Today marks the end of Pride month in several countries, including the U.K., the U.S. and Australia. And, while the past few weeks have been a chance to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, they've also been a time to reflect and acknowledge that more needs to be done to stamp out inequality and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people across the world.
We've not been able to celebrate Pride as we would pre-COVID. So, this year, we asked our colleagues and subscribers to share their favorite memories of Pride, as well as what the month means to them.
Erika Valenti, Regional Manager NA at Emerald Group put it perfectly, "Pride is celebrating the beauty of different but the same."
Jenny Chester, Journal Production Coordinator at Emerald also reflected on the happiness of Pride and the feeling of camaraderie and togetherness that it often sparked, "My favorite memory from Leeds Pride [in West Yorkshire, U.K.] is the members breaking out into a rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody as we marched down the bottom of The Headrow.
"To stand side by side with both friends and strangers, sharing a moment of joy and celebration was incredible. Singing together with one voice, as a community, was a powerful feeling. For me, Pride is that feeling of joyful celebration of yourself and others."
Learning and Organizational Manager, Mike Shaw, shared a particularly poignant memory of Manchester Pride, in the north west of England. He also highlighted the part it's played in fighting the social stigma attached to being LGBTQ+.
He recalled, "I love Pride and particularly Manchester Pride, as it's great to see my city so energized celebrating LGBTQI+ with a city-wide parade, music, performance, etc.
"The part of the weekend I am most proud of though, is right at the end of the Bank Holiday Monday. After three days of partying, dancing and drinking, is the AIDS vigil. Set in Sackville Park, at the heart of the 'Gay Village,' which has the AIDS memorial, thousands of people come together to remember those who are no longer with us, the journeys that people have been on, and the impact of HIV and AIDS over the past 40 or so years.
"As emotional and hard as it is, it is also one of my highlights of the year – celebrating people's lives and fighting social stigma. I am proud and so moved that amid the celebrations, we can find time to stop, reflect, remember, and comfort. The sight of a candlelit sea raised high, is so beautiful... as you can see in the photo."
For Donna Marie-Johnson, who joined the conversation on our Facebook Career Community group, Pride has been about allyship. And, most importantly, it's encouraged her to listen more to those that often feel unheard and unacknowledged.
She explained, "I had a co-worker who went through a name change after she transitioned [gender]. No one told me this before I did a company-wide search for her. I was shocked because I had never heard of that before. But, when I finally found her, I just listened. That's all she wanted, someone to listen to her. Because of this, I got an employee of the month award. It changed my whole perspective. I cannot judge what other people choose for themselves, that's not my place, but I can just listen. It's an honor to do so."
If you'd like to learn more about how to support your LGBTQ+ colleagues in the workplace like Donna, check out our blog post on the topic here.
In a very moving and personal post, another of our colleagues, who wished to remain anonymous, reflected on their own personal journey. They talked about how far Pride has come in enabling people to live authentic lives, but also how far we still have to go to achieve true equality.
They commented, "Pride is more than a party – it's a state of mind, a way of walking. It's looking someone in the eye. It's not having to fight your demons every waking hour and some of your sleeping ones, too. Yes, it's the absence of shame, but something so much more. And it's the work of a lifetime for someone like me, who grew up in the 70s and 80s when U.K. newspaper headlines spiraled from 'lesbo affair' tittle-tattle to 'gay plague' hate.
"Alternately ostracized and terrorized by schoolmates, I knew of literally no one like me, in real life or fiction. Without the language to explain to myself what I was feeling let alone to anyone else, I quickly learned that to give even a hint of the turmoil inside would be disastrous, for my physical safety, for friendships, for family peace, and for any career prospects. So I shut up and shut down.
"My shell of denial and self-loathing began to crack toward the end of college when I met 'out and proud' gay and lesbian people for the first time (there was almost no recognition of B for bisexual then, let alone TQAI+). They didn't have two heads. They were just a lot more honest and non-judgmental than most of the determinedly straight set I hung out with!
