UK: Anti-LGBT Workplace Remarks

Most companies no longer tolerate racism at work. So how come these anti-LGBT remarks are still happening?

Out Now has released a series of groundbreaking LGBT+ original research studies.

Our report LGBT Diversity: Show Me The Business Case (SMTBC) has been cited globally and is the first time measurements have been made of the financial impacts LGBT diversity policies make in the average workplace.

But something else is happening in the average workplace too.

Anti-LGBT remarks. Lots of them.

The world’s biggest ever LGBT research study – reaching into more than two dozen countries worldwide – is called LGBT2030 and it analyses thousands of respondents, mapping their views on what is happening in their own workplaces.

In the UK for example, almost half (46%) of all respondents told LGBT2030 research they have seen or heard anti-LGBT comments.

And only one in three respondents (33%) stated:

“The situation for LGBT people at my place of work is perfect – (there is) zero homophobia”.

Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia is rife in the UK

It is disturbing to read what is taken for granted in UK workplaces today as ‘normal’ banter.

Too many respondents indicated terms of abuse against gay, lesbian, bi or trans people were just “a regular part of my work”.

Below are a selection of responses received.

If you would like to receive a free copy of the ‘LGBT Diversity: Show Me The Business Case’ report which covers the data from the UK and ten other countries, click here to request your copy.

It’s not all bad

Here are some of the favourable remarks made by UK respondents in the latest LGBT2030 research. Most comments though were negative, some shockingly so. Scroll down to read these.

I am lucky to work for an organisation that has many ‘out’ gay and lesbian members. I am not aware of any homophobia and have certainly not experienced any at work.

There is some joking about gay issues but not in a derisory or offensive manner – instead very much as an ‘in group’ (we are all a group) rather than ‘out group’ (as LBGT you are part of the ‘out group’).

I overheard a homophobic comment made by a colleague, but he was shut by the rest of the team, who are pretty open-minded.

At our work it is good – they have a top-down approach from Board Executives towards equality.

I came out as trans in the process of starting an apprenticeship and all the people I have had contact (with) have been amazing.

My union rep is a very openly gay man who will support (me) if I feel undermined (as a) professional because of who I sleep with! I know there are staff who just don’t get it but that’s their problem not mine!

I transitioned in work and had full support of 70-100 clients and no issues of transphobia from colleagues.

I work for an organisation where the values and ethos are all about equality and acceptance.

‘Just typical workplace banter’

Below are some of the many, many comments people responding to the UK sample of the LGBT2030 study have made about their own workplaces. There seems to be a lot of work to be done to make this kind of banter unacceptable.

For more information on the research, contact Out Now.

Nothing violent but things such as saying ‘gay’ and rolling your eyes when I ask them to stop.

Saying ‘hows your husband-wife?’ And ‘which one is the husband?’. Meant in a joking way but the joke is over.

Parents of kids at the school where I am Deputy Head Teacher. Small minority are vocally homophobic.

In my last place of work students were not questioned over the use of the word gay to be derogatory – and also that staff also use(d) it. I wanted staff to do an awareness tutorial about this and they did not want to.

Colleagues routinely refer to translated documents as ‘trannies’ because they find the word/idea amusing; usual level of ‘no homo’ behaviour amongst male colleagues, including overt discomfort when a female colleague discusses her gay brother’s lifestyle.

Considering I work in the IT industry a couple of colleagues once commented that girls with IT jobs are probably lesbians. Also when a female colleague found out that a female affiliate was openly gay at work, she said she would keep quiet about that if it was her.

Colleagues posting things on Facebook like ‘Why do they need to get married?’

Senior straight person jokingly described another senior straight person as ‘gay boy’ to describe his involvement in a team-building exercise that required him to do movement that could be seen as camp.

A member of staff said ‘you should be told if someone is LGBT’.

Mostly its a nice working atmosphere, however there is the occasional disapproving looks towards other out colleague, inappropriate comments and gestures about sexual acts. Mostly these are from male staff about lesbians.

