14 June 2024

Pride Month; what does Pride really mean?

A lot of progress has been made in the UK to create inclusive workplaces where LGBTQ+ employees can be themselves and have equal opportunities, however according to recent Stonewall research more than a third of those in the UK still hide their sexuality due to fear of discrimination. With the recent UK census showing there are over two million people who identify as LGB+*it is clearly important more is done to ensure all LGBTQ+ people feel comfortable to be themselves at work.

It has only been two decades since the abolition of Section 28 in the UK, and a decade since the UK Marriage Act gave same sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples, all of this has happened within our Head of Marketing’s lifetime; we asked Patrick Worthington what Pride Month means to him, and what advice he would give to organisations to make their LGBTQ+ colleagues feel included at work.

You’ve previously expressed that Pride celebrations sometimes make you feel uncomfortable, why is that?

Walking towards my first Pride march in Manchester, I could see hundreds of floats with glaring logos from different companies. One float was for the company I worked for at the time, that I knew weren’t particularly LGBTQ+ friendly, which made me wonder “if you have the money to take part, can you just have a float?”. This made me question the authenticity of Pride marches; if anyone can take part, with no criteria, is it just a big commercial festival where organisations can jump on the “rainbow bandwagon” for some good PR?

Companies awash themselves in rainbows during June to show their support for the LGBTQ+ community, however, similarly to the parade, there is no criteria to meet for a company to change their logo, so how do you know if they are true allies, or whether they are just jumping on the rainbow washing marketing bandwagon?

Some companies are of course genuine allies, they will donate time and money to LGBTQ+ causes, sell products to raise awareness and share these profits with LGBTQ+ charities, or host internal activities to support inclusion in the workforce. Other brands may change their logos into rainbows on social media, run adverts with same-sex couples, and sell branded rainbow merchandise, but just for their own profit – surface-level marketing that doesn’t support LGBTQ+ colleagues or consumers.

There are also some companies that will change their logo and support LGBTQ+ charities in the UK and Europe, but if you check their Middle Eastern social media and advertising for example, you’ll notice no change. Are they true allies if they aren’t prepared to stand up in countries where it is seen as “controversial” to support LGBTQ+ issues?

Don’t get me wrong, I still celebrate Pride, and see huge importance in what it stands for, and know that a large proportion of the organisations that do get involved support the LGBTQ+ community. But I ask you to question when you see a rainbow logo on social media, a rainbow sandwich in the local supermarket, or a rainbow t-shirt in that high-street store, and just ask yourself where are the profits going, and what activity are they doing to support LGBTQ+ communities in the UK or internationally?

I feel the message of what Pride has been diluted; I think it is incredibly important to reflect on what “Pride” really means, how it all began and, most importantly, reflect on the relevance today.


So, what do you think Pride really means?

I believe Pride should stay true to its origins, standing up for people’s rights, and celebrating the freedoms some of the LGBTQ+ community now have.

It should be a time to raise awareness of those differences, educate people on why it is wrong to treat people differently, and stand up and put pressure on those who can enforce positive changes. More importantly, there are still many countries that don’t have the same rights and could even face death if they were to speak out about LGBTQ+ issues. So I believe we should use our Pride parades as platforms to raise awareness of these issues and protest for their rights, as they cannot do it freely themselves.

Whenever any of my friends question my views on the Pride parade, I will always tell them to watch the film Pride to see what a true Pride march should look like. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, I would highly recommend it, as not only does it document key moments in British Pride history – and in fact the history of the miners (two things I never thought went together but learnt from the film) – but it also happens to be British comedy gold!

Is there a reason why Pride month is June?

Yes, and interestingly a lot of people don’t know why, even some of my LGBTQ+ friends didn’t know the true origin of Pride, and what we are meant to be commemorating.

We celebrate Pride in June as it is the anniversary month of the Stonewall Riots that took place in the early hours of 28 June 1969 in New York. There was a police raid at an LGBTQ+ club called “the Stonewall Inn”. Armed with a warrant, police officers forcefully entered the club; this wasn’t the first raid of an LGBTQ+ establishment, violent police raids happened frequently in the community, however on this night people reacted differently.

The riots continued in the area for five days and involved thousands of people. On the one-year anniversary of the riots, thousands of people marched in the streets of Manhattan from the Stonewall Inn to Central Park – this is seen as the first recorded gay pride parade in America, and the world, and the start of a gay rights movement in the USA, Canada, the UK, Europe and many other countries.

