Introduction written by Chiara Gardner (she/they) with contributions from Jen Hicks (she/they), Vivian Huang (she/her), and an anonymous member of the Gearset team.
I feel very lucky to work somewhere where there’s such a big and supportive community of visible LGBTQ+ folks. While I love the informal socials we’ve been having, something I take great heart in is how supportive and kind people are when sharing LGBTQ+ related world news in our #pride Slack channel, whether it’s good or bad. We asked three of the folks from that community at Gearset to share their thoughts, as we reflect on Pride month.
How can a workplace ensure it’s a safe, encouraging, and supportive environment for LGBTQ+ people?
[Jen]: At the moment, the world can be a very frightening place for LGBTQ+ individuals — so, any workplace that acknowledges that is already taking a big step in the right direction. One area that sets workplaces apart is mental health support. Having access to someone to talk to is enormous and can be incredibly impactful, no matter where you are in your journey. There can also be a big divide between how folks show up to an open and inclusive workplace, and how they might be forced to hide themselves in their home/private life. Being able to support someone in that situation is life-changing.
[Vivian]: Having specific workplace policies in place to protect queer employees from discrimination is vital; it can be difficult to come out at work if you’re unsure how your co-workers will react, and knowing that there’s something specific you can point to if there’s any difficulty brings huge peace of mind.
[Anonymous]: One is definitely mental health support — something like a buddy system or free counselling are both really useful and beneficial things, especially when things get tough (it’s been shown that LGBTQ+ people are significantly more likely to need counselling or advice). However, I’d say the main thing (for me, at least) is LGBTQ+ folk being seen and treated as normal, rather than as something ‘special’ or ‘uncommon’. Being able to coexist and feel safe and welcome as myself is a great feeling, compared to previous experiences in my life (i.e. school) — and is definitely something I’m not taking for granted!
How did you celebrate Pride this year?
[Jen]: I didn’t do loads for Pride this year — I’m a bit past the age of partying till the sun goes down. But I did bring some friends and their young son to the local Cambridge Pride. I really enjoyed the fact that he could just absorb the event and it was a safe space for children. It definitely helps to set the foundation for knowing at a young age we live in a wonderfully diverse world.
[Vivian]: I don’t normally do much in terms of in-person Pride events as I’m not good with large crowds, but I have been bringing the Pride spirit to smaller social groups and other communities that I’m a part of — I want everyone to feel like the spaces I’m in are safe to be out and proud in.
[Anonymous]: By attending my first Pride event this year — London Pride! It was a great event to experience, and one to remind myself that I’m part of a bigger community and not alone!
What does Pride mean to you?
[Jen]: I think it means a month of reflection for me. Not just celebrating what has changed, but how can I be a leader and an aspirational figure for those around me to keep actioning change? This year, it’s important for me to understand what I can do to be a better ally to the transgender community.
[Vivian]: There are two different things I think Pride should be about. Pride means queer joy — showing other queer people that being queer means being yourself authentically and that it’s a source of happiness, and not something to be afraid of. It’s about showing people who may still be in the closet and struggling to come out that they’re not alone and that we stand stronger together. Pride is also a protest — there’s still plenty of discrimination and bigotry out there, especially towards the trans community in the past few years. Pride is a shout of defiance and a rallying point for the queer community to come together and fight!
[Anonymous]: Pride to me is feeling accepted and being a part of something bigger. Everyone has challenges in life, and one of my major ones has been acceptance (both internally and externally) of who I am and how I should express this. Pride is a good reminder for me to realise that I have the personal freedom and choice to express myself. However, it’s also a reminder that other people in other countries with stricter LGBTQ+ laws don’t have this luxury, and that visibility is important to advance rights for all LGBTQ+ people.
Do you have a favourite Pride memory?
[Jen]: LOL maybe having the bravery to dye my hair sparkly silver for London Pride. For me it felt pretty out there!
[Vivian]: Not specifically a Pride event, but any time someone feels comfortable coming out to me or tells me that my presence has helped them feel more confident in being proud of who they are. For me, coming out was a terrifying experience, and I want to make it less terrifying for everyone else!
[Anonymous]: Similar to Jen’s, I painted my nails rainbow colours for London Pride which was good fun!
What is one message you wish you could share with your younger self?
[Vivian]: I was at school during the tail end of Section 28, and the oppressive school environment it created had lingering effects on me through adulthood. I’d tell my younger self: “Your feelings are normal and nothing to be ashamed of; it’s okay to accept yourself and your friends will accept you, too — and even among just your close friends, you’re not alone.”
[Jen]: Life is full of surprises and the biggest one is that you’re never a fully-formed human. Don’t worry if how you feel and think at one stage of your life will be the same years down the line. Own yourself and be a badass. It’s what means the journey will be fun to the most important person: yourself.
[Anonymous]: Agree with Vivian here. I’d add: “Don’t judge yourself solely based on the reactions of others, you are valid!”