As sexuality is far less obvious than race or disability are the problems of implicit and unconscious bias as ‘serious’?
Lo: I think it’s important thinking inter-sectionally and non-hierarchically about how different forms of oppression overlap and relate. Many LGBTQIA+ also experience racism, and ableism, as well as other ‘isms’ like sexism and classism. It’s also vital to recognise privileges where they exist too, and show solidarity across our differences. LGBTQIA+ people are commonly discriminated against in ways that aren’t always visible or obvious to straight and cisgender people. LGBTQIA+ people experience higher prevalence of mental health struggles due to impacts of social prejudice and stigma, and LGBTIA+ experience particularly high levels of homelessness, family estrangement, and employment discriminations, for example.
How do you deal with it? Do you feel safe?
Lo: Sexuality isn’t always less obvious, I’m pretty recognisably queer and we shouldn’t need to pass as cisgender or heterosexual to feel and been safe. Equality laws help, but right now in the UK and elsewhere I can marry my partner, but holding my wife’s hand in public doesn’t always feel safe.
Hannah: Agree, in public spaces with your partner you’ll be constantly code-switching about whether signs of affection would be received with judgement or hostility and that’s an awareness that will cause you to be constantly vigilant, whether you a conscious of it or not. It’s so lovely to be in a space where you feel safe to relax that vigilance.
I have always said “I don’t care who you are attracted to as long as you can do your job” and have never not hired someone because of their sexuality. How badly does that make you wince and why is it wrong?
Hannah: Well I think it’s not so much that it’s wrong – there’s an egalitarian ethos at the heart of the statement which I like! However, I do believe it’s important to see and welcome in all parts of a person, whether it’s nationality, sexuality, or whatever else that makes them an individual. It’s important to allow for freedom of self-expression in a team. Bartenders are so often in their twenties at an age where they are still defining themselves. By allowing for norms that are tacitly heteronormative that could be restrictive in a way that’s harmful. I think that was part of my own experience as a young person wresting with my sexuality.
How should supervisors rather deal with it?
Hannah: I think it’s important that we subvert the idea of what a leader looks and sounds like. Because unconsciously we’ve allowed a system to prevail that can favour people who look and sound a certain way to be promoted over others, and to break that down means better inclusion of many minority groups, LGBTQIA persons included.
Lo: I appreciate the intention of this sentiment, and not being discriminated against of course(!) but there’s a danger with “I don’t care about…” or “I don’t see gender/race/sexuality…”. I’d rather feel seen and embraced in my fullness, not for my difference to be brushed under the carpet. A crucial part of this is that I want to feel that my employer realises the negative things I’ll probably have to deal with because of who I am, and I want to have confidence that they have my back.
Who should attend your session and why?
Hannah: Anyone who would like to learn in a welcoming space about how to ensure they are using the correct language to address people, as well as how to ensure their hospitality and hospitality spaces are fully inclusive. So everyone!
While we ‘lump’ LGBTQIA together how different are the experiences of the component groups?
Lo: There are so many differences within LGBTQ+ communities linked to people’s sexuality, sex and gender, but also for a whole bunch of other reasons, like race, culture, class and disability, as well as different interests and character traits. I usually talk about LGBTQ+ communities, rather than a single community in recognition of this. We have similarities for sure, and I love being part of this “rainbow umbrella” and there a good reasons for this coalition, and solidarity is the glue that keep us together.
Hannah: Yes, likely really quite different. Each group will have challenges and potentially those challenges will overlap with other aspects of their life. The queer community has often had histories of being radically supportive of one another at times, and while our differences are important, that sense of solidarity among queer communities is vital. There is a lot of trans-exclusionary rhetoric from a very small faction of LGB groups but I think it’s really important to stand together against that and remember that we are united in striving for fairness.
Who are the role models for the LGBTQ Hospitality community?
Hannah: I don’t know I have an answer to this since being a role model often means just existing as a queer person in our industry to prove that we each should be there, but there is so much more queer acceptance and expression in younger generations of bartenders so I’d say they are the role models.
Other than attending your session how can people educate themselves about this issue?
Hannah: There are a number of online resources. Gendered Intelligence has excellent guides for employers for instance on trans inclusion which is probably the issue where most guidance is required for venues.
Lo: There is a brilliant inclusive toilets guide for nightlife venues by Galop and Good Night Out Campaign, which I recently consulted on.
One of you is an experienced hospitality Lifer and one is an academic – who’s words carry more weight?
Lo: We’ll probably have to arm wrestle for that title.
Hannah: Haha, I am more than happy to concede this to Lo. Lo is an actual academic on the topic, I’m just a bleeding heart! Having said that I would just like to finish by saying that our industry attracts people to cities from all over the world and many will have come from places where homophobia is the norm. We can get blazé to the need for LGBTQIA rights because we see it as a struggle that is already won, but for many it isn’t. There is no acceptance for queer people in Russia, Turkey, or Poland for instance. So, I really believe that it’s important that we continue this message of making our industry a safe and welcoming place, the world over. Because somewhere out there someone may be watching and to them it could really make a difference to know that the bar industry is united in supporting them.