Usual name calling, bullying, they must be gay, also discriminated against in terms of not having children, was a lifestyle choice and expectation that LGBT staff will always work holidays. Lack of understanding that LGBT staff also have home lives and would like families.

It is considered acceptable to identify other members of staff as poof or dyke as a form of ridicule.

I work as a teacher and I constantly hear pupils use the words gay, queer, fruit etc as insults. I have also heard some staff members say to things like ‘that’s so gay’ when describing something. They also seem to talk about pupils’ sexuality with negativity.

Through general work banter the words, poof, dyke , shirt lifter and other similar words are still used.

A colleague made some comments to me which were offensive. I told him that it had offended me and he hasn’t done it again (his excuse was he was joking) I am wary of him. I told my manager who wanted to take it further but I didn’t want to. He was fine with this but checks every now and again if I’m ok.

I work with young people and the homophobic comments I have heard have been from them. However, I am in a position to positively challenge that, and I do.

My manager referred to a gay man as a ‘f*ggot’ and uses the word ‘gay’ as an insult.

Using words like ‘gay’ or ‘homo’ as insults between straight staff members.

I work in a school. ‘Gay’ is a common insult amongst students. Some staff also make throw away comments of this kind.

I have heard my colleagues who I would never describe as homophobic use the word ‘Gay’ in a negative way. They have made comments about bisexual people.

The company after my civil partnership said that they wouldn’t change my surname without a deed poll change of name certificate. I told them this was not the case, I ended up having to get someone at the passport office to phone and advise my own HR department that it wasn’t needed. This took 6 months to sort.

My employer is very inclusive and there is diversity training which all employees have to take part in, however there are employees who do not like gay people but make it obvious that they must keep their mouth shut or face disciplinary action.

Two members of staff refused to eat food which I and another gay member of staff made – because they said they didn’t know where our hands had been!

I work in a bar and kissed my boyfriend while I was socialising. A few 50+ year olds complained.

A young male was asking about my relationship status and having found out it was female+female he used the words ‘lesbo’ and ‘lemon’. He didn’t mean any harm but they are insulting words.

I work in childcare and a parent was mocking their child for wanting to marry a child of the same sex.

Colleagues making reference to the transgender community being disgusting. Using the regular term ‘he/she’ or ‘it’. One comment in particular was made by a male colleague who would not let his daughter use a bathroom if a transgender female was in there as he didn’t want ‘him’ waving his penis in her face.

I was told by a member of senior staff that ‘people like you shouldn’t have children … Because it’s not natural’.

As a teacher I work in a school and will sometimes hear comments from children. I address these as individual issues and include them in larger discussions about how words can hurt somebody’s feelings.

Usual kind of comments using gay as an insult, usually against a man ie ‘He’s so gay’.

Male staff member refuses to speak to another male member of staff as he is ‘not wired correctly’ because he identifies as gay.

At my old job, I only had just come out to them, and they would say ‘what that person is wearing isn’t very lesbian friendly’ – then all snigger, It would be said loud enough for me to hear, but said to me. This is only one example, there were many.

Casual use of what I consider homophobic slang by those of an older generation (aged 30+) using gay as a derogatory slang term but not directed at anyone specific and not meant to be hurtful, just said without thinking.

Interestingly I have never heard those of my generation (aged 16 – 30) use any homophobic language at work. Think it’s a generation thing.

Language considered by some as banter.

Colleagues are very into stereotyping gay people. Also I work in a school and the staff are always telling the students off for swearing but don’t seem to do the same (at least not the same level of discipline) when they use the word ‘gay’ in a derogatory fashion.

One person I work with (a male) has said homophobic things towards myself and it was not dealt with very well as my manager did not take it seriously and wanted to protect this person. I got in trouble for reacting in anger and I got told that what I said was slander and that he is not homophobic.