"My first serious job was for an employer whose equality and diversity policy was streets ahead of most. First, they had one. Second, they lived it every day, in who they recruited, in how they treated clients. No empty words on a poster (of which there were many around the building), but somewhere to learn what respect really meant – a safe space for me to explore my own identity and a beacon to other organizations.
"Meanwhile, my lesbian and gay friends in the teaching profession hadn't been able to mention anything at work outside the heteronormative experience, for fear of legal action and public humiliation. Thanks to Section 28 of the Local Government Act, they lived strictly closeted lives, keeping secrets from colleagues and kids alike, and had to stand by while their students struggled with the very same issues.
"This oppression, combined with efforts to eradicate queer people from the police, military and civil service, blighted and distorted lives for decades – to this day, in fact – despite the eventual change of direction by government. Cruel and exclusionary legislation was gradually repealed, and replaced with overtly inclusive approaches, largely thanks to the campaigns of grassroots activists. But it had set a wider tone in workplaces that only shifted for some of my contacts in time for their retirement.
"And now? Well, I'm watching my younger co-workers' apparently casual approach to LGBTQIA+ lives and issues with fascination, envy and humility. One thing I'm learning is that they're not at all as offhand as I thought – rather, they're absolute in their expectation of choice, respect and pride.
"So, yes, party joyfully, if distantly, with your colleagues this Pride month! But history and current affairs tell us it's all too easy to return to grimmer, more dangerous times. So we all – gay, straight, cis, trans, and beyond – need to play our part in building safety, dignity and equity at work. Lives depend on it."
For one of our younger colleagues – Content Assistant Alice Gledhill – Pride is about giving a voice to people who are often silenced, as well as a chance for others to listen to them and learn. As she explained, "For me, Pride Month is a number of things. It's an opportunity for everyone to listen to a group of people who seldom have a platform in mainstream media where they're not mocked or villainized. It's a chance for straight and cisgender people, in particular, to learn about queer history and modern-day struggles that LGBTQ+ people face. And, Pride Month is a time when LGBTQ+ folk can feel accepted and empowered. For one month of the year, we're embraced and celebrated.
"For many LGBTQ+ people, Pride Month is a vacation from feeling closeted or ashamed, free to be and to express who they are. It can even encourage people to embrace their true selves, like Raiders' Carl Nassib proudly did earlier this month.
"But Pride is still for those who are not publicly 'out' about their sexuality or gender. In fact, if you're not 'out' yet, Pride Month is especially for you.
"I have never officially 'come out' as queer, or really felt a need to. I've never sat my parents down and had 'the talk' with them, or pulled a friend or trusted colleague aside to get it off my chest. I've never felt isolated or discriminated against because of my sexuality. And my life, even my way of life, would be at no risk if I were to come out to my family or colleagues. (Though I guess I just have!)
"My experience comes from a place of privilege. For one thing, it's often easier for women to go undetected as queer than it is for men, as we have more freedom to express both feminine and masculine behaviors. For example, as a child, I would always prefer to play with toy trucks and diggers over dolls. And still, to this day, I would rather climb a tree than put on makeup. My parents labeled me a 'tomboy.' On the other hand, if a young boy plays with dolls and wears makeup, people will instinctively question his sexuality and/or gender identity. Note how there is no (inoffensive) male equivalent term for 'tomboy.'
"I also had the luxury of laid-back parents and of growing up in the U.K. As a result, although I am part of the LGBTQ+ community, I feel more of an ally. I already have it pretty good, so I stand up for those who don't.
"Pride Month is for the many people who lack the kind of privilege I have. We need Pride Month so that all LGBTQ+ lives are respected. Currently, LGBTQ+ people are criminalized in 71 countries. Trans people are twice as likely to be victims of crime in England and Wales than their cis counterparts, and more than 1.8 million LGBTQ+ youths in the U.S. seriously consider suicide each year. For me, Pride Month is an annual catalyst for progress and change.
"Pride Month's very existence acknowledges that there is still work to be done to make LGBTQ+ people feel welcome and safe in society and, indeed, to be proud."
What does Pride mean to you? And how have you celebrated it this year? Share your story in the Comments section, below.
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