Representation in the workplace, as in wider society, is important for everyone. Not seeing people like yourself, or that you can relate to, succeeding in life suddenly makes the idea of you doing so that bit more out of reach.
This concept of representation isn’t just confined to the here and now. The representation of female, LGBTQ+ and BAME stories are largely absent from historical records compared to those centred on straight, white male figures. Here model, global campaigner and founder of The Queer Bible, Jack Guinness, explains why he started the platform and what changes he’d like to see brands make in order to become genuinely inclusive.
Virgin: What is The Queer Bible and what impact do you want it to have?
Jack: The Queer Bible is a space to explore our shared history. We ask members of the queer community to write about their queer hero. Each piece is accompanied by an illustration by an up and coming artist. The essays are funny, moving and inspiring - there’s something for everyone. It’s meant as a jumping off point, an introduction to history and culture - find some that inspires you and off you go read their books, search for their music or look at their art.
What inspired you to set it up?
Minority groups often have their history forcibly erased or, for safety, people cover up and hid their own history. Countless LGBTQ+ stories will have been lost throughout history. Stories we will never know. Lives erased in the sands of time. I want to preserve our history in one place and make the website as beautiful, engaging and inspiring as our subjects. I’m basically making the site I wish I’d had growing up.
How important are role models for the LGBT+ community?
When you come out you can feel instantly at odds with those around you. You can feel different from your friends and family and the search for identity and belonging can be lonely and lead to self-destruction. Engaging with your own history, especially if it’s as interesting as the queer community’s, is incredibly empowering. Young people shouldn’t just survive, I want them to thrive, realising that they walk in the footsteps of some of the most wonderful humans to ever exist!
How can business’ better support LGBT+ workers?
Studies prove that inclusive business and cities do better financially. Whatever your opinions, it is in your company’s best interest to make sure you have an inclusive, safe and equal organisation. It’s so encouraging to know we don’t have to rely on altruism, it’s a fact - make LGBTQ+ employees feel safe to come out, make sure you have structural policies in place that ensure equality. Don’t try on individuals; make your company culture truly inclusive from the top down. Engage with charities like Stonewall to run courses that give your employees the tools to implement such policies. It’s that simple!
What advice would you give to someone coming up against barriers, related to their sexuality or otherwise, in their career?
Find allies - even one person - that will make your journey all the more bearable. I would also advise people to only come out when it is safe to do so. It is your decision if you want to come out especially if it may adversely affect your career. But know, if it is safe and you take that first step, you will be a visible trailblazer making it easier for those who come after you. Being an ‘out’ male mode has definitely cost me jobs but proving to brands that men will happily but clothes modelled by a gay man literally moves things forward.
What one thing would you encourage leaders to do to ensure their organisation is an inclusive and representative space?
Quite simply - if you don’t create that kind of environment, your competitors will and they’ll attract all the best LGBTQ+ employees. If you want to flourish and succeed, lead and set the agenda rather than playing catch-up!