‘You cannot fix what you will not face.’
It is no secret that the LGBTQ+ community is vastly underrepresented in the property sector.
Estates Gazette surveyed 300 queer identifying people in our sector, of which 52% voted that Transactions were the least LGBTQ+ inclusive, and a large 48% felt that development was the least welcoming to their queer staff. It comes as no further surprise, then, to see that 81% of respondents felt that that not enough was being done nationwide within the industry to highlight the exclusion and promote the visibility of the LGBTQ+ community.
Forbes released an article on the 17th of May 2020 to commemorate 30 years since being gay was no longer an internationally designated disease, and yet it remains illegal to be queer in 70 countries; that’s 70 in 197 countries, 35% of the world where being your true self can carry as much as a death sentence. If we hark back to Section 28 (1988-2003), an egregious act on not only on our community but human decency and spirit, the LGBTQ+ community has faced extensive erasure: under Section 28, schools, councils and government bodies were prohibited from speaking about any issues concerning LGBT individuals; in essence, denying the right of visibility and existence to an entire community. There are also parallels with modern day America presenting the 100,000 Covid-19 deaths in the country as frontline news; only deigning the deaths of 100,000 citizens to AIDS as page 18 worthy news in 1991, erroneously crediting the pandemic as the ‘gay disease’.
Thankfully, we have since overcome other incredible barriers and affronts to our existence in order to be free to express our identities and live our lives as our truest self; this, I hope, goes beyond our community and to those identifying as straight as being free to break down archaic chains of patriarchy and toxic masculinity. Though we are certainly not free from all stigma and anxiety surrounding our identities, the perpetuating barriers we’re facing still in our industry are the lack of visible role models which comprised 58% of 350 queer respondents’ (from a further EGI survey) reason for not coming out – although 61% of respondents think there are LGBTQ+ role models within their business – and respondents feel that coming out at their company would negatively impact their career development, as well as creating a negative atmosphere around colleagues and clients.
I would also highly recommend to my queer associates in joining such groups as Freehold, Planning Out, and Open Plan for a safe and exploratory space in to the issues, highlights and successes of the wonderful LGBTQ+ professionals within our industry.
As a demographic, our news is often polarised and engendered to cause either the utmost panic or joy. In the past year alone, the following news stories have come out for the negative: Hungary has voted to end the legal recognition of trans people, Poland has introduced LGBTQ+ free zones in their city (banning any and all of those individuals as well as propagation of media), Putin has vowed that same-sex marriage will never be legal so long as he is in power, Singapore has ruled to uphold the criminalisation of homosexuality, and Chechnya continues to operate detention camps for LGBTQ+ where they are systematically tortured and abused, . And yet, we continue to exist and thrive in other aspects where nations have moved forward drastically with awareness and inclusion: France has just elected Marie Cau as its first ever trans mayor, Germany and Albania have banned conversion therapy, Grace Helen Whitener (a black, gay, female and disabled immigrant) was appointed to Washington State’s Supreme Court in America, Costa Rica has just legalised same sex marriage. These are merely snippets of a much wider, a much more diverse, oppression and a herald of reform that must continue if we are to succeed in unifying us all as a world of equals.
I am proud to say that at deverellsmith we are fervent champions of Stonewall and this year will be focusing on the visibility and inclusion of our and the sector’s LGBTQ+ figures across numerous platforms. We are launching a promising viral campaign on to raise awareness for the visibility shortcoming as well as in aid of akt (Albert Kennedy Trust) an LGBTQ+ youth homelessness charity.
Our message is simple, we want to provide a heightened platform for both the queer community and allies to showcase why visibility matters to them –
akt is an LGBTQ+ youth homelessness charity founded in 1989, it began its inception with an office in Manchester, and these have since expanded to London, Newcastle and Bristol too. akt has done wonders over the past three decades and not only do they aim to house an individual in less than 24 hours, they also give them the tools necessary to begin life afresh with access to higher education, university tutorship and the guidance to begin renting homes and finding gainful employment.
Though Covid-19 has hit the nation hard, the LGBTQ+ community has been disproportionately affected; due to the increased isolation at home, many queer people are being outed by their families and, unfortunately, succumb to being victims of domestic abuse by their parents, and an unprecedented number of them have been thrown out of their homes either because they have been disowned or because they are fleeing potentially life-threatening situations.
It’s important to remember, too, that those affected are between 16-25 years old, in the very inception of their adult life and no one, irrespective of sexuality or gender, should have to venture into adult life without the basic means of safety, love and respect.
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