Millions witness anti-gay bullying
at work in the UK
Stonewall's figures claim over a quarter of gay, lesbian and bisexual people are not open to their colleagues and 20% have been verbally bullied in the last five years
Millions witness homophobic bullying at work in the UK, a gay campaigning charity has found.
In the past five years, 2.4 million people of working age have witnessed verbal homophobic bullying at work with 800,000 people seeing physical attacks.
Stonewall’s figures also show over a quarter of lesbian, gay and bisexual people are not open to colleagues about their sexual orientation.
One in five have also experienced verbal bullying from colleagues or customers in the last five years, and one in eight LGB employees would not feel confident reporting homophobia in their workplace.
The charity is launching a national campaign today (13 January) to ‘change once and for all’ the endemic levels of homophobia in the workplace.
Featuring two people at work, from construction to the city, the campaign states: ‘One is gay. If that bothers people, our work continues.’
The posters will appear on nearly 650 buses in London, Cardiff and Edinburgh as well as on 4,000 adverts on the London Underground.
Stonewall Deputy Chief Executive Laura Doughty said: ‘After securing equal marriage in England and Wales people mustn’t forget the huge amount of work still to be done. No one should be under any illusion that it’s “Mission Accomplished”. In workplaces right across the country, gay people still don’t feel able to be themselves. It’s time to change that once and for all.’
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Former anti-gay employers top gay-friendly employer list
Stonewall has revealed their top 100 gay-friendly employer list of the UK. Check out the full list here
A list of the top 100 gay-friendly employers in the UK has revealed several have changed their homophobic ways and improved for the better.
The Ministry of Defence was named as the most improved company to work for in the UK.
Gay campaigning charity Stonewall chose the MoD because it had shown a ‘real commitment’ to build a gay-friendly workplace.
Until 2000, men and women were automatically dismissed if found to be gay or lesbian.
MoD archives from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s show special investigation police targeted suspected gay men and women in an official policy to ‘clean out homosexuals’.
But in 2007, Wing Commander and armed forces equalities advisor Phil Sager apologized.
‘Of course, we're sorry for anyone who's suffered personal trauma,’ he said.
‘We can't change the past and what's happened has happened. But if, as I'm sure you have, you've got testimony from people who feel that their lives have been ruined from this, then clearly that is not a good place to be.’
Gay former Lance Corporal James Wharton told GSN, after ten years of being in the army (which reached number 79 on the list), he could ‘see the difference’ in how the situation for gay people has improved from when he joined to when he left.
Other former notoriously homophobic companies to work for in the UK include the fire service.
The Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service are the first fire service to ever reach the Stonewall top 10.
In 2009, Sadiq Khan, the Labour fire minister, wrote to fire chiefs urging them to ‘eradicate’ homophobic behavior after it emerged some gay staff routinely experienced name-calling, physical abuse and even had safety equipment tampered with as a ‘joke’.
James McKane, a gay firefighter in the Newcastle Central Community Fire Station, told The Times gay men in the service are still ‘quite rare’.
‘I joined as a closet gay but I soon realised this was an organisation where you could be yourself and I came out within four or five months,’ he said.
‘It was all still new to me, but I felt enough support with such a great bunch of guys, it seemed the natural thing to do.’
Richard Lane, Stonewall’s Media Manager, said: ‘The Ministry Defence, as with most of the top performers in the Top 100, have shown a real commitment from the very top down to building gay friendly workplaces. They’ve committed to supporting openly-gay role models at all levels as well as LGBT network groups. All of these actions means that they’ve made real strives forward this year for their lesbian, gay and bisexual staff.’
