As with many good things in life, the London Bisexual Network (LBN) started over a bottle of wine in a noisy City bar, explains Max Rossiter, trainee solicitor.
We formed the LBN, an organisation I have now been a part of for over 3 years, with the aim of representing bisexual people who work in the City of London and who are an often overlooked part of the LGBTQ+ community.
We met again shortly after. It was at this second meeting that I, in what has now become somewhat of a ritual, had to "come out" as straight.
Coming out can be a deeply stressful experience for those who identify as LGBTQ+. People can face abuse and rejection (and sometimes worse) from the people who they often care about the most. It is, in short, not a decision taken lightly. My experience of "coming out" was quite the opposite. The members of the LBN were delighted they had found an ally (if perhaps a little intrigued). This is the general reaction I get from members of the LGBTQ+ community whenever I reveal that I am straight. Everyone I have met is welcoming of my ally-ship and thrilled that I am involved.
In fact the more disappointing reaction is often from other straight people, who wonder (or are surprised) that I am involved in an organisation for bisexuals without actually being bi myself.
Why I am an LGBTQ+ ally
There are many reasons for someone to be an ally of the LGBTQ+ community. My motivation is to try to ensure that everyone, irrespective of their sexual orientation, can experience the same level of human dignity that I do, and that many straight people take for granted. I am lucky that I can be my true self at work, but I have met many people at events who have spoken to me about not being able to be open about their bisexuality. They feel anxious talking about their partner, or worry whether their sexuality will prevent them from being promoted. Sexual orientation and gender identity are central elements of what it means to be human, and should never lead to discrimination in the work place. For me, being an ally is about supporting others and standing up for people's human rights.
This is why being an ally is so important. For many people, simply knowing they work somewhere where people are supportive of who they are can make a world of difference. They don't have to worry about bringing a same-sex spouse to the summer party,or maintaining a fake identity at lunch. As lawyers, we work at stressful jobs with long hours. We need to feel comfortable at work, because we spend so much time there.
Being an ally, and a vocal one at that, is about trying (as best as possible) to remove another layer of difficulty for people that already experience a demanding profession, and ensure they feel comfortable at work so they can do their jobs to the best of their abilities.
Many of us are lucky to work at organisations with vibrant LGBTQ+ societies who can provide support and spaces to talk about these issues. The LBN also tries to do this in many ways. We host talks by senior figures, showing that you can be bisexual and succeed in the City. More importantly, we provide a community for people to come to share their issues and talk to like-minded people. But many people do not have access to these resources. Being an active ally ensures that people who might be otherwise isolated feel part of the team.
RPC, the firm I am training at, has a network of allies that provide support on a whole range of social issues, including LGBTQ+ issues, which also hosts a programme of educational events to raise awareness around the firm on various issue. This sits alongside our LGBT group, RPC RAIN. We have heard positive feedback from those people who feel good knowing that the firm supports LGBTQ+ people, and also people who support LGBTQ+ people.
I encourage anyone reading to get involved with their local LGBT+ organisation, and if in doubt to look at the LGBT+ lawyers division of the Law Society.
Views expressed in our blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Law Society.
The London Bisexual Network (LBN) is a cross-industry network for bisexual professionals
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