It was said to me that to be gay, or slightly effeminate was demeaning to your character and made you a lesser person and would give someone ‘serious concern’ at work.

A colleague stated, ‘You only turn gay if you’ve had a f*cked up childhood’. I put a complaint into my manager. However, he only followed it up when I threatened to contact Head Office if the issue wasn’t dealt with.

I was told I am not in a ‘proper’ marriage.

The way some individuals use the word ‘gay’ to mean rubbish/stupid/bad is a little worrying, and there was an occasion when, in a conversation between friends, they referred to a young woman’s bisexual identity as her ‘just trying to get attention’.

Hit on quite aggressively by a male colleague because (he thinks) as a lesbian I am ‘obviously’ sexually provocative.

It’s mainly Lesbophobia i.e. men not respecting my sexuality and trying to sell themselves and flirt etc!

I was verbally assaulted by a large group of males about my sexuality and my boss told me to leave the workplace and let them stay. Nothing has been done about the incident as my boss doesn’t see it as a problem.

I regularly hear the word ‘f*ggot’ and ‘gay’ bandied around by people who use them and synonyms for something they think isn’t cool or is bad.

Manager asked me if I take medicine for homosexuality. She thought it was a disease.

Homophobic comments around religion and sexuality.

The continuing use of the word gay as a derogative term.

As soon as my manager found out I was gay he spent the last 12 months against me. I have gone from a ‘top performer’ to a ‘non-performer’ – according to him – even though my outputs at work have not changed.

Homophobic language is still seen as macho and clever.

In my last post a colleague made some homophobic comments, which I felt warranted the complaints procedure. I had supportive senior management and their investigation went into favour. Nevertheless, this process was difficult and impacted on my work for quite a long time.

A colleague on a night out made a comment about my posture being ‘super gay’ and joked to other colleagues to “watch their a*ses with me around.”

‘That’s so gay’ is a phrase I hear and challenge often. Guys telling other guys, don’t be a fag over stuff. Asking me very personal questions about my sex life.

The usual putdowns e.g shirt lifter, sh*t stabber, c*cks*cker. But then these sort of comments don’t bother me for I have broad enough shoulders to ignore them and think what pathetic little people they are.

Slang terms for people and doing stereotyping impressions and making comments about someone regarding their sexuality. As if all gay men act girly! Lack of understanding and respect for anyone transgender.

Considered socially acceptable banter and taken as such, but unprofessional regardless.

I work in a school and am constantly faced with the comments of things being considered gay by staff and students. I do challenge this but am not supported by other staff.

A colleague from another department was taking a petition against gay marriage around the store, however I became aware of this and spoke to management who dealt with the colleague very quickly.

It’s not outright homophobia, but since having a daughter years ago, I have corrected several peoples’ assumptions about my sexuality. People assume that because I have a kid I am straight. I think it’s important to correct them, especially so that my daughter knows that we don’t hide who we are in our family.

A lad I work with stated that it would be worse for his baby daughter to be gay than to have lots of boyfriends when she grows up (which he sees negatively as he is naturally very protective). I have a good sense of humour but he was being genuinely serious and added he intended ‘no offence’.

Too many incidents. Gay is basically most people’s go to joke about someone, if you’re dressed different, if you hang out too much with another guy. When Tom Daley came out the reaction I heard at work was the complete polar opposite (disgust) of the reaction in mass media/with the rest of the general public (positive/accepting).

I have suffered greatly in my employment because I live as a married straight man but am gay and in a difficult situation and in a very sensitive job.

I am a trainee teacher and the class teacher who I am under has been heard making homophobic comments about me. Since finding out I was gay she has made by placement difficult for me. It is spoiling my passion for teaching. I have loved teaching in every other school, even in a Catholic school.

Delivery driver calling a male staff member a f*cking po*f….. For no apparent reason and behind my workmates back. This matter was reported to management and a new delivery driver now collects from our office.

