This year marked 50 years of London Pride. My husband marched in the parade, alongside thousands of others, to celebrate the great leaps that have been made since that first protest in 1972. I was there too, having a joyous experience in the city.
Pride is a time to celebrate and stand proud, but it’s also a time to reflect on the progress still to be made. It’s important that we remember those who couldn’t be there and to stand in solidarity with those in our community living in the 69 countries where homosexuality is still illegal.
A crowd of people hold placards from Amnesty International stating ‘Love is a Human Right’, while others also hold rainbow flags of various sizes, at a London Pride parade. Many are wearing colourful feather boas and some are blowing whistles. A few can be seen with rainbow face paint.
Whilst June is Pride Month, there are events in cities around the world all throughout the summer: last weekend (9th July), we celebrated Cambridge Pride in Gearset’s home city. This week also marks the sixth month for me as a Gearcitizen, and naturally that’s given me pause to reflect on my journey so far.
For me, it’s impossible to separate the personal and the professional at times like this. I’m so proud to work in a company where everyone is encouraged and supported to bring their whole selves to work. It’s easy to forget that not everyone has a safe and supported environment that they can enjoy.
In fact, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation found that 46% of LGBTQ workers aren’t open about their sexual orientation or gender identity at work, and that 1 in 5 have suffered discrimination at work. Whilst the idea of being a ‘leader’ sometimes sits uncomfortably with me, I know that I have a duty to use the opportunities I have to raise awareness and advocate for what’s right.
But I’m not the only voice at Gearset.
“The most impactful moment of the weekend at London Pride for me was having the opportunity to thank some of the people who had fought for LGBTQ+ rights at the first London Pride in 1972. They walked in the 2022 parade holding signs that said ‘Pride @ 50. Still fighting for global LGBT+ freedom’. It was so emotional that I had to re-apply my glittery rainbow face paint as my tears meant the makeup had smudged down my face!
I had two conflicting emotions in that moment as I cheered them on: gratitude for the colourful life I’m able to live 50 years later, and sadness that ‘still fighting for LGBT+ freedom’ needed to be written on their signs at all. Their reminder made me feel very lucky to work for a company where I’m respected and valued, no matter who I love. In fact, it’s easy to forget sometimes that there are many people in the UK and around the world who haven’t had the same positive experience as I’ve had.
I hope one day we can live in a world where every workplace is as supportive and loving as Gearset, and we can remove ‘still fighting for global LGBT+ freedom’ from our signs.”
“I still remember my first Pride as a badly dressed teenager with a bunch of my other queer friends, being blown away by the sheer size of the whole thing. I’d never seen so many LGBTQ+ people, let alone so many couples holding hands and kissing without having to look over their shoulder. So many others like me and my friends stood amazed as the whole celebration washed over us.
That first Pride - and every one since then - is always slightly emotional as I reflect, during all the happiness, on those who came before. Those brave souls who laid down the path over the last 50 years so I can go to London Pride 2022, holding my boyfriend’s hand without having to look over my shoulder.”
“For many years I struggled to come to terms with my own identity. It was a combination of being fiercely protective of my own privacy, and fear of the consequences of living my truth.
Pride for me is often filled with mixed emotions. I can remember attending my first event with a backpack that had a change of clothes. That way, no one would know where I was going and I could wipe off any face paint or glitter and be back in civvies ready to travel home. There was always a need to be looking over my shoulder, wondering what would happen if anyone from my family guessed my sexuality.
Fast forward 17 years and I’m engaged to a wonderful woman, with both our parents lovingly driving us crazy as we plan our wedding. I’m very fortunate to have grown up with friends who supported me on my journey, especially when I know so many aren’t as lucky.”
One of the things I’ve relished most about my time so far at Gearset is becoming part of the extended Salesforce community. It’s enriching in so many ways, and Pride is no different. There is a thriving Outforce community, and when you have a hugely visible ally in Marc Benioff - whose long taken both a moral and business stance on supporting the LGBTQ+ community - the impact of that’s felt around the world. If you were to trace a thread through LGBTQ+ history, you’d quickly find the huge impact that allies have had in supporting the community to push forward for equal rights.
Pride for me is about living: living your most authentic life. It’s about supporting those to live theirs; lives that aren’t yet free of discrimination. In a weekend rounded off with seeing Elton John finishing his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour with a homecoming gig at Vicarage Road stadium, I’m reminded of one of his most famous quotes: “Live for each second without hesitation.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Written by Luke Harris with contributions from Hannah Ridge, Ash Rahman, and Jen Hicks.