Being Yourself… It Matters.
This year’s Birmingham Pride was hailed as the biggest ever by the carnival organisers. Thousands of people marched through the streets of Birmingham on Saturday 25th May to show their support for the “No Outsiders” educational programme.
Among the 5,000+ participants this year were Co-members from across the REED group.
Find out more about the experience from two REED Co-Members as they share their stories; one as a first timer at Pride and one as a 6 year “veteran”…
My First Time at Pride…
Sophie Parsons, Graduate Training Scheme Manager
I recently attended Birmingham Pride with REED – this was my first time attending a Pride event. Being a straight cisgender woman, I’ve never really felt that Pride was for me. Add to that the fact that I’m pretty nervous around crowds and loud places, hate fancy dress and hate glitter/face paint!
When I found out that REED would be part of the parade, I actually hadn’t planned on going! But I spoke to a few Co-members who are LGBTQ, and realised how important it was to them so decided to show my support.
On the day, I was pretty nervous and had no idea what to expect. I needn’t have worried though because, about 5 minutes after arriving, I was fully in the spirit of things…
I even found myself getting a glitter, rainbow heart painted on my face, and loving it! More and more people were arriving, and I was in awe of the effort some people put into their outfits and celebrations. There was a great atmosphere in Victoria Square while we waited for the parade to begin, and I enjoyed seeing familiar faces from across the company – from a graduate on my intake to my first team leader from when I started at REED 3.5 years ago!
The parade was made more poignant due to the recent protests around the ‘No Outsiders’ programme, with Andrew Moffatt leading the parade alongside a delegation of LGBTQ Muslims. During the speeches at the start, I could really feel how close to home this hit for so many attendees and began to understand a glimpse of the barriers some of my friends have faced simply because of who they are; barriers I had never considered, let alone faced myself. As the parade started, we quickly returned to a happy party atmosphere which was the tone of the whole event. I’m really proud to have been a part of REED at Pride, and think this is a great step on our diversity journey to ensure people can bring their whole selves to work every day.
The Pride Veteran…
Iain Macleod, Project Engagement Manager
I have been attending Birmingham Pride for the past 6 years, being part of the parade for 4 of those.
Since joining the REED Inclusion and Diversity Steering Committee, it has been a goal of mine for REED to have a presence in a Pride parade. This year was that year, and it couldn’t be a better year to start.
But why is that important to me? I spend at least 40 hours a week in work. I’m lucky enough to work for a company that not only accepts me for who I am, but also recognises the unique point of view that LGBT+ have regarding every day fears and barriers. Not everyone is that lucky, and I know the debilitating effect that can have on both performance and happiness.
What makes this year special? The controversy surrounding the protests of the ‘No Outsiders’ programme has genuinely scared me. The things that are being said are eerily similar to the arguments that precipitated a piece of legislation called Section 28 back in 1988. This effectively banned all discussion of homosexuality within schools, meaning that I grew up living in fear of someone discovering my secret. Teaching children that LGBT+ people exist, and that it is fine, will help to ensure that the next generation do not have to police their every conversation or action for fear of being discovered. It will allow them to learn and move on into the world of work, able to freely concentrate on what they are doing rather than on not slipping up and exposing themselves.
As with the past 5 years, Birmingham Pride 2019 was both protest, celebration and remembrance of those who have fought for the rights of the LGBT+ community. It was so freeing to know that within the Pride Zone, I could hold my partner’s hand without looking over my shoulder in fear of attack. Until I can do this anywhere, anytime, there will be a need for Pride!
50 years ago the Stonewall Uprising was made up of the Drag Queens, Trans Women, and outsiders. Now someone like me can follow in the footsteps of Marsha P. Johnson with the full backing and support of the UK’s number 1 recruiter, and with LGBT+ colleagues and Allies literally marching behind me. That’s what empowerment feels like.