Check out the full top 100 list below:
Top employers 1-50
2 Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust
3 The Co-operative
5= Home Office
8= Simmons & Simmons
8= Tyne & Wear Fire and Rescue Service
11= Leicestershire County Council
11= National Assembly for Wales
11= St Mungo's
14 Morgan Stanley
15= Bristol City Council
15= Derbyshire County Council
15= Lloyds Banking Group
18 Environment Agency
19= Baker & McKenzie LLP
19= London Ambulance Service NHS Trust
19= North Wales Police
19= South Wales Police
23 Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust
25= Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service
25= Liverpool John Moores University
25= Newcastle City Council
25= The Security Service (MI5)
29 Leicestershire Police
30= CMS Cameron McKenna
30= Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service
30= Herbert Smith Freehills
30= Your Homes Newcastle
34 Department of Health
35= Crown Prosecution Service
35= Hogan Lovells
35= Ministry of Defence
35= Office for National Statistics
35= University of the West of England
40 Royal Bank of Scotland Group
41= Cheshire Constabulary
41= Creative Skillset
41= London Borough of Waltham Forest
44 Tower Hamlets Homes
45= Department for Work and Pensions
45= Derby City Council
45= Eversheds LLP
45= Genesis Housing Association
45= Pinsent Masons
45= West Yorkshire Probation Trust
Top Employers 51-100
51 Action for Children
52= Cardiff University
52= Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust
54= Bury Council
54= Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service
57 University of Liverpool
58= Irwin Mitchell Solicitors
58= London Borough of Tower Hamlets
58= Suffolk Constabulary
61= South East Coast Ambulance Service
61= Suffolk County Council
64 West Sussex County Council
65 Clydesdale Bank
66= Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
66= Hertfordshire County Council
66= Liverpool Community Health NHS Trust
66= London Borough of Hackney
66= London Borough of Islington
66= Norton Rose Fulbright LLP
72= Land Registry
72= Northumbria Probation Trust
72= South Tyneside Homes
72= Victim Support
76= Core Assets Group
76= Leeds City Council
76= Transport for London
79= The Army
79= Royal Navy
82= Newham College of Further Education
82= Sheffield City Council
82= Southend-on-Sea Borough Council
82= University of Sheffield
86= Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
86= Nationwide Building Society
86= Nottingham City Homes
90 American Express
91= Birmingham City Council
91= Somerset College
91= Sussex Police
96= Citizens Advice
96= County Durham and Darlington Foundation Trust
96= Dyfed Powys Police
96= Plus Dane Group
100 Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
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'I went to work expecting the worst day of my life'
A table of the most gay-friendly employers has been published by campaign group Stonewall. But what reaction can people in traditionally macho jobs expect from colleagues after they come out?
On paper it was a perfect afternoon.
Wales were minutes away from a rare Six Nations win over England.
Watching in a London pub, James Wharton - an 18-year-old soldier from Wrexham - should have been revelling in the victory in front of his four English friends.
"I should have been jubilant," he remembers. "I'm normally quite a loud character with my mates but I was in my box, I was depressed."
One-by-one they asked him what was wrong: "Is it debt? Problems back home?"
Then, as at least one of them already suspected, "Are you gay?"
He was about to admit to them what he had so far admitted only to himself.
"I never set out to come out. It just sort of happened."
That, it turned out, was the easy part.
As James puts it: "I knew I had to go back to work and that it wouldn't be four friends I was telling. It'd be 200 people who I didn't really know."
A ban on gay men and women serving in the armed forces had been lifted only five years earlier.
His superiors called him in.
Before 2000 it would have been a court martial offence, his room would have been turned over for evidence and his fledgling army career would have been over.
Left in hospital
But instead they offered support. They asked if everything was OK or if he needed time to tell his parents.
"I went to work expecting the worst day of my life," he remembers.
"But I guessed it wrong. What I anticipated didn't come to pass."
His comrades treated him as though he were a minor celebrity.
And when he was deployed to Basra, he kept a photo of his partner by his bed.
Only once or twice did the bullying he had been braced for go beyond what he calls "the obvious banter".
Most of the time his friends stepped in, but on one occasion - just months after coming out - a vicious homophobic attack left him in hospital.
He had been drinking in a bar with a fellow soldier.
But later that night, when he took him back to the barracks: "Instead of what I assumed was going to happen, I got beaten up."
The other solider would later face a court martial.
He had beaten James with an iron pole, kicking and punching him, leaving him bloodied in his room.
It was a brutal but one-off incident and in the decade James spent in the Army, he says the atmosphere became markedly less homophobic.
Before that, the casual and at the time legal discrimination meant soldiers had to live a lie or keep their true self well-hidden.
It was under these conditions that MP Crispin Blunt - until recently prisons minister in the coalition government - spent 11 years as a soldier, rising to the rank of captain and never admitting he was gay.
"Even if my instinct was in that direction, it was illegal; it was wrong," he says now.
"I was a soldier's son. Both my grandfathers were in the forces. I had absolutely no contact with what you might call 'gay society'. These were people to be laughed at."
