Workplace Allyship: LGBTQIA+

Podcast Transcript

How can you be a better employer, friend, ally and colleague to those people in the LGBTQIA+ community?

In this episode of The Atelier, we speak to the incredible Allegra Haines, Founder of Influencer Marketing and Talent Booking agency The Booking Project about her journey and what we can do to create a better workspace for everyone.


Read on for the transcript here:-

JG: Welcome to The Atelier, where we workshop your work life, brought to you by Talent Atelier, the executive search business where we essentially act as a dating agency between businesses and people. I'm Jo, managing partner of Talent Atelier.

RSB: And I'm Rachel, founder and mother of both the business and my two kids. If you're listening to this, then you've seen the title of the episode and you want to know more, do better, and pave the way for LGBTQIA + community members.

JG: We spend a lot of time at work, and whatever that looks like to you, it's likely that someone around you, especially in the creative industries where Talent Atelier sits, will be part of that community.

RSB: I'm here to ask the questions you want to know about in order to support and create a positive space for everyone. I will definitely trip over my words and probably my feet. That's all part of it. However luckily I have some friends here to guide my way. Hi guys!

JG + AH: Hi!

RSB: Today I’ll be talking to Jo who obviously needs no introduction although I’m sure she wants one, as well as our friend and co-working space colleague Allegra Hains. She is a proudly trans woman, the Founder and Managing Director of The Booking Project, working in the influencer space, as well as being an activist, spreading positivity and education about her journey. She sits on the board of Soho House and the brilliant trans charity Not A Phase. Having chatted to her consistently when she comes to steal biscuits from our desk, I know that she’s the perfect, kind and supportive person to be a beacon of education for those wanting to support trans people. Was that alright, was that a nice intro?

AH: That was perfect.

JG: That was nice, wasn't it?

AH: Thank you.

JG: It's June, so we're deep in Pride Month. Obviously, awareness is a great step in terms of creating a level playing field for people in the workplace, but what does that mean? Allegra, welcome to our couch.

AH: Thanks for having me.

JG: We're so happy to have you here. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and perhaps what Pride represents to you?

AH: I mean, how long have I got?

RSB: Three and a half hours.

AH: Three and a half hours? Where do I start with myself?

RSB: Where are you right now?

AH: Where am I right now? Like you said, I am a really proud trans woman. I think I fought for many years pre coming out as trans, that I just wanted to be a woman, and that for a trans woman, is a lot of pressure, because with that comes the integral world to a lot of the trans community, which is passing. And you're looking at women in the same way - we've had this constant conversation in the CIS world, which is, well, actually just in the female world, which is models influencing people, how they should look. And add another layer on that. I think for a long time I was, like, convinced myself that broad shoulders would give it away, a slightly deep voice would give it away.

All of the things now that I actually think that I love about myself, I always try and play it back to, well, my mum's got quite a deep voice. My grandmother had a really deep voice. So I think as I've got older, I've taken the pressure off me a little bit. So I am a proud trans woman.

RSB: Great.

AH: That's where I am today.

RSB: Love that.

AH: And Pride is such a hot topic for what seems sadly, debate as the years have rolled on. But for me, I know before we started recording this, we had a kind of short conversation. Whenever I do anything like this, or if I do any type of public speaking, my main thread and the spine of anything I do is educate, don't ggress.

RSB: Yeah.

AH: So I really like what you said about you may trip over, we all trip over, whether you're in the community, not in the community. And it's about educating. It's not about going online and slamming people and calling them X, Y and Z or calling them bigots or this, that, and the other. I come from Wales, South Wales, and I have three elder brothers and a dad. Typical gorgeous Welsh dad who still trips over things. Now, when I was younger, I used to get upset by it and I used to think they weren't trying, but that was when I was young and dumb.

JG: You have to just have the conversation now, don't you?

AH: 100%. What was the point of, like, how dare you? I thought you were my family. And now it's like, I mean, they're all just incredible people because it's not just about the minutiae of the mistakes that one person can make, it's how much that person has been there for you.

JG: Yeah. And there's also a lot of nuance within our community as well, and being in rural Wales, they might not know tons of people from our community.

