Save content
Have you found this content useful? Use the button above to save it to your profile.
Pride flag
template_pride_article_social_thumbnails_2022

Continuing inclusivity beyond the rainbow flags

by

As we celebrate Pride month, Claire Owen-Jones explains how firms can continue to be more inclusive of LGBTQ+ communities once we’ve taken down the multicoloured flags.

9th Jun 2022
Save content
Have you found this content useful? Use the button above to save it to your profile.

I’m not a gay accountant, doing gay tax returns in a gay way.

I didn’t set my business up due to homophobia at my last workplace, I don’t market myself as an LGBTQ+ accountant, or have the community as part of my niche. There are times when I don’t think about my sexuality at all.

But there are events such as Pride month that occasionally make me stop and wonder if my sexuality does have an impact on my business, even if I’m not always aware of it.

Growing up as part of the Section 28 generation means being very aware that you are an “other”. Every argument that is being used against the trans community today was used against me growing up. From being gay being a phase, to me being a sexual predator who you never want to find yourself alone with. 

Integral otherness

Feeling like an other is so integral to my life, that I cannot comprehend what it must be like not to feel that way. 

I can’t imagine what it must feel like to see yourself and your relationships being reflected in every media source that you encounter. And being surrounded by this from birth so it all feels completely normal and, as a result, invisible.

It feels bizarre that you could enter any social setting or meet someone new and not feel that underlying dread that at some point you are going to have to reveal something about yourself that they might not like. And that their negative response will be fine because you are the problem as you are the other. 

Marketing challenge

Being gay doesn’t impact my ability as an accountant but as soon as I started my own business I realised that I would need to launch myself into marketing. That would mean selling myself. Getting people to trust me. Inviting strangers into my life. And how do you do that when you are an other?

I always knew that I didn’t want to brand my business with rainbows and put my sexuality on show. I’m not like that in person so it would feel forced and artificial to do that at work. 

But I realised quite quickly that the things I can include in my marketing to protect myself, can also act as signals to others in the community that I am okay and my business will be accepting. 

So here are three quick changes you can do to make your accountancy business appear more inclusive to the LGBTQ+ community.

  1. Try to avoid projecting your heterosexuality onto potential clients.

For example, if you know that they are married, start by referring to their spouse as their partner. Most of your clients will be heterosexual so will answer by changing partner to their husband or wife and will not notice your choice of words. 

But if your potential client is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, by using the word partner, you are giving them the option to disclose that to you. If you were to ask me about my husband, then you would be putting me in a situation where either I am forced to come out (and I may not feel safe or want to at that stage) or I will need to lie. Either way, this won’t start our professional relationship at a place where I feel comfortable. You have reminded me that I am an other. 

  1. Start off by using they/them pronouns until you know what someone prefers to use. 

I know that the suggestion of gender neutral pronouns can throw some people into a bit of a rage, but it’s no different to you being in the middle of a tax calculation, the phone going and you proclaiming: “What do they want?” You use the they/them pronouns all the time when you are unsure who you are talking to.

I ask my clients for their preferred pronouns as part of my onboarding process. You’ll rarely use someone’s pronouns to their face, but it’ll just show a bit of respect when talking about your client to others. 

  1. Look at your website and marketing materials and see if they look inclusive. 

This one may not apply to you. I am aware that most of the images on accountants’ and bookkeepers’ websites are images of lever arch files or a man in a suit pointing at a printed-out pie chart, but if you have images of families are they all typical heterosexual couples? If I was looking for an accountant who worked with business owners who wanted to spend more time with their families, seeing images that exclude me wouldn’t make me feel welcome. It’s no different to you having images only of white people for example. It sets a tone before we have even spoken. 

After the rainbows

Of course, you can just change your logo to a rainbow for a month, and while most in the LGBTQ+ community enjoy this one month to celebrate each other and how far we have come in terms of rights and visibility, we are also reminded that companies can use our otherness for commercial gain and any grand statements made during June are not enforced or acted on at any other time. 

I won’t be the only one to carry this sense of otherness around with me, so making a couple of small changes that you use all of the time will make me, and people like me, feel far safer than a rainbow in June.