Why LGBT+ visibility and awareness in the workplace is so important

Alain KempWhen I joined the University in 2012 as a research technician, LGBT+ visibility was fairly minimal at work. Before I moved to Edinburgh, I had been out as a gay man for about a decade and was quite comfortable with my identity. However, moving to a new city and workplace, I had to go through the whole “coming out” process all over again.

If you combine that with the stress of starting a new job, living by yourself in a new city and without a support network of local friends or family, it can be quite daunting. It took me quite some time before I felt comfortable in the workplace, as I engaged with people and got to know them better, and felt sufficiently at ease to simply be myself.

When the Staff Pride Network launched the rainbow lanyards several years ago, it changed my workplace in a significant way for me. The simple presence of rainbow lanyards throughout the institute, from students to members of senior staff, both fellow LGBT+ staff and allies, is incredibly uplifting and comforting. It is a strong signal that you can be your true self and focus on your work, from the first moment you set foot on site, no matter who you are or what level of career you’re at. I have often heard comments from new students, staff and even a visiting contractor on how welcoming the sight of the lanyards was for them.

It highlighted to me the importance of LGBT+ visibility, and it also introduced me to the Staff Pride Network. The impact of this campaign in particular was one of the main drivers for me to join the SPN and help with their work to make our workplace safe and welcoming for LGBT+ staff.

Alain J. Kemp
IGMM South (ECRC) Laboratory Manager
UoE Staff Pride Network Treasurer

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