In the 1990s he left the forces, started a family and swapped the battlefield for the benches of the House of Commons - another male-dominated, often bruising place where any perceived weakness can be mercilessly exploited by rivals and opponents.
Then, in summer 2010, his marriage of 20 years came to an end.
He had taken the decision to come out and had to explain why he was no longer appearing in public with his wife.
After putting out a press statement and emailing his local Conservative Association, he returned to the Commons not knowing what to expect.
"Members kept coming up to me and asking 'are you OK?'" he says.
"I wanted to say I'm more than OK. You think it's going to be absolutely dreadful and in fact it's a positive experience - the euphoria of finally being able to be yourself."
And despite Parliament's image as boisterous and sometimes boorish, he says it was the atmosphere at Westminster - in contrast to his time in the Army - that encouraged him to come out.
It would now be close to "career suicide", he says, to criticise a fellow MP because of their sexuality.
Just a few years earlier the climate for politicians and those in public life was very different.
After a number of ministers in the then Labour government came out in 1998, the Sun newspaper splashed across its front page: "Are we being run by a gay mafia?"
But, as Crispin Blunt puts it, "society was changing".
The paper misjudged the public mood and apologised, promising it was "no longer in the business of destroying closet gays' lives".
On the receiving end of the Sun's sister paper, the now-defunct News of the World, was retired police officer and trainer Vic Codling.
It was 1991 and the 6ft-plus, broad-chested Geordie was standing before the new intake of police recruits at the Met's training base in north London explaining how to make an arrest.
"The boss wants to see you," came a message.
He was called into the superintendent's office.
"Guess who I've just had on the phone," Vic's super asked.
It was the News of the World, demanding to know what he was going to do about one of his officers being involved in a "gay sex romp".
The former sheet metal worker had moved from the North East in part to escape homophobia - "an engineering site on Tyneside wasn't the sort of place you wanted to be a 'poof'," he says.
And now he was about to be outed - not just to his boss, colleagues and the rookie officers but to the world.
When the kiss-and-tell was published under the headline "Gay cop took down my particulars", he recalls the reaction of politicians and retired policemen. They said, 'what on earth is this practising homosexual man doing working with young officers?'."
But from the rank-and-file and, for the sake of his career, his superiors?
"I never had a single negative reaction. It shouldn't have surprised us," he says, echoing soldier James Wharton and MP Crispin Blunt.
"I thought the overall reception was going to be terrible. But it wasn't."
When confronted with the tabloid expose, he denied the "romp" but confessed his sexuality.
"Who cares?" was his superintendent's response.
Vic, now national co-ordinator of the Gay Police Association, says he wouldn't have dreamed of going to his representative body the Police Federation.
"They'd said it was disgraceful that a gay officer was involved in training," he says.
He says it was and still is harder for police officers in smaller, rural communities where coming out at work effectively means coming out to everyone - family, friends, and the public being policed.
But huge strides had been made, in part because of a homophobic bomb attack on a gay pub in Soho which killed three people and left dozens injured.
The Met needed officers who understood the gay community. They travelled from around the country - Cumbria, Scotland, Northamptonshire, Northumbria.
"People came out as gay to help the investigation," Vic says.
"If you wanted to go to London you had to explain why."
He believes the way he had been outed though, in such a public way, did his career no harm at all.
Issues of homophobia in the police were pushed his way. He got support from unexpected places.
"Suddenly, because my profile had been raised, people found it easier to come forward."
But despite the progress, Vic believes the force, and many workplaces in Britain, remain "institutionally heterocentric".
"People keep talking about tolerance. We don't want to be tolerated - we want to be accepted."
Gay rights in the UK
1967 Private homosexual acts between consenting men over 21 decriminalised in England and Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland followed in the 1980s
1984 Chris Smith becomes the first openly gay sitting MP and later the first out cabinet minister
1988 Section 28 comes into force, prohibiting the "promotion" of homosexuality by local authorities
2000 A ban on gay men and women serving in the armed forces is lifted
2003 Section 28 is repealed and discriminating against gay people in the workplace is outlawed
2004 Gay couples are legally allowed to enter into civil partnerships, giving them the same rights as married heterosexual people
2013 A law allowing same-sex couples in England and Wales to get married receives Royal Assent. Gay and lesbian wedding ceremonies can take place from 29 March 2014. The Scottish Parliament approved in principle legislation to allow same-sex marriage