It’s not what is said now because the laws have helped quell obvious harassment, it’s more in people’s ways of not saying things and using inferences to communicate there feelings/concerns that is more apparent. Those who are heterosexual have also inferred that by being gay and out, it’s just a way of protecting oneself from poor performance reviews, irrespective of the individual’s capabilities/performance.

One woman at work made comments about Claire Balding saying she shouldn’t be on television because …. ‘she’s …… you know’.

Comments from a colleague about ‘batty boys’ and calling footballers ‘homos’.

People making fun of an email message from the HR team telling everybody not to use the word ‘gay’ in a derogatory way.

Colleague described being gay as wrong and won’t ride elevators with anyone who is out for fear that they will touch him.

Just the usual, offensive remarks to describe homosexuals. Staff attempting to brainwash others. In a recent debate about LGBT rights, it was made clear that we should not be allowed to marry each other, adopt children or teach any thing of the sort in schools.

Deputy headteacher is out and nasty comments are made behind his back.

Use of gay to mean something is lame or stupid.

Homophobic remarks about gay issues and colleagues who are LBGT.

Discussion where a male colleague insisted that there are no gay men playing football. Most laughed at the notion and some openly opposed the notion as being ridiculous.

Someone wrote on a poster a co-worker was a Batty boy.. I had to request that it was removed.

It’s the subtle everyday stuff, that people aren’t even aware of that they are doing.

Comments about others who are ‘gayboys’ ‘p*of’ and ‘queens’.

A member of staff said to another that he’d keep his back to the wall getting changed.

Colleagues with banter, not bullying but classed as ‘harmless fun’ – still can be hurtful/annoying.

Working as a teacher, I hear “gay” used as a derogatory term often. Never heard it used directly to bully a gay teen or co-worker though.

A colleague asked how I feel about the fact that I can never have children.

The standard use of the term ‘gay’ to indicate flawed, or stupid. Common in internet related industries.

A former colleague who did not get work on the basis he was ‘too camp’.

I’m a secondary school teacher so do hear the students using some homophobic phrases and words. I have a zero tolerance approach to any such remarks however I don’t believe that all staff are singing from the same hymn sheet!

The two gay guys in the office were made to play the female parts in a role play exercise in front of the whole office.

The two LGBT members of staff (myself and one other) being overlooked for promotion and instead, two heterosexual employees who hadn’t put themselves forward for the promotion were offered the jobs.

Serious abuse from one person demanding to know if I ‘had AIDS’.

Comments by fellow workers about how gays are ‘abnormal’- or ‘not normal’.

I work in the Church. Homosexuality is a ‘live’ issue, so it can feel quite raw at the moment.

I work in an Engineering firm. Very ‘macho’ male dominated. So a fair number of casual jokes about ‘benders’, ‘queers’, etc.

I have had issues with transphobic victimisation.

Managers openly making discriminatory comments by email and in written documentation.

There was a betting pool at work over my sexuality when I first came out as trans.

I used to work for a city council as a Special Needs Teacher, they were very unsupportive to the extent of being a major reason for being retired on mental health grounds. They had no policies, some managers even outing me to other professionals.

I work in an environment that has been supportive in the past. But feel a strong degree of transphobia from a new manager. I do not feel the owner would be supportive. All other staff and previous managers I have a positive relationship with.

The depiction of lesbians as lustful women looking for threesomes (with a man, of course!)

The common use of the words faggot or gay in a derogatory negative fashion and when I raise the issue I am told to be less sensitive.

Comments about gay people. Words used such as ‘That’s so gay’ ‘gaylord’ ‘what are you – wife and wife? That don’t sound right’.

Verbal abuse against trans-masculine women in the workplace.

LGBT issues are ignored.

Ex-colleague used to refer to myself and my male work colleague as ‘the gays’. I don’t think it was meant horribly and it was just that she is in a different age group.

‘That’s so gay’ used by students between one another.

I’m called a dyke regularly.

When I was pregnant how people reacted to me and my wife and the questions they asked that are so personal.

