The pandemic has upended almost every aspect of our lives and put most of our 2020 plans once ice – including this year’s Pride celebrations. But given how important Pride is for our members, we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to revisit its origins, examine what it means now and discuss how individuals and employers can do more to be an LGBTQ+ ally.
We’ve gathered some of the highlights from our discussion as well as resources shared by our speakers for you to read at your leisure. And as we said at our event, we want to keep the conversation going. We’ll be holding an LGBTQ+ meetup, hosted by Bruno Sussat, on 8 October both online and in-person at Plexal. Join us by signing up on Eventbrite.
While for some people Pride is all about the three Gs (glitter, glamour and gin), Bruno opened our virtual panel by drawing attention to Pride’s origins – which are just as relevant today. Bruno pointed out that the annual Pride march was born from the Stonewall Riots, which took place in response to a police raid in June 1969. The demonstrations spearheaded the gay rights movement and were led by transgender women, including black transgender rights activist Marsha P. Johnson.
Anna, who last year used her company blog to talk about how being bisexual has affected her career in science and publishing, noted how Pride has changed over the years to recognise different groups:
“I’m bi and have always identified as bi, but as a community we haven’t always been very visible within Pride. But now there’s now a bisexual Pride, a trans Pride and Black Pride. These different types of Pride feel important and necessary.”
Jack, meanwhile, admitted that he’d never been to a Pride event – partly because he views himself as someone who is more privileged than other members of the community. “I really do come from a position of privilege – I’ve never run into any issues, so I haven’t felt the need to attend. Living openly as gay at work and in the street, that’s my pride. And although enjoy dressing up on occasion, that aspect and all the glitter doesn’t represent me and my pride.”
Our discussion turned to Big Pride, how corporations have embraced the celebrations – and whether this was a welcome part of Pride’s evolution.
Anna said that even though Pride has become “a bit too commercial” for her liking, she’s glad that companies are being public about their support. “There is a lot of competitive pinkwashing but in a way it’s kind of good that they feel they have to do that. Invisibility is a big problem, especially for bi people where you might not be obviously queer to people. All the rainbows in shops and in trains last year made me feel more comfortable actually, and I got into it by wearing badges. Pride helps me to be more visible not just at the event but afterwards too.”
Jack talked about how Natural Cycles has become more conscious about the language it uses to be a more inclusive brand and employer: “One example is the way I introduced Natural Cycles as being for anyone with a uterus. Before we might have said it’s for women who want to prevent or plan a pregnancy, but it’s really important to recognise that some people in our user base don’t identify as women but have a uterus and have a menstrual cycle.”
Jack also told us that discrimination or bias relating to people’s sexuality or gender wasn’t openly talked about at work, because everyone was accepted and it wasn’t an issue that needed to be addressed.
But Anna challenged this, saying “if it’s not talked about, is it really accepted?”. Anna, who has made a public statement about Cofactor being LGBTQ+-friendly, said that employers should consider creating specific policies and that an employer saying they welcome everyone wasn’t good enough.
Speaking about her own decision to discuss being bisexual on her business blog for the first time, she said: “It was about integrating myself with my business. I felt that there were two separate parts of me: a business me and a bi me. And they didn’t really mix. It was so freeing to think that they could both be there, mixing in the open.”
Not everyone is lucky enough to work in an environment where they feel safe and accepted, though. And even in environments that seem to be diverse and inclusive, microaggressions can make people feel excluded.
On this subject, Bruno opened up about how jokes aren’t always as harmless as some people might think: “I’m not quiet about my sexuality, but in a previous role a colleague would often make jokes by referring to platforms like Grindr in business meetings, stating that I’d know all about them. I think it’s quite easy to make light of a gay man who seems quite comfortable with himself, but making jokes based purely on somebody else’s sexuality and experiences is not appropriate. I felt like I was taken less seriously because of my sexuality. And that’s quite a hard one.”
Our event wrapped up by exploring how everyone – not just brands – can be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community right now.
Here are some closing thoughts from our panellists, plus some resources and links if you’d like to do more reading.
Bruno: “Allyship is needed now more than ever, especially since lots of members of the LGBTQ+ community have had their safe spaces removed from them because of lockdown. Some people have had to return to family homes where their sexuality isn’t accepted. And just like the Black Lives Matter movement has shown that it’s not enough to not be racist but that we have to be anti-racist, it’s not enough to not be homophobic, biphobic or transphobic – you have to work actively against those things. And if you see those behaviours, you really should be calling them out as an individuals or as an organisation, whether you identify as LGBTQ+ or not. That’s the role of an ally.”
“It’s not enough to not be homophobic, biphobic or transphobic – you have to work actively against those things”
– Bruno Sussat innovation lead, Plexal
Jack: “It may sound obvious but have an open mind and listen. And then if for any reason you feel like you’ve made a mistake, don’t be afraid to just sort it out.”
Anna: “Homophobia actually affects everyone, even if they’re straight. For example, there’s a lot of pressure on straight men to be less effeminate and not all women want to be feminine. I don’t like being feminine all the time. I’d like everyone to just feel like we’re all part of a spectrum. Secondly, never assume what someone’s gender is just by looking at them. The bisexual community always say assume nothing.”
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