AH: Exactly, but on that subject what you notice in Pride sometimes all across the year is that you can get there's a lot of internal rubbish that goes on within the community. You know what I mean?

RSB: We talked about that earlier because I was trying to make sure that I was saying the right acronym. Making sure I included all the right letters and leaving out the right because you just don't know. And I've ended up practising that several times. But even within the community, that can be like, different people think different things.

AH: Well, the fact that you were practising it, and I know this is obviously your podcast, but the fact that you wanted to get that right is the kind of the seedling of an ally. So many times I've been in meetings where the person leading the meeting might have said LG… oh whatever, you know what I mean? Whatever it is, whatever it might be, I think, like really again, everyone makes mistakes, but I think just the community, and I think that encompasses everyone, because it is a growing community and that is unbelievable. But coming from rural Wales, like you said, you can only… Don't pick up on the small bits, you can only applaud the support and warmth of my family and whether you sometimes get my name wrong, whatever it might be, it's fine. Changed my name a few times.

RSB: How many names have you had?

AH: Three.

RSB: Really?

AH: Yeah. Do you want the history?

RSB: I do. And also on the admin side of that must be a mission. So much work, because I'm doing that for my daughter at the moment and it's a mission.

AH: She changed her name?

RSB: Yeah, I changed her name.

AH: You actually did?

RSB: No, I did!

AH: So do you know what's amazing about that?

RSB: I know for one, name change, the admin is huge.

AH: So obviously, I was born with my boy name, which was Joseph which I took it from Joe to Joey. So I guess that's one name change. And that's when I moved to London. I thought quite like Joey.

RSB: I like that. Yeah, that's good.

AH: Back in my head because it was Dawson's Creek. Yeah. Then when I transitioned, it became Bambi, because that was kind of a nickname.

AH: My friends call me that, my family call me that, my dad calls me… now… my name Allegra, but each one of them has a reason for change, obviously. Changing, transitioning. I wanted a name that was symbolic different, but I don't think I had the guts at that time, or even knew of a name. I don't think I even knew of a name at that time, which was… when I either wanted, or maybe I wasn't brave enough to go with a fully girly name. Bambi's actually a boy. The cartoon.

RSB: Really?

JG: Ah Yeah.

RSB: I never thought of that.

AH: The implication of Bambi, I think, is.

RSB: I never watched it all the way through because it's too sad.

AH: Yeah. But then I feel like when I progressed through my journey of trans womanhood and I turned 40 and I was like, actually, do you know what? I'm pretty amazing and look where I've got to in life. I had a full breakdown on my 40th birthday in the morning in Ibiza. Not from any substance, nothing. Just because I wasn't drinking at the time, just because I was like, I've made it. And I actually didn't think this was going to happen. I really didn't think it was going to happen. And I was like, I'm changing my name. And Allegra came in and my dad liked it and that was the main thing. Well, at first he said, that is a car, but that's that's Allegro, and it’s actually a really shit car as well, so it's not like I was called Porsche or anything like that, but I love Allegra because it's strong.

AH: It sounds like a Bond girl.

JG: So strong.

AH: Yeah.

RSB: Bambi is like an absolute boss name.

AH: Yeah. And it translates as like, joyful in Italian, and Spanish it's kind of similar. So every time someone serves me in a coffee shop in Shoreditch, often Italian, they will be like, what's your name? I'll give them my name and they're like, oh, nice. But also I was speaking to my therapist because when you change your name, you get faced with quite a lot of, oh god not again. I've just got used to this name. And my therapist kind of looked at me and he said, there are certain tribes and I can't remember where in the world he told me. So I'm not even going to try and guess that. When they used to go out to battle and they came back and were successful and they won, their prize was to be able to change their name because it was power. And again, it's just another chapter of a trans person's life where you have to face it. Unless you don't change your name and you're born with a name that can be androgynous.

RSB: Leaning into the work side of things. How did your clients react when you have gone through the name changes in the last few years? Were they confused by it or were they like, okay, fine, this is normal. And not your talent that you look after more the kind of person that's paying the bills and engaging your services.

AH: So obviously I've changed my name a few times, so therefore my business has grown. I worked for people on a freelance basis when it all first happened, and then I owned my business, which I've had for ten years when I changed to Allegra. Do you know what? I don't know the answer to that question because I didn't care.