Comments made by older staff like: “I don’t have anything against gays but they shouldn’t have kids and get married the bible says” and “I don’t mind gays as long as they keep it to themselves” and “I don’t want my kids seeing it, it’s my job to protect them from that sort of thing”.

One religious person who likes to air her anti gay marriage stance.

Working within a college means that I hear homophobic language from young adults such as ‘that’s so gay’ regularly.

Recently a colleague asked me if I was having sex with my friend because we are both lesbians even though I have a partner.

“Aren’t you afraid of hell?”

As a teacher, I overhear students making comments.

We lost a contract when one of the property managers found out that I was a lesbian.

An ad came on for a show, two men kissing on a bed, one staff member blurted out, ‘that’s disgusting and should not be allowed on TV especially before 9’.

A co worker said it is Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. I said who ever believes that are idiots.

Pupils (and occasionally the staff) use homophobic language and often refer to things being ‘gay’ in a negative way.

Being called a p*of.

LGBT network posters are torn down regularly.

I was told, in a performance review, that although I am well respected, liked and very good at my job, I would not be able to progress or be taken seriously because I am camp.

When I announced that I was getting married, I heard through a third party that my boss’s younger son felt disgusted and, as if I was ever going to invite them, he will not attend our wedding.

General comments about sexuality. Also constant asking of my marital status and sexual orientation.

Been told that I don’t fit in because I don’t like women.

‘That’s so gay’.

‘Why are you looking at him? Are you gay?’

Group chat amongst colleagues using homophobic language.

Was referred to as a ‘sexual pervert’ in front of some of my team members, by a senior manager.

Comment about a colleague behind his back suggesting a work issue is at least partly because of his orientation.

As I am still at school I have witnessed and experienced a wide range or homophobic incidences. Teachers and students both use slurs freely, both me and a (female) date were physically assaulted at a social, with no consequences, one other LGBT student has already left because of it.

People using the word ‘GAY’ as an insult as in something silly or stupid behaviour.

Comments made to colleague by another colleague about being camp in the middle of a busy ward.

I was told by three senior managers that I was NOT ALLOWED to be out about my sexual orientation at work.

Very mild homophobic language, whereby people do not intend or realise that such words could be deemed to be homophobic.

Working in a school with teenagers is always challenging – so general comments about being ‘Gay’ whether are par for the course. I’ve also heard the students call me Lesbian behind my back (as you walk down the corridor). Half of me thinks, yeah I’m proud of who I am so what, and half of me thinks I should challenge comments for future generation, but who I sleep with is nothing to do with them. I am luckily that between 8% & 10% of the staff identify as LGBT – the ones I know about – so I am not alone!

Slightly derogatory comments about gay men in particular. Inappropriate jokes, even though I don’t think they would actually show disrespect toward a gay man in person.

Definite bias, offensive comments, management sweeping complaints under the carpet and ignoring how upset staff are about them, dismissal of any complaints raised and on-going homophobia being exhibited.

The words tranny, fag, dyke, fairy, lezzer all being thrown around as slurs.

When at work the majority of people are OK and express opinions of support, even if they are poorly educated but the goodwill, equality-for-all basic thinking is there. However there are some, usually the male workers (and odd female workers) that will try to be too intrusive and will not accept I am a married lesbian and won’t leave you alone in the form of trying to make sexual suggestions towards me or constantly saying that I need to sleep with them in order to realise I am not gay etc. Been the same in my last 3 jobs. Doesn’t bother me however when I reply with: “Well have you slept with a man?” to the male workers. I get “Eeeuww” comments – and they soon shut up.

A security man called some people ‘f*gs’ whilst he was passing them.

I now work for myself and don’t have colleagues anymore. When I did I felt people did pick on this. I work for myself for these reasons.

Transphobic really, repeated misgendering of students they knew to be trans, though some homophobic stuff too.

A lot of general gay slurs or throwaway comments which seem very common in the UK – in or outside of work.

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