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Sexual orientation and transgender equality still lacking in Lancashire work places study suggests

30 April 2013

Lyndsey Boardman

UCLan academics share research findings

A study by researchers at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has found that many organisations still have a long way to go before sexual orientation and transgender equality is prevalent in Lancashire’s work places.

Trish Byrne-Roberts and Dr Chris Hough have worked with Clive Taylor, Equality and Diversity Lead within Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust (LCFT), to assess the impact that the Navajo sexuality awareness training course has made in helping organisations to make a cultural change in their understanding of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) individuals and groups.

Navajo is a Lancashire project designed to tackle oppression, stigma and prejudice and to promote social well-being and acceptance in society of LGBT people. As part of its commitment to supporting Navajo, LCFT offers a training programme for organisations to deliver effect equality and diversity training in the work place.

After surveying two focus groups of representatives from fifteen Lancashire organisations who attended the Navajo training course, the results suggest that people in the work place often compartmentalise the different areas of equality and it’s easier to think that they exist as separate, discrete characteristics.

“Encouraging people to commit to developing their own awareness, tolerance and understanding of sexuality issues often means that the prevailing culture within an organisation has to change”.

Examples include a comment from a manager who explained how the categories of LGBT and Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) are often viewed as separate groups or individuals that somehow exist in isolation. A senior manager appeared shocked to realise that BME people may also be LGB or T.

The data revealed other examples of overt prejudice, including the abuse of power by professionals, such as a medical doctor who thought his professional status placed him outside the need to change his attitudes and values to meet the needs of LGBT patients.

Dr Hough commented: “Encouraging people to commit to developing their own awareness, tolerance and understanding of sexuality issues often means that the prevailing culture within an organisation has to change”.

“This is one of the most difficult changes to bring about in a work place and has implications for how training and development programmes are structured, in challenging people to explore the whole context of sexuality and “difference.”

Research conducted by fellow UCLan academic, Principal Lecturer Trish Byrne-Roberts, suggests that a similar pattern of behaviour towards sexual orientation and transgender issues is widespread within schools.

Trish, whose main research focus is in hate crime and anti-bullying, delivers workshops to 25 schools in Preston and East Lancashire who participate in the UCLan Junior Universities programme. Through these workshops she found that almost no schools have policies in place to tackle homophobia.

"Specific areas of hate crime such as sexual orientation, race and religion need to have a focused approach so that teachers can draw upon a shared knowledge base for support when tackling incidents.”

Trish said: “There is a gap within many school anti-bulling policies when it comes to sexual orientation discrimination so it is harder to tackle homophobic bullying. Specific areas of hate crime such as sexual orientation, race and religion need to have a focused approach so that teachers can draw upon a shared knowledge base for support when tackling incidents.”

The research findings were shared at the Invisible Boundaries conference held at UCLan and presented an evaluation of the Navajo sexuality training programme which has taken place over the last 12 years.

The researchers want to use their findings to ensure that professional agencies can deliver effective equality and diversity training within workplaces such as school environments, social work settings and the public sector.

Clive Taylor, Equality and Diversity Lead within Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have a mixture of responses from people who attend Navajo training courses as to how important organisations consider LGBT issues to be.

“It’s really important that we evaluate the effectiveness of the training and ensure that key individuals within organisations can receive a training induction that will empower them to deliver the Navajo training in their own organisations.”

Part of the culmination of research has led to the development of the UCLan Sexuality Training Toolbox, which can be commissioned by organisations as a development and training package. The Toolbox is designed to support individuals and organisations in delivering or participating in the training via online materials or through face to face training sessions.

Dr Hough added: “It will allow organisations to develop effective equality and diversity policies and provide them with training to engage with uncomfortable and often sensitive issues associated with what may be unacknowledged prejudices in the work place.”

For more information about the researchers’ work and the Navajo-UCLan Sexuality Training Toolbox contact David Howard by email on dhoward1@uclan.ac.uk or telephone on 01772 892250.