly strongly about: that our workplace should be one where people feel able to be themselves and not have to pretend to be someone different.
Most people at Kingsley Napley say that this is a good place to work and so I was really surprised and disappointed to find, a couple of years ago, that less than half of our LGBTQ colleagues were comfortable about disclosing their sexual orientation to their managers. This has since changed and I believe some of the reasons are that we have made it clear that we actively and emphatically want to be a more diverse organisation; that we welcome and celebrate our differences; and that everyone knows that the leadership is fully behind this. Now, in the Stonewall index this year, 92% of our LGBTQ colleagues said they were able to be themselves at work, against a national average of 85%. On this issue of comfort in disclosing sexual orientation and/or gender identity to colleagues, clients and managers, we had stronger results than the averages of all the Stonewall comparator groups. There is still more to do, but we are making progress.
One of the commitments that I made a couple of years ago was to educate myself more on LGBTQ issues. If I may, I will take some space here to highlight some of what I have learned.
First, I had not realised until now that Pride began as a protest against police brutality. On 28 June 1969, an uprising happened at the Stonewall Inn in New York, an LGBTQ venue. Patrons defiant from police harassment fought back for three nights. The struggle was spearheaded by lesbians and trans women of colour – including Stormé DeLarverie, Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. The organisation the Gay Liberation Front, and others, were formed from the uprising, and a sister organisation to the GLF then formed in the UK, with the first Gay Pride Rally taking place on 1 July 1972, in London.
This important history has to some extent been obscured. In the Stonewall film of 2015 for example, the resistance to the police in the Stonewall Inn is not led by trans women of colour, but a character who is a white cisgendered man. This is a real shame since it ignores the way in which groups that have suffered from prejudice have worked together to combat prejudice.
Secondly, I am beginning to understand more about intersectionality, that is, the way in which aspects of a person's identity (e.g. gender, race, class, sexuality) might combine to create unique modes of discrimination. For instance, LGBTQ people of colour have been disproportionately affected by issues facing the LGBTQ community, such as the AIDS epidemic. Trans people have also been at the forefront of the fight for LGBTQ progress, but have long faced difficulties, such as the recent indication from the UK Government that plans to simplify the route to self-declaring gender will be rolled back
Against this background, I am convinced that it is time to speak up for our trans colleagues. They, like all of us should be comfortable that they can be themselves at work, and yet:
These figures are deeply disturbing. Our LGBTQ group will now give priority to considering what more we can do to support the trans community further. It is vital that we act. At Pride, we must make sure that our efforts to progress in solidarity leave no one behind.
Stephen Parkinson is Senior Partner at Kingsley Napley and a BAME and LGBTQ Ally.
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