26 February 2016
As part of LGBT History Month, we’re highlighting the stories of LGB* civil servants. John Peart works at the Government Digital Service – part of the Cabinet Office. He writes about how important it is to be able to bring your whole self to work.
“What did you do last night?”
Those 6 words can be really stressful to an LGBT person. It sounds silly, but when you’re not ‘out’ at work, being asked such a simple question can turn into a minefield of lies and misdirection.
When you’re hiding your sexuality at work, answering personal questions about what you do outside work can take up a lot of brain-space. It’s easy to remember what you were really doing, but remembering what you made up you were doing so people don’t suspect you’re gay can be a real chore. That’s why it’s so important to make workplaces open and inclusive.
I’m lucky; I couldn’t be more comfortable being out where I work.
I joined the Civil Service in 2013 after starting the Digital and Technology Fast Stream. Currently, I’m in the Cabinet Office, working at the Government Digital Service.
One of the things that’s surprised me about GDS in particular is how easy it was to be out and open about my sexuality. In part, I think that’s because there are visible LGBT senior role models.
Members of our senior civil service are out and that helps to set the tone for the entire organisation. It means that — unlike other places I’ve worked — no one I’ve spoken to has experienced LGBT discrimination at work since they joined GDS.
As LGBT staff, we have the support of the entire organisation – from the top, all the way down. Our leaders have supported us in setting up an LGBT network; and we have straight allies all over GDS that take an active interest in LGBT issues. It’s this kind of support that makes it easy to be out at work; and because I don’t have to worry about hiding myself from my colleagues, I can get on with putting my whole-self into my job.
You can’t give 100% at work when you’re distracted with inventing a second life to hide behind. Creating an inclusive work environment for LGBT people is essential to creating a motivated and productive team. That’s why I’m so lucky to work at a place like GDS.