RSB: Fair enough.

JG: And they didn't say anything to you?

AH: No. Changing to Allegra even so for the second time, it was like, this is what's going to be and that's it, and you know, my friends were amazing. My friends were like, oh, my God, I love Allegra. And some of them are like I like Allegra, some people liked Bambi. But it's just like a nickname. I think it’s when people put you on the spot and are like, “sorry what? I thought your name was Bambi. That's so confusing.” And you know what? Maybe it's easy for me to say, but sense check the situation, especially people that know I'm trans when it comes to a name, it's very indicative of the trans community and name change. Use your head.

JG: What skin is it off your nose if somebody changes their name?

AH: Exactly. Yeah, exactly.

RSB: But yeah, that's helpful. I think that's probably one of the questions we'll go into later is like, what can you do to support someone that you know is trans, that is kind of going through it or at the start of their journey.

Okay, Jo, you've got some stats, haven't you? Because you love stats.

JG: I do, yeah. When I was doing my research for the podcast, they're workplace stats about some of the things that we face in our community. So it's an Indeed survey of 732 members of the community and it shows some really interesting and quite sad ones about the workplace. So I won't lament on it too much, but just 30.7% of LGBTQIA+ employees are out to everybody at work, whilst 43.2% are only out to certain groups or individuals.

AH: Wow.

JG: Yeah, and for transgender employees, 62% report feeling pressure to manage their identity at work and 38% feel pressure to hide their identity altogether.

So another couple were: while 89% of respondents say their company has a nondiscrimination policy, 22% say their company does not enforce that policy. And over a third of respondents do not feel comfortable reporting discrimination to HR, 40% of those believe that the offending employee would face no real consequences if they were reported.

AH: Also add in a shit ton of people who work for startups that don't have HR companies/HR Division.

JG: Yeah exactly.

RSB: Which in the creative industries, there are lots and lots of founder-led businesses and there isn't a support network for that thing.

AH: Yeah.

RSB: Okay. That's impactful, isn't it? God, those bloody awful stats.

JG: Yeah. Sad, aren't they?

RSB: Yeah.

AH: I think it's sad because I think that especially when you live… whether you're in the community or not, actually, almost like if you're not in the community a lot of the time is painted out to be happy party lovers, all this kind of thing. But I think the truth of that is these stats prove that we really have so far to go well.

JG: Also as a community itself to pull together, there's still loads of disrespect within the community, but that's a whole different you could go all day on that.

RSB: But marginalised communities tend to fight against marginalised communities which is strange.

AH: 100%.

RSB: You think everyone would helping each other, but no they don't they fight against each other.

AH: No. Because it's easier to win a war with a smaller number against a smaller number completely.

RSB: Yeah. So obviously, based on those stats, being in a workplace for anyone within the community is hard at some point. It's not like, as you say, like everyone going in being all like, hey, it's rainbows and I'm gay, and it's all great, and that's not it. And there's a lot of mental health issues, there's a lot of pressure. There's obviously a lot of bullying and underlying bullying that's kind of played out as everyone being fun and like, oh, I'm not homophobic, but really, I am.

JG: There's lots of different mindsets in the community as well. You could be like me, who is very straight passing, and I can tell whoever I want that I'm queer. I can also just pretend I'm not at times. There's people that aren't straight passing that just have a hard time at work. And there's people that are straight passing that are really private. There's people that are proud. So there's lots of different people in our community.

RSB: So based on the fact that we're at work all the time, what do you think Allegra that you… if you were employing someone or going into a workspace, what would you envision that as a trans person, what could be a positive step for you to think that place was going to be great to work for?

AH: I think even when it comes to interview stage. I think it's like we as a company have, for example, a queer community.

RSB: Yeah.

AH: We have a body of people who are there as a support network. Not just to kind of put out the pink biscuits in June, but actually to be there in case you have any type of issue and you don't want to be faced with the CIS mum of four HR Director, who's not going to absorb your issues or have any lived experience in what you might be going through.

