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An Interview with Matheus Carvalho and Ruth-Anne Eghan

For LGBT+ History Month, I&D Consultant Ruth-Anne Eghan has interviewed Director of Global Inclusion Matheus Carvalho on the meaningful ways in which the month could be meaningfully celebrated within your workplace. Read on for ideas, inspiration, and perspectives.

Ruth: Can you tell us the most meaningful experience you’ve had at work during LGBT+ month?

Matheus: With a previous employer of mine, I used to be the lead of the LGBT network, and we hosted a series of movie events every LGBT History Month. We had a Queer Film Festival and even though I love movies, this was not just about the movies – it was the opportunity to bring people together to watch queer stories, to talk about them, and to remind ourselves of the importance of representation of visibility. It was really beautiful, entertaining and meaningful.

Ruth: How can people who are not part LGBTQ+ community be allies not just within the month but all year round?

Matheus: A small but meaningful way to start is by allies finding ways to feel comfortable to talk about LGBTQ+ identities, queer stories… or even small actions like talking about a TV show that they saw with queer identities or narratives or film, talk about their LGBTQ+ friends, family and topical events.

It’s about bringing the community and its different identities into everyday conversation and everyday life. And so that we’re not just segregating the community to those key times of the year, such as History Month and Pride Month.

It’s about actions of allyship, like standing up for your LGBTQ+ colleagues. Not only in the workplace, but friends and people – challenging homophobic, transphobic, queerphobic discourse. In a nutshell, being visible, being vocal.

Ruth: What practical things can organisations do to meaningfully support employees within the LGBTQ+ community?

Matheus: Starting with the foundations of creating safe spaces, such as having strong policies. Give visibility to LGBTQ+.

Create a culture where discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is not accepted. Hopefully, this will inspire other people who haven’t always felt safe to either be out in the workplace or out as an ally.

Organisations should think about how they can make their activism and support truly meaningful as opposed to just performative, because it can be easy to stick to just waving a flag but not truly doing anything meaningful such as, for example, supporting your employees that are being discriminated against.

Having, as we mentioned, policies, or supporting the creation of an LGBTQ+ network in your workplace to make that support truly meaningful and sustainable.

Ruth: The theme of LGBTQ+ month this year is ‘Medicine #UnderTheScope’, how can we ensure that impactful conversations are held in the workplace?

Matheus: ‘Under the scope’ is an opportunity to shine a light on the LGBTQ + community within the modern and historical world of medicine. If you work within the medical and healthcare setting it as a particularly wonderful opportunity to celebrate and learn about your LGBTQ + colleagues. Think about what events you can host to celebrate – learn more in our LGBTQ + awareness day page.

Regardless of the industry that you’re in, it’s important to recognise the contributions of queer people to your industry or to your sector, as there’s that element of storytelling across all industries. It could be considering what are the key LGBTQ+ people that have made contributions to your sector or industry or organisation, for instance.

Ruth: Who is your LGBTQ+ month icon this year bearing in mind the theme of this year’s LGBT History Month?

Matheus: My icon is Margarethe Cammermeyer. She is a former military nurse and worked as Chief Nurse of the Washington National Guard, and in 1989 when responding to a routine security clearance question, she disclosed that she is a lesbian. This prompted the National Guard to begin the process to discharge her, and she was indeed discharged in 1992. Margarethe began a lawsuit against the decision, which she won and returned to serve in the military until she retired in 1997. Her case resulted in the military implementing a ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy which prohibited soldiers from disclosing their sexuality whilst in the military. She campaigned publicly against this and fought for its repeal until long after she retired. In 2011 the law was revoked and LGBTQ + soldiers were openly allowed to serve in the US military. Her story has been turned into a film, Serving in Silence.

Ruth: How important is having an intersectional lens in this area to ensure that the uniqueness of every individual in this community is respected and celebrated at work?

Matheus: I think we need to be ensuring that we are celebrating the LGBTQ+ community in all its nuances. In all its complexities. Even within the community, it’s important for people to understand what power and privilege they hold which allows them to be a better ally to other identities.

For example, as a gay man, I understand that gay men were at one point one of the most persecuted members of society, especially during the AIDS pandemic and even before that. I’ve seen in my lifetime the shift to gay men being the most visible members of the LGBTQ+ community, at least in the Western part of the world.

As a white gay man, I understand that this shift in perception has put me in a position of power in certain contexts, and I need to use that power to help give a platform to voices that are still marginalised, even more so than I have ever been.

For example, we need to be hearing from black queer voices, from Latino queer voices, from non-binary voices, and transgender voices. It would be such a disservice to such a beautifully diverse community if all we are getting is one perspective all the time.

“Even within the LGBTQ+ community, we are having constant conversations about terminology.”

Learn how to understand the language and terminology of the LGBTQ+ community
A black woman holding up the LGBT+ pride flag and smiling

Ruth: What advice would you give to people who have the passion to be an ally but are worried about terminology, knowing everything and offending others?

Matheus: So first I would like to offer reassurance that even within the LGBTQ+ community, we are having constant conversations about terminology – about what is relevant, about what’s outdated. And I think the best that anyone can do is approach this conversation with empathy and humility. Empathy to understand that other people will have different views, and humility to know that you are not going to know everything yourself and won’t have all the answers.

Ruth: What support could members get from Inclusive Employers to support them?

Matheus: I recommend exploring the Members’ resources, which has a range of materials including our LGBT+ History Month factsheet – and taking a look at our comprehensive blogs. They’ve all been written with a lot of love, care and time by our expert team. We also have a great podcast about Supporting LGBTQ+ colleagues.

If you are a member, I would recommend speaking to your account manager. We offer foundational to advanced training on LGBTQ+ identities, to training on holding meaningful conversations about different groups and identities within their community.

Top tips for LGBTQ+ allies

Ruth: Thank you for all your answers, Mat, everything was answered so well and eloquently and will hopefully give individuals, colleagues and employers some inspiration surrounding celebrating LGBT+ History Month in a more meaningful way. It was important for me to make sure that this conversation was as authentic and as meaningful as possible to unlock what we need to bring forth change and be present within that.

Following our discussion, I would like to offer additional tips from the perspective of an ally to encourage and support other allies:

Take the time to research

The same way that you would research if something was happening and you wanted to know more about it or you felt that you knew somebody who was going through a tough time, do the same thing. Take that accountability to learn and listen to lived experiences as well.

Speak to LGBTQ+ people within your workplaces

I would really advise people to have conversations and not to be afraid of speaking to LGBTQ+ people within your workplace and to hear about their experiences. And as Matheus mentioned earlier about everyone being different, and it’s the same way in other communities. There are differences. By talking to people you are learning- this is what this person likes, or this is what this person would appreciate. Consequently, you are building up your own knowledge. And you’re learning how to best respect the people around you and appreciate the variety.

Do not be afraid to challenge yourself

Growing up, we are all exposed to a lot of unconscious bias. Unconscious bias is essentially how you process your experiences and upbringing and the built-in ideas we all have as a result. We have ideals due to the representation we grew up seeing. I’d say, don’t be afraid to challenge those ideas as well and put yourself to the test. Take the time, analyse your behaviours, contributions, presence, and words and see how that affects people and be prepared to change.

Strive to be a better ally

It is important to get out of our comfort zones and strive to be better instead of complacent. Being complacent can lead us to not being willing to grow and push ourselves to do better. We have to be comfortable with the fact that, we may not know it all and may need to look within and reflect at times. It’s worth that chance and that risk. We need to be present and help facilitate conversations around being a better ally. Only effort can get us to a point where we lead and acknowledge empathy and humility in all our endeavours.

Be prepared to be challenged

We are only human and make mistakes continuously. Moreover, in relation to the point just before we must accept where we are wrong and choose intentionally to make amends. When we are challenged, especially against another’s feelings, the onus is on us to put things right. It might be a simple apology and a commitment to make things right.

Find out more about how Inclusive Employers can support you to champion the LGBTQ+ community in your workplace by filling in the form below:

Grow your team

When you become an Inclusive Employers’ Member you grow your I&D team.

Your account manager works with you to understand your goals, your challenges and achievable next steps.

Do you need more support for your inclusive culture to thrive?

Learn about membership today

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