What is sexual orientation?

The type of romantic, sexual and/or emotional/spiritual attraction one feels for others.  Due to historical social, economic, political, organisational and cultural structures of oppression and violence, people may not be able to declare their sexual orientation for long periods of time and may remain hidden or try to pass as the dominant, socially validated group – heterosexuals. This is still the case for many people who are gay, lesbian or bisexual. The intersection of the sexual orientation of an individual with other aspects of their identity such as race, gender or age, compounds the level of oppression experienced by individuals in societies where true equal recognition is still being fought for. The video below by Suriya Aisha helps to illuminate this.

What does the law say?

You must not be victimised, harassed or discriminated against because you are, or people think you are or you know someone who is heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual. Under the law, how you choose to express your orientation (e.g. your appearance, places you go to) is also covered.

Sexual orientation in the workplace

For most people who are heterosexual, sexual orientation is not hidden in the workplace. Heterosexual members of staff often talk freely about their families, what they did at the weekend, and their caring responsibilties, for example. If lesbian, gay or bisexual employees do not feel able to be themselves, this will have an impact on how they feel at work, how they behave and how they interact with others. It also affects how they spend their time – it takes effort and time to ‘hide’ your identity. It can be very stressful to keep a core part of your identity hidden, regardless of context.

The talk below by Thomas Lloyd provides one perspective of an individual owning their own identity and the right to express it in a socio-cultural and political framework which seeks to negate difference. It shows the consequences and impact that hiding your identity has on an individual, their life choices and provides examples of the resistance faced.


Further reading

Sexual Orientation The Equality Act