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Information for Commanders and Supervisors of Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual people

ONLINE TRAINING

We have online training available that goes into more detail about this topic. It's free to take, and if you register and complete all the assessments, you'll get a certificate of completion at the end. Visit our eLearning centre

The Defence Guide for Commanders and Managers is an excellent start for how you can create an inclusive environment for gay, lesbian and bisexual personnel. Lesbian, gay and bisexual people are often fearful about letting others know about their sexual orientation. This can stem from what may seem like a harmless joke in the workplace, to broader villification, hatred and bullying. 

Inclusive Culture

Creating inclusive culture

FairDayA Commander and Supervisor sets the tone and culture for their unit, and this can heavily positively influence the level of inclusion that occurs in the workplace. If any person doesn't feel included, it impacts on productivity and team cohesion. No one can tolerate such a loss of capability.

Not everyone has the capability or confidence to stand up for themselves. Lesbian, gay and bisexual people can go to extraordinary lengths to hide their sexual orientation. This can occupy a significant amount of their thinking each day and every day. 

Ask yourself, what indicators do you have in your workplace to show that it is inclusive and that you expect inclusive behaviour. Are you just relying on Defence Policies to create the culture that is needed to ensure everyone is included?

Lesbian, gay and bisexual people can experience great fear about what might happen if they disclose their sexual orientation. There are countless examples of gay and lesbian personnel being harassed or bullied online. In 2010, a number of Defence personnel were involved in a gay-hate Facebook Group.

Lesbian, gay and bisexual people who experience this fear are not going to complain if they are bullied, or experience non-inclusive behaviour. It is far more likely that they will go to even greater effort to hide their sexual orientation from work.

This is a major issue for Defence where people post every two to three years. We ask new personnel about their family situation and its usually one of the first topics of conversation that happens in the workplace.

A leader can take positive steps to ensure that everyone feels included and to set the expected standard for inclusion in the workplace. Do you speak about LGBTI inclusion, or any other form of inclusion when you address your team? Do you participate in diversity initiatives and encourage your team to learn about people who are different from themselves? Do you use language that makes no assumptions about someone's sexual orientation?

Diversity initiatives provide an opportunity to have conversations in the workplace about differences between people and to potentially learn something that will help to improve team cohesion. The level and tone of those conversations, and the unit personality that results is set by leaders at all levels.

Coming Out

Someone has just come out to me ... what do I do next?

NavyFamilyAnyone might find themselves in a position where they have a workmate, colleague or subordinate disclosure that they are gay, lesbian or bisexual. How prepared is your workplace?

A Commanding Officer, particularly in a military context is a very important figurehead. For this reason, gay, lesbian and bisexual people will often disclose their sexual orientation to their Commanding Officer first before anyone else.

When someone comes out, and discloses their sexual orientation, the best thing you can do is acknowledge the information, thank the person for their trust in disclosing this personal information to you, and affirm that they are a valued member of your team. Ask the person how they are doing, and check whether they need support.

Resist the urge to send them to speak to the closest lesbian, gay or bisexual person on base. Not every lesbian, gay or bisexual person is prepared, qualified or able to support others. Check what a person needs and this will be your best indicator of what steps to take next. Your leadership and supervisor training provides you with enough skills to undertake your role as an inclusive leader.

Sometimes your assistance will be sought to help the person come out to the unit. In other cases, a person won't be ready to come out to the rest of the unit, but needs help working through their feelings. We have a number of LGBTI community support resources that are available to assist. Alternative, please get in contact with us and we can point you in the right direction.

Affirming and acknowledging that you don't think any differently about a person because of their sexual orientation is one of the most powerful things that you can do.

Process of Identity Development

Sexual Orientation Identity Development

Sexual orientation identity development describes how people who experience same-sex attraction come to terms with their sexual orientation or “coming out” in colloquial terms.

Understanding the identity development process helps to identify the needs of a person who has not yet come to terms with their sexual orientation.

There are a variety of models that describe this process.

The Fassinger model is shown below and talks about four sequential phases. However, not all people experience each phase in sequence, and some people make a decision that they will not “come out” and disclose their sexual orientation to others. Our adaptation of these phases are as follows:

Awareness - where a person becomes aware that they have feelings towards persons of the same sex or feels that they are different from others within their social environment. This typically follows the period of confusion where a person cannot identify their feelings.

Exploration - where a person explores their recognised feelings for persons of the same sex. They may seek out people of the same sex to explore their feelings.

Commitment - where are person experiences deepening self-knowledge about their feelings towards persons of the same sex. They may experience less guilt about their feelings, and seek to crystallise their choices about their sexuality.

Synthesis - where a person synthesises or integrates their feelings of love towards people of the same sex. They integrate their sexual orientation and choices into their overall identity. As part of this integration, a person will decide to disclose (or not disclose) their sexual orientation to family, friends and co-workers.

This also applies to a person's group identity development.  If you want to learn more, we recommend you undertake our online training.

SexualOrientationIdentityDevelopment

References:

Susan R McCarn, Ruth E. Fassinger, “Revisioning Sexual Minority Identity Formation: A New Model of Lesbian Identity and Its Implications for Counselling and Research”, in The Counselling Psychologist, Vol. 24, No 3, July 1996, 508-534

LGBTI Language

Understanding the language and what the right terms to use

One of the greatest difficulties occurs by unfamiliarity with language and terms used by lesbian, gay and bisexual people.  To help you, we have developed a Language Survival Guide and a Glossary that may assist you to become more familiar with language, help create a more inclusive environment and better converse with your subordinates.