To close this Pride Month, ClwydAlyn hears from its incoming Chairperson about coming out, as well as the ways all of us can be better allies.
For many, being LGBTQ+ still means facing daily challenges. Instances of homophobic hate crimes are rising in the UK, so although it can seem like things have got better, to mark the end of Pride Month it’s important to remember that for some, that’s not the case.
We spoke to Cris McGuiness, who has recently been appointed as ClwydAlyn’s new Chairperson, to hear their story about coming out and discuss being a role model and an ally: why speaking out in support of LGBTQ+ colleagues is crucial.
Cris started her career in a big four accountancy practice in the late nineties and the sector, like many others, wasn’t always an easy place to work.
“Even back then – it was well known that the public sector was a safer place to be LGBTQ+. So, I went to work for a small housing association in Liverpool. In many ways it felt like coming home, suddenly I didn’t need to hide who I was.
“Over the years since, I have worked for many social housing organisations of all shapes and sizes, and I have rarely faced homophobia.
“I think my early career made me realise how important visible role models and acceptance in the work place are. There are many pieces of research that show an individual is at their most productive when they can truly be themselves – less energy spent on conforming and more on doing your job well.”
So, what can companies and straight allies do to help? Cris says that she feels in her senior role that she has a responsibility to encourage acceptance and promote change:
“With seniority comes responsibility. A responsibility to challenge unhelpful behaviour, to ensure policies and procedures are inclusive and fair and to ensure our services meet the needs of individuals.
“There will still be tenants of ClwydAlyn that feel the need to hide their true selves when colleagues visit their homes, or for staff to mask their true identity when coming to work; removing anything that identifies them as LGBTQ+ as they fear being judged. What I hope to achieve as Chair of ClwydAlyn, in terms of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion is that every colleague and tenant feels safe to be who they truly are. “
For Cris, role models and allyship play a key role to inspire people to have the strength to be their true selves,
“I would have done anything to have a peer to look up to for that guidance in my formative years, to advocate for me, protect me and stand by me through tough situations.
“When we are truly visible, we have the opportunity to help others, but most importantly, help ourselves. If we can stand by each other’s side, stand up and stand out then we can all be our true selves – we can live our best life – at work and at home.
“Our diversity is our strength and as ClwydAlyn’s new incoming Chair I hope to continue to drive our vision of being an inclusive organisation and create fearless spaces where our tenants and staff believe they can achieve incredible things by being their true selves.”