How the LGBT+ community can be allies to each other

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PinkNews recently caught up with two members of Lloyds Banking Groups 5000 member strong LGBT network, Rainbow, who shared their experiences about how the network has helped them become allies to others within the LGBT community.

For Anthony Francis, a gay 28-year-old IT project manager at Lloyds Banking Group’s head office in London, it was his relationship with Lloyds Banking Group employee and transgender role model, Kimberley Bird – who is the Deputy Co-chair of the Rainbow network – which made all the difference.

“I’ve got a really good senior role model in Kimberley, who I’m able to meet with and have conversations with to learn and understand more [about trans* issues].” Anthony recalled a particularly transformative moment where Kimberley took him to an event where he met a gender-fluid person for the first time.

Anthony Francis
Anthony Francis

“I came away really inspired to try and make the world an inclusive place for transgender people.” It got him thinking that “if that person left me like that, I should be able to do this for other people.”

Anthony now co-leads the Rainbow network in the South and Wales region and is an active trans* ally, offering support and advice to trans* colleagues or those who are “for example, the manager of trans* colleagues”.

Anthony struggled to come to terms with his own sexuality in his youth, hiding it until aged 17. He said, “When I was coming to terms with my sexuality I hated it. It wasn’t something that I liked at all”.

Even when he joined Lloyds Banking Group, he didn’t come out to his team for around nine months.

“Now it’s great, because I think that before then, I probably hid a bit of myself at work, and we all know if you’re hiding yourself then there’s a problem with that.

“It’s quite nice now to be able to be myself and really appreciate the difference it brings to the team.”

Today Anthony proudly wears a transgender flag on his work lanyard to encourage questions from his colleagues about what it means to be trans* or gender fluid.

Anthony said he wants to create a culture where trans* people can feel just as comfortable being themselves as he now does.

But without Lloyds Banking Group – which last year became the first UK-owned company to extend its private healthcare to include treatment and support for Gender Dysphoria – he didn’t think he would be an LGBT role model.

“Lloyds enabled me to become an ally. Being as inclusive as it is around LGBT advocacy, it allowed me to understand the issues and that there was a platform needed for certain people.”

“There’s also support for me being an ally”, he continued, “I think in other organisations I might not be able to wear my little flag, or I might not feel comfortable doing that.”

Simon Cremen, a Halifax branch manager who has worked for the Group for 9 years and is a Regional Lead in the North for the Rainbow Network, felt similarly. When asked if he felt he would be as effective an ally and representative for the LGBT community if it he wasn’t in Lloyds Banking Group, he replied “absolutely not”.

“[The Group] really does drive us to use our voice to drive a culture of inclusion and to be the very best versions of ourselves,” he said.

Simon Cremen
Simon Cremen

An area of LGBT advocacy that Simon is particularly passionate about is bi-inclusion, remarking that “in the UK only 23% of bisexual people feel comfortable being out.” At Lloyds Banking Group a group called visiBIlity has been set up within the Rainbow network to support the company’s bisexual colleagues. Simon noted that each year the group grows in numbers as more people feel comfortable coming out “because we’re creating a culture where the LG and T part [of LGBT] are helping to tackle bi-erasure.”

“We are making it a priority to show that we support the bisexual community. We value all of our colleagues and we accept them without exception”.

Simon’s determination to ensure all colleagues benefit from an inclusive working environment stems from his own positive experience at Lloyds Banking Group. He said that even at the “very start of the interview process, there was talk about equality and inclusion and how the company valued that.” This was notably different from his previous position as a teacher, where Simon felt he had to be more cautious about sharing his sexuality at work.

Through Lloyds Banking Group’s partnership with Stonewall, Simon was able to go on the Lloyds Banking Group LGBT leadership course (which has been developed in partnership with Stonewall), which he felt was a “life changing” experience both professionally and personally. During the course he had an “epiphany that [hiding his true self] was what forced [him] to leave teaching”, driving his resolve to ensure that whatever he does now is within a culture where the focus is on “equality and [about] everybody being able to be their authentic selves”.

This culture is one he believes Lloyds Banking Group “absolutely creates”. Simon praised how this culture is developed from the very top of the business, remarking that the Group’s executive sponsor for sexual orientation & gender identity, Karin Cook, and her senior lead supporting her, Joanna MacCann, were “absolute role models around being allies [through volunteering and mentoring]. They drive that culture from the top down.”

The Group also gives Simon the support and flexibility to promote inclusion outside of his day job, such as his work with @BiPrideUK, a group across the UK working to create a Bi-Pride, giving “people who are who are attracted to more than one gender and their allies [the opportunity to] unite in celebration.”

Simon said that the company had not just given him the time to pursue activities like this, but also “heavily promoted” the events, both internally and externally.

As a Regional Lead for the Rainbow Network he is also now in a position to finally help LGBT students.

“We supported Stonewall Youth Pride in Birmingham, Manchester and London, which we have done for the last few years, [and] I had the opportunity in Birmingham to go and talk to these 16-year-olds who, if I went back 10 years, I would have been teaching as not my authentic self, and it almost felt like I’d gone full circle.”

“To go and be able to say I’m a senior leader in Lloyds Banking Group, and talk to them about their first Pride – it was an amazing experience.” He added that he hoped to his own success would prove to young people that “you can be your authentic self as an LGBT person and that through doing a good job you can progress”.

For more information on Lloyds Banking Group’s Rainbow Network, you can find them on Twitter at @LBGRainbow.

The Group was named number 1 in the Stonewall Top 100 employers list 2017.