RSB: And if the company's small, so it's only we all are working for ourselves or have a really are part of a small business, how would you recommend, like us, Talent Atelier? Obviously we do everything that we can, but as a small business…

JG: All the interviews would be with me anyway,

RSB: They’d all be with you. But say we didn't have that representation or someone didn't realise. How would you recommend like a small business… because we're not going to have a queer team OF people. Do you think it should be from the get go? I love the idea of it being part of the interview process, kind of levelling things out. We're also going to do a talk soon about neurodiversity in the workplace and how interview processes can be levelled out for that as well. So is there anything that could… as like a queer or trans person, you feel that business is going to be a safe place to work?

Oh God, it's a really hard question.

AH: Yeah.

RSB: Because otherwise everyone would just do it.

AH: Yeah, it's hard because I'm thinking at it from angle of a trans woman. And if I was interviewing another trans woman or maybe trans male, it depends on the level of honesty from the beginning, whether they want to outwardly define themselves from the get go. But I think…

RSB: Other things like bathrooms, like if I had a small office and I have bathrooms, non gendered bathrooms, is that like a welcoming space? Do you want me to also put on my LinkedIn, my pronouns? Like those kind of things? I suppose. Are they helpful?

AH: I guess pronouns are, it's just become such a way of life. I mean, I am all for gender neutrality and toilets for many reasons, because for reasons of thinking about other trans women, specifically, I think in this conversation, trans males tend to be a bit more passable early on. Obviously we have to speak generally in these conversations. For a trans female who is at the beginning of their journey, it's like puberty, it's a difficult time. The pressure that certain trans women feel about going into a female only toilet, especially in the environment that we're in politically today, is huge. I watched a documentary the other night that a trans woman was out with her friends in a pub. She was so nervous about going to the toilet, she went home. So, yeah, I think the little things like that, but also, I think, again, it just depends how open that person is, the candidate.

But it's kind of just perhaps a bit of a kind of conversation about the level of support, no matter how big or small a company you are, in the same way, oh God, I think every turf will kill me for this. But in the same way that pregnant women are kind of allowed time to go to appointments, to making it clear that also when you're trans in any part of your journey, you have certain appointments that you need to take.

RSB: Okay, well, then, from an HR perspective, perhaps, because when people are being B Corp certified at the moment, there's now things going in there about, obviously, paternity, maternity, surrogacy and fertility treatment, having time to do that. So there should then be inclusivity about trans people. So in a handbook, when you get given a handbook about joining a company, it should just be part of the handbook and nothing like a big deal made out of it. Just like, if you're going through anything, blah, blah, and that's part of it.

AH: And I'll give you a good example of that. Because I was working on a TV show, so it would have been over ten years ago, when I first started the ball rolling. And I went to an appointment in Streatham and the guy was so lovely and he referred me to the Gender Clinic in Hammersmith. And I missed my second appointment because I was too scared to tell my employer… I was too scared to tell my employer that I had this appointment because at that time I hadn't told people. Whereas if I possibly had told them, would they have given me the time off, knowing the industry I was in then? Probably not.

RSB: Really?

AH: Yeah. The appointments you’ve got to go to are gender appointments therapy, which saves people's lives in the trans community. It's great for everyone, but you have to see psychotherapists, laser hair removal, which would sound like such a frivolous thing, but often statistically, trans men and women are in a lower bracket of income. So being able to go to a laser appointment in the middle of the week locally to your office is cheaper than going on the week, little things like that. So it's kind of like what's the word? It's kind of being compassionate to the needs of said trans person that you are interviewing. And I think that if I look back, way back when, I always like to go from the example of someone who is beginning their journey. Compassion is just compassion. A friend of mine works in the city, yeah. And actually finds that in the City, where you'd think, oh, it must be really difficult. I think it is. But also I find that the big global banks and brands in the finance sector are very in tune with what they need to do.

RSB: They formalise the process, haven't they?

AH: Yeah. So the corporate formalisation of systems is implemented when it comes to the community and I mean, I don't know the actual process, but a friend of mine works in the city and when he told me, I was like, that is so impressive. Like, it really is. Whereas I think in the creative world, it's almost like a given that it's like…

JG: We're all groovy here

AH: Yeh, like everything's fine, and oh, no, we don't need to formalise anything. That's why with startups it's like nothing's formalised. But that's where events can happen. Just because you work in Shoreditch, just because you live in London, does not make you an open minded person.

JG: It doesn't.

AH: It's true.

JG: Microaggressions happen everyday.

AH: People need to really remember that walking up London fields does not make you an open minded person.

JG: Do you find that businesses focus on the LGB rather than the TQIA+ people when being inclusive?

AH: Yeah, so, again, I'll speak from the T point of view. So, yeah, it's almost like a kind of domino effect and only the first three dominoes have fallen and that's as much as people can take in at the moment.

JG: Yeah.

AH: Hang on a minute, we've done the gays, we've done the bi's, it's like, oh, what's next, the t's? And actually, it's really interesting that politically, at the moment, the propaganda that goes out about the gay community in the 70s, which was it's a phase, they're threatening society, they're basically going to make everyone ill and everyone's going to die. They're the devil. That same rhetoric is today being applied to the trans community.

JG: They're coming for our kids, they're coming for our toilet

AH: They are coming for our kids, they’re coming for our toilets, and they are much worse than my husband that is beating the shit into me every single night. Yeah, so it's the same rhetoric. So you can apply that almost to yeah, 100%. In answer to your question, the tea and the rest of the community is kind of forgotten. I work my day job. I own an agency where we work with content creators. We represent and therefore brands. Trying to get a trans male or female booked for a brand is near impossible

RSB: Well, even for beauty?

AH: Yeah.

RSB: Wow.

AH: Yeah.

RSB: Gosh. Do you think it's bigger in America than it is here? Because you've got people like, I mean, not brilliant.

AH: Yeah, I think it is. And, like, Hunter is the face of Hunter, Schafer is the face of Lancôme. I don't know. I think there's a long way to go with that, but, yeah, I do think that.

JG: It feels that way.

AH: Yeah, for sure. I think what it is as well is I think that statistically, there are less trans people in the world, so there's less voices, so therefore less voices are heard and therefore less people learn about it. You know what I mean? It's like what's that statistic. Oh, 1 in 10 people are gay.

RSB: Yeah.

JG: And those voices are marginalised and they need support to get places.

AH: 0.05% of the population in the UK is trans.

RSB: Is there anywhere that's, like obviously, I mean, you were at Bacardi last week and they were doing a talk around things. Are there any companies where you've walked in and you've been like, these guys have got it right?

AH: I think in terms of what a brand does for the community, is someone like MAC, who just does it in such a silent way, but I don't think anyone realises the amount of money that they generate for the charity. It's unbelievable.

RSB: Is it all around Viva Glam?

AH: Yeah, and it's unspoken. It's like they'll push it and stuff, but it's actually incredible. And that is all year round, age old.

RSB: No one does it like that, do they?

AH: No. And so, in answer to your question, no, not really.

RSB: Yeah.

AH: I think it's really progressive that companies do have people in with who have got lived experience, who can talk to an audience of people to educate, to just talk about, I don't know, their life, what they do. And I think what's also really important, and that's something I'm super passionate about, is actually you can be trans and be happy.

RSB: Yeah. You're an example of that.

AH: Yeah. And it's a hard thing to say because I'm aware that there's an element of, oh, it's right for you, but I face my own battles.

RSB: And also you're allowed to be happy even if you hadn't faced your own battles. There's nothing wrong with being a happy person.

AH: But I think it's important for younger trans community members to be able to go ah. Because of my age, I'm 42 in a couple of weeks. I didn't have anyone when I was younger to go, that's what I want to be like. I had no one.

Actually if there was any representation, it was comical in the press, and they’d use horrendous headlines, then Nadia from Big Brother came along, and there were horrendous headlines on her. She won an entertainment show. And I had no one. But it's like there was no one to kind of go, I want to be that person. I want to be that person. I want to know that I can have a salary. I want to know that I can have a job and walk into a meeting room presenting as female and being authentically me. Because that was a fear when I was kind of thinking about transitioning. It was, how do I walk into a meeting, present as female, and be taken seriously?

RSB: Have you just kind of faked it till you made it and just kind of lived that person and then just finally been like, okay, I've landed in it?

AH: I just think you develop an inner strength, and you have no idea how strong you are. Because I look back now in moments where I think, oh, my 20's I was a bit like, of a nervous wreck, but I conquered in my 20's

RSB: I do think there's an element of age to this as well, because I think once you kind of get into your 40s, you kind of breathe out and go like, oh, okay, you have been through way more than kind of most people by the time you're 40. But also, I think there's kind of a gravity that comes with age and experience, kind of.

AH: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that not only do you get wise past 40, I think that for me personally, it is a case of, in those moments where you're faced with a work situation or you're faced with I don't know what the world's like? It's like someone's trying to… in work, someone's trying to intimidate, or it's just like, you have no idea what I've been through. And because I know what I've been through, what you're trying to do to me at the moment is a blip. It means nothing to me. Which is why I'm quite like, with me and Jo having a conversation earlier on about dating and stuff like that. For me, dating, it's like I just don't accept certain things, and my boundaries are super solid in life, generally.

My boundaries are solid, and it's not because, like, a man hater I love men. It's not about that. It's just like, I have an expectation, and I have built who I am today. It's like buying a house, doing it up, spending loads of money on it, and having a massive house party and ruining it. I'm very protective of my house. I.e me.

RSB: What do you think about being an ally in the workplace? How would you teach someone to be an ally in the workplace if they see something that's going wrong?

AH: So I think it all comes back to that kind of age old, descriptive water cooler moments. And water cooler moments nowadays have become communal kitchens in workplaces or after work drinks or team breakfasts. Whatever it might be. I think that one of the key things is, you know, not going up to somebody who's part of the community pulling a party popper during June and screaming and wearing your Kylie T shirt. I think it's just about actually the stuff that goes on behind said person's back in terms of any as an ally, you should be watching out for that member of the community or the xommunity as a whole.

So, like little things like, oh, don't say that if someone said something. People's sense of humour can be slightly offensive because they're fans of certain comedians.

RSB: Or even if they think they're making a joke with you.

AH: Correct. Yeah. It's like somebody who really isn't funny in life decides to crack one joke and it's like, I was only joking. But you've never been but you've never been funny your entire life and now, you've never been funny, and now you crack a joke and that's insulting. You don't get to do it. It's people normally that are fans of people like Ricky Gervais or that guy that got cancelled, almost got cancelled on Netflix that hammers trans people constantly.

I don't even think it's about not saying anything to offend a trans person, a queer person, whatever. It's even like colleagues that aren't part of the community bantering. Being an ally is going up to them and going, guys, that's not appropriate. You need to tone it down because that’s not cool. Confronting people like that, they’ll shut their mouth. And if it happens twice, report them.

JG: But I think people, if you're working, if they're members of the community and your team, I think it's on you to educate yourself. Don't expect us to educate you because they should be doing that themselves.

AH: Regardless of the size of the company, obviously cash flow. We all know we have our businesses. I think that what's really cool is Not A Phase who I'm on the board of. It's an incredible trans charity. Do offer a service where Dani, the founder of the charity and soon to be a few other people as well, who will be following a kind of, I guess, manual but still talking from the heart, from lived experience, will go into a company and advise these kind of things, how to be an ally.

JG: That’s great

RSB: We'll put links to Dani's charity in the show notes because she's an incredible vision. I watched a talk with both of you and I just came away from it just mind blown and just felt so like, ah great. And it felt like a toolkit.

AH: Yeah. And that's I think that's really important. That toolkit that's been created by the charity, which is amazing, kind of sums up this whole podcast conversation. Whatever it might be. What do you ask people? All of these things. But ultimately, one of the key things here is, we’re just people. Treat us like people. And do not read the press.

JG: Allegra thanks so much for joining us today. It was such a pleasure.

RSB: Thank you so much.

AH: Thank you for having me. Honestly, it was great. Lovely talking about changes that can be made to be of benefit to the community.

RSB: Please do follow us, like and subscribe, and if you've got anything to say, you can email us on And the show notes for this episode will have lots of links for various different charities and Allegra we're also going to tart up your link in so it actually makes sense because it looks at the moment like you've been hacked. But you can also follow her on Instagram. I don't know. Can you?

AH: Yeah @thebookingproject.

RSB: Okay. And we're signing off for now. Bye.

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