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Being gay and mixed-race at work.

Workplaces in the UK are supposed to be inclusive environments where individuals can thrive, regardless of their differences in sex, race, sexual orientation, and more.

In this blog, I’ve explored some common challenges faced by minorities in the workplace, using my own experiences as a gay mixed-race man to inspire others to embrace their identity while overcoming diversity challenges.

Despite the existence of Equality and Diversity legislation, prejudice, discrimination, and stereotyping continue to persist in society, which naturally extends into the workplace.

Although legislation and awareness have significantly reduced direct discrimination, indirect discrimination and unconscious bias can still pose problems for minorities in the workplace.

This can lead to feelings of being unwelcome, the need to hide one’s true self, and the fear of speaking out due to deep-rooted prejudice. These feelings can prevent individuals from being their best and true selves, cause stress and anxiety, and hinder career success.

In my personal experience, I have found that indirect discrimination and unconscious bias have presented the biggest challenges for me. The majority of these challenges stem from assumptions made by colleagues based on heteronormative workplace and societal cultures.

I have encountered surprise when people discover that I am gay despite holding a senior position. I have been asked countless questions about having a girlfriend or what my wife’s name is. People have expressed surprise that my family still speaks to me considering my Islamic background.

Additionally, I have received comments like “well… I don’t want to know what you got up to on the weekend.” While these comments may seem trivial to some, in the early days of my career, they made me want to hide in the background and avoid facing them or having to explain myself. It was only after overcoming this mindset that I was able to progress and achieve success in my career.

So, how did I overcome these challenges?

The first step was realizing that who I am outside of work is just as valid and deserving of acceptance as anyone else. I had obtained my job based on merit, so I had every right to be there. I then sought connections with colleagues who I knew were more open-minded and had not subjected me to awkward questions in the past. I also joined the workplace’s LGBTQ+ group to find a supportive community.

All of these steps gave me the confidence to use my own voice and not hide in the background. They also taught me that most of the questions that had bothered me before were not meant to be hurtful but were a result of the prevailing heteronormative culture.

When I corrected my colleagues, they did not have any issue with who I was and embraced me for it. With newfound confidence and the realization that the majority of my colleagues accepted me, my inhibitions faded away. I began to speak up more and proudly showcase my skills, which were quickly recognized, leading to rapid career progression.

In conclusion, we live and work in a society that has been shaped by beliefs and norms that have existed for hundreds of years. Despite the positive changes happening today, these old norms still influence many people’s thinking. While we must understand this as the root of discrimination faced by minorities, we should never accept it or hide who we are to fit in.

Being a minority in the UK workplace can present challenges, as it did for me at some point in my career. However, these challenges can be overcome by staying true to oneself, seeking allies, and refusing to let any obstacle define us.

We must use our voices to educate those who create hurdles for us, as they are the ones in the wrong, not us. Eventually with the voice of all minorities and their allies, we will see a future where the ‘NORMAL’, in both workplace and society, is acceptance and inclusivity for all.

 

 

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We do not provide professional help to individuals in urgent crisis. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, please call 999 immediately. For support with suicidal thoughts, consider contacting the Samaritans UK, a trusted organisation specialising in confidential assistance during emotional distress. Your safety is paramount and there are professionals available to provide the urgent help required in such critical situations.
We do not provide professional help to individuals in urgent crisis. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, please call 999 immediately. For support with suicidal thoughts, consider contacting the Samaritans UK, a trusted organisation specialising in confidential assistance during emotional distress. Your safety is paramount and there are professionals available to provide the urgent help required in such critical situations.