It’s one thing to change your company logo to the Pride flag (yes, we did) in order to show solidarity to the LGBTQI+ community, but do companies really understand the meaning of Pride?
By Blackdog - one year ago
Many big corporates have been criticised over the years for hanging their hats on Pride events as a means to curry favour with current popular movements and communities. It is understandable that some brands are seen to be virtue signalling, as for many, years of living on the fringe of society is not easily forgotten.
Without knowing the history of Pride, it’s easy to think of it as one big party, but many may not be aware that Pride actually started with a riot. A riot that exploded after years of suppression, of gay men and women being dragged out of gay bars and charged under criminal law and people being ostracised from their families.
A series of spontaneous demonstrations by members of the LGBTQI+community took place in response to a police raid that began in the early hours of 28 June 1969, at The Stonewall Inn in New York. These became known as The Stonewall Riots and inspired the entire Pride movement.
The parade that we have come to know and love has always been one of huge political importance. People risked losing family, friends and even jobs to march on the parade and fight for their rights to live their lives without fear. We have made huge strides over the last 50 years as a community, thanks to the Pride movement, but there is still a way to go.
As a gay woman who has been out for over 25 years, I have seen so many changes within society in the understanding of LGBTQI+ issues, some good, some bad. I was one of the lucky ones whose family and friends gave me so much love and support, but I was also subjected to occasional verbal abuse and even a physical attack outside a pub that put me in A&E for a night.
With regards to my career, I have always found the creative mind to be an extremely open one, always keen to embrace and understand the differences in people, and therefore the creative industry as a whole has always felt inclusive to me.
I came out in the mid-90s at university, at a time when Anna Friel made the front pages of the national press for her ‘sordid lesbian kiss’ on Brookside. Times were very different back then, and scary. But also hopeful. I went to Pride with my best friends (some of whom also turned out to be gay - my mum always said there must have been something in the water). After growing up feeling shame and embarrassment about our identities we had finally found a community ready to embrace us and fight for us, and we jumped in! We went to many Prides over the years and rejoiced in our collective victories. Section 28, a law that prohibited the ‘promotion of homosexuality by local authorities, was repealed in 2003. Civil partnerships became legal in 2005 and eventually became known simply as ‘marriage’ in 2013. We started to see ourselves represented in the media more, and not just as the token queer person(see John Inman – ‘I’m Freeee’ in Are You Being Served?).
The Pride flag changes all the time in an effort to embrace all new identities and genders on the spectrum and we always try and develop our own minds to be open, to learn and to understand. Sadly hate crime continues to rise, and homo/trans/bi-phobic hate crime is higher than ever. My friends and I still march and will continue as long as there is someone whose voice needs to be heard.
One thing that I found when I started my career was having to come out all over again to all the new people in my life. This was not a problem and, as I mentioned before, working in a creative marketing agency meant nobody took issue with this. However, it’s something I’ve realised I’ve had to do over and over in my life. You don’t just come out once and that’s it. With every new job, there comes a point where you have to have ‘that’ conversation or correct someone’s assumption about your partner (“Do you have a fella?” is a common one). I stress here that this is just my experience, and others may feel differently about this. Coming out is deeply personal and not something everyone is comfortable with, but for me personally, I have always felt the need to show up as my authentic self. And with age, I have felt a responsibility to my younger colleagues to show them that I am proud of who I am.
As time and the world has moved on, so have people’s attitudes toward me and my pursuit of a family of my own. Where once it was assumed I would never have the baby I dreamed of or be married, I now find myself with a fiancée and a 16-month-old baby, something I would never have believed possible in those early days in 90s Britain!
But there is still lots of hate out there, and it is still occasionally directed at me. My child was called ‘an abomination over social media by a keyboard warrior. I’d say she is in fact ‘a miracle’. OK, maybe a Tasmanian devil at times, but an abomination? No. You should see her, she’s amazing. I’d bore you with my iPhone library if you were next to me right now for sure (or you can always follow my Instagram @Iceicebaby_02).
Hard to believe that in 2021 people are still being abused and physically attacked for being gay. And so we march on, only now I’m marching for a better world for my baby girl. One in which she doesn’t have to feel shame about her two mummies, and one in which she can be whoever she wants to be.
The Pride movement has smashed down walls and made our voices be heard. With large companies joining in the party, although it might be seen as suspicious or cynical by some, I would say that it makes that company/brand a safe space for its customers and colleagues.
In order to be a true ally to the LGBTQI+ community, businesses need to encourage people to call out homophobia, transphobia, biphobia etc as and when they hear/see it. It’s not enough anymore to simply not be homophobic - an ally must stand up for and alongside the people they are advocating for.
I love that Blackdog is embracing Pride month, it makes me and my little family feel safe and supported, which is so important. I hope also that it shows our clients and any new colleagues that join our team that should they ever come out (whether for the first, second or third time in their life) that they will always be met with understanding and support.