SHU Allies

How do I become an Ally?

So you want to be a SHU Ally, that’s fantastic!
To sign up please complete the online form. (This is an internal staff network for Sheffield Hallam University staff only. Please open in Google Chrome as IE doesn’t support the form.)
This will ask you a few questions such as your contact details, your area of work, e-mail address etc.
Once this is complete, your allies introduction pack will be posted out to you. This will include information about being an ally, your allies lanyard or pin that we’d ask you to wear with pride and information about how to use the allies e-mail signature.
As this is about being visible, your name and the level of ally you have signed up for will then be visible on the allies page of the SIGNAL blog.

If you just want to find out more before signing up please contact

LGBT+ Allies at Sheffield Hallam University

Thank you for joining the LGBT+ Allies group at Sheffield Hallam

Sheffield Hallam University makes equality, diversity and inclusion a central tenet of its organisation through its central strategy which focuses on ‘transforming lives’.

Allies of LGBT+ people should never underestimate the significant difference they can make to LGBT+ people’s lives through positive support. This involves recognising that individuals deserve respect and equality, able to be themselves openly and honestly with their colleagues, without fear of their reactions.

One of the hardest things many LGBT+ people find difficult, especially early in their lives, is then need to keep ‘coming out’ i.e. telling another person; family, friend, colleague or acquaintance that they are a LGBT+ person. It takes courage and resilience to be so open especially as others’ can be less than accepting and even harshly negative.

During my lifetime, the acknowledgement and openness with which LGBT+ people can live their lives without fear of retribution has changed beyond anything most LGBT+ people of my generation and before, ever imagined. Sexual orientation and gender identity was rarely discussed and if it was, it was often in derogatory terms. There was even sometimes physical and psychological abuse of those who identified as different from what was considered the heterosexual ‘norm’.

The growing number of allies have transformed LGBT+ people’s experience. From my own experience, having the acceptance and care of friends and colleagues for most of my adult life enabled me to be the person I am today. You should never underestimate what you give to LGBT+ people by being an ally and an advocate for them. I know many LGBT+ people are enormously grateful – allies have helped transform our life experiences.

In deciding to become an ally for LGBT+ you are contributing to a major societal change, creating a safe environment where all colleagues feel valued and empowered. Having an open culture where colleagues can be open about who they are improves people’s work performance and engagement with the organisation. We can all champion this change and improvement to the equality in the workplace, and on behalf of LGBT+ colleagues I wish to thank you for agreeing to tackle homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

Together we can continue to transform LGBT+ people’s lives, where there are no assumptions about sexuality or gender identity and individuals are valued as a person and for the contribution  they make, to society and the university.

I look forward to working with my University Leadership Team (ULT) colleagues on your behalf to continuing to build a university and a society where all people can be honest about who they are and what they want to achieve personally and professionally. And let’s set up a dialogue between all relevant parties to ensure we all support LGBT+ staff

Alison Metcalfe
Pro Vice Chancellor for Health & Wellbeing
LGBT+ Champion

What is an ally?

An ally is an advocate, supporter and friend. Someone that stands up for their colleagues and helps to create a working environment where LGBT+ people feel welcomed and included. An ally stands up for & champions LGBT+ equality and challenges homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

Why does this matter?

An ally is someone who believes that LGBT+ people should experience full equality in the workplace. Good allies recognise that LGBT+ people can perform better if they can be themselves and allies use their role within an organisation to create a culture where this can happen. Some LGBT+ individuals fear that if they come out that their good relationships with colleagues will change and their colleagues may treat them differently. Allies help to create a safe environment for everyone to be able to bring their entire selves to work.

Allies can see & influence how the day-to-day experiences of being out as LGBT at work actually plays out.

You shouldn’t assume that all LGBT+ people will have had negative experiences or not be comfortable/confident being ‘out’, and that celebrating an LGBT+ inclusive environment does not necessarily have to mean supporting individuals.

At work it matters because:

  • One in five (19 per cent) lesbian, gay and bi employees have experienced verbal bullying from colleagues, customers or service users because of their sexual orientation in the last five years
  • One in eight (13 per cent) lesbian, gay and bi employees would not feel confident reporting homophobic bullying in their workplace
  • A quarter (26 per cent) of lesbian, gay and bi workers are not at all open to colleagues about their sexual orientation
  • Half of trans people (51 per cent) have hidden their identity at work for fear of discrimination
  • More than a third of trans students (36 per cent) in higher education have experienced negative comments or behaviour from staff in the last year.

Allies really can make a difference, so please get involved.

What it means to be a LGBT+ ally at SHU

Level One

  • Be Visible – the single most important thing you can do as an ally is make yourself visible, so everyone knows that SHU is a workplace where people can spend energy being themselves, not hiding it. There are lots of things you can do to show your visible support, wear the rainbow lanyard or pin, put our stickers in visible places such as you on your PC, laptop, stationary or on your desk or use our e-mail signature at the bottom of all your e-mails. Being visible means that LGBT+ colleagues can see that you are supportive of LGBT+ identities whether this is a new starter or someone you have known for a long time with changing circumstances.
  • Avoid making assumptions about someone’s orientation or identity – This can be hard to remember, but can make a real difference to people. It’s simple as remembering to ask ‘do you have a partner?’ instead of ‘do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife?
  • Don’t “Out” people without their consent – Coming out is personal and different for everyone. Some people are out to the world, others only come out to a select few. It is not your place to divulge someone else’s sexual orientation or gender identity, unless you have their consent to do so. Coming out can be hard enough, choosing who to come out to is another dimension of this. Even if you are well intentioned, it is not your story to tell.
  • Embrace things even if you don’t fully understand them – Every person is different, and that means we all come across things that we might not understand, or that are new or different to us. It’s OK to not fully understand a person’s identity as long as you don’t judge them – curiosity will get you further than judgement.
  • Challenge homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language and behaviour by escalating this to a level two ally, champion or role model –In the work place, this kind of behaviour tends to be subtle. It can be someone saying “that’s gay”, but it could also be someone being treated differently, or comments being made behind someone’s back. It’s hard to speak up in these circumstances and if you feel unable to do this personally then escalate this to a level two ally, champion or role model (to find out who these are please see the SIGNAL website) who will then challenge the behaviour themselves. This can make a huge difference to our working environment. You should also check if they seem ok.

Level Two

  • All of the above plus:-
  • Challenge homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language and behaviour – It’s hard to speak up in these circumstances, but if you do it can make a huge difference to our working environment. You may also be asked to challenge behaviour on behalf of a level one ally who does not yet feel able and confident enough to challenge the behaviour themselves. If you are unsure how to challenge this openly or you feel unconfident, talk to your manager or another colleague to see if they can support you in challenging inappropriate behaviour. In addition further support is available from SIGNAL, the Equality & Diversity Team or the Directorate of Human Resources & Organisational Development.
  • Champion being an Ally and get others involved – It is really important that as many people as possible across the university are aware of the allies programme, what it means to be an ally and why this is important in promoting an inclusive workplace. Encourage members of your team or other colleagues you work with to get involved as an ally, promoting and talking about it and events they can get involved in and support.
  • It’s OK if you don’t have all the answers, but if you want to learn more – get involved! – The more active you are as an ally, the more people you’ll meet and the more you’ll learn about the LGBT+ spectrum, it’s constantly changing. There are number of ways you can get involved, attend ally/SIGNAL events, help organise events, ask SIGNAL, you can e-mail with any questions or visit the stonewall website, the UK’s leading LGBT charity for more information.