However, to me, what is most important about the Stonewall riots is the intersectionality of those involved. Accounts vary from the ignition of the riots, but three names are commonly quoted: Stormé DeLarverie, a dual heritage lesbian activist, Marsha P. Johnson, a Black transgender woman, and Sylvia Rivera, a Latino drag queen. These three modern day heroines, and a large majority of those who joined them, were of minority ethnic origins. For me, celebrating Pride is a time I reflect and thank these people for giving me the rights and day to day freedoms I have to be myself in today’s society.

I think it is important, even as someone in the LGBTQ+ community, to reflect on the intersectionality of those in the community – we all identify as some part of LGBTQ+, but we all have our own unique backgrounds and experiences, we don’t fit into one box; we should all take time to talk to each other, understand our differences and perspectives, and celebrate the community in all its nuances.

I think it is also hugely important that we respect our history, and we understand what power and privilege we now have as an LGBTQ+ community in the UK, thanks in part to those who took part in the Stonewall riots; we should do all we can to stand up and support others who still face discrimination in society, whether that be LGBTQ+ people in other countries, or people discriminated due to their race, gender, disability or whatever other reason society decides to discriminate against them. In the words of Marsha P. Johnson, “there is no Pride for some of us without liberation for us all”.

What can people do in the workplace to support LGBTQ+ colleagues, not just for Pride Month, but for all 365 days of the year?

There are often unique challenges in the workplace for those who identify as LGBTQ+, such as feeling as though you’re coming out every time you start a new organisation, or a new colleague joins, and the worry of how much of your authentic self you can bring to work depending on the organisational culture, especially if you work for an international organisation with offices in countries where LGBTQ+ right don’t exist. Therefore, your LGBTQ+ colleagues might sometimes seem reserved at first, so ensuring a welcoming, understanding, and inclusive culture is key to supporting them be their authentic selves.

It is equally important to acknowledge that someone’s sexuality is just one aspect of their identity, and you must not label your colleague because of how they choose to identify, or assume they have stereotypical interests people associate with the LGBTQ+ community. “LGBTQ+” can often be used as an umbrella term that overlooks individuality of people who identify underneath it – it is important to recognise intersectionality, and that, just like anyone else, LGBTQ+ people have a range of interests, talents, perspectives, and skills that lay beyond their gender and sexual orientation identity.

Like with any diverse background, learning about the history of the communities is the first step for colleagues to understand, open up and feel comfortable to talk about topics and issues related to that community. Take accountability, listen and learn about people’s lived experiences, to better understand what they experience, and how they might differ to yourself.

It is important to point out, LGBTQ+ history isn’t all focused on discrimination, activists and LGBTQ+ rights, there are many LGBTQ+ people famous for writing, acting, painting, singing, designing, inventing, sports, and even mathematicians who helped end wars! LGBTQ+ history has also often been tarnished by misinformation by the media, particularly events like the AIDS pandemic in the 1980’s, so sharing resources with colleagues to access correct information and stories of LGBTQ+ history is a great start.

It isn’t all history though, even today in the UK you can access media resources about Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill, and there is unfortunately a lot of anti-trans misinformation portrayed; misinformation in the media can mean that many people don’t realise what it means to be trans and what a difference legal changes would make. Even sources we see are impartial for news have had to apologise for poor language in headlines or misinformation contained in their articles. The fact we are in 2024 and debates around trans rights exist in the UK emphasises the need for us all to learn and better understand these issues, hear from those in the community and recognise what trans and non-binary gender people are going through personally. Stonewall have some fantastic links and resources on their website “the truth about trans”.

LGBTQ+ history is often left out of the school curriculum, so you shouldn’t feel guilty if you don’t know much about it – you’re not alone! I think if more information had been available in schools growing up it would have helped stop some of the discrimination people receive today; thankfully schools are improving, and our younger generations are far better informed, and as a result are becoming a far more inclusive generation!

A very easy thing you can do is to promote the visibility of LGBTQ+ people within your organisation by inviting these colleagues to share their experiences, or on an individual level take time to speak to your LGBTQ+ colleagues. Don’t be afraid to have difficult conversations, challenge yourself and ask questions you might think are