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Is architecture gay-friendly?

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Dieter Gockmann of EPR and an ambassador for gay rights charity Stonewall, explains why architecture is not as gay-friendly as it seems

Is architecture gay-friendly?
There is a perception that a lot of architects are gay and architecture is more gay-friendly than other professions, but I am not convinced this is true. There are no construction companies in Stonewall’s list of top 100 employers. We do not know how many lesbian, gay or bisexual architects there are, how their careers are progressing, or whether they could be performing better for the practices they work for and themselves. There is still a sense of embarrassment discussing issues faced by LGB architects or how employers can support LGB employees.

Describe your experiences of homophobia in practice
I came out aged 17 in the late 1980s when the legal age of consent for gay men was still 21 and there was very little positive representation of gay people in the media. My first experience of homophobia was early on in my career in architectural practice and I did not have the confidence or skills to deal with it.

How did your managers respond at the time?
My employers failed to address the situation. This was not through any bad intent, but because they did not know how to deal with the situation, or because they were embarrassed or felt awkward discussing my sexuality. I did not have the confidence to seek the support I needed to manage the situation appropriately.

What is the reality of being open about your sexuality in the workplace?
I still have to make decisions on a daily basis about whether or not to come out to the people I meet professionally. People will often assume I am straight, particularly since I married my partner and started wearing a wedding ring. They will ask questions about my wife and children. I have to choose whether to lie, politely avoid the question, or tackle it head-on and come out.

Why is it important for LGB architects to feel they can be open about their sexualities in the workplace?
If an LGB architect does not feel comfortable sharing details of their personal life with their colleagues, or spend time and energy constructing alternate realities to hide their sexuality, there is a danger that they become isolated from the people that they need to be communicating with, or that they are expending energy maintaining a facade that would be better spent focusing on their work.

How can practice managers support LGB staff?
Identify role models and start a discussion to raise awareness of the positive impacts diverse and inclusive workplaces can have, not just for LGB architects, but for everyone.

LGB Architect survey

The AJ is conducting an anonymous survey of gay, lesbian and bisexual architects to find out how practices are meeting their needs. To take part, please visit: www.surveymonkey.com/s/LGBarchitects.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • John Kellett

    The profession has much greater concerns at the moment than private personal sexual orientation issues. There is also rife, but mostly unintentional and unconscious, discrimination against the disabled, female, short, ginger-haired and state-educated throughout the profession.
    It is being marginalised by our un(der)qualified competitors who are profiteering on the break-up of an holistic profession into numerous specialisms. Specialisms that lack any overview of the project, as a whole, meeting the client’s requirements.
    What’s the point of being a diverse and egalitarian profession, if ‘society' thinks/decides it doesn’t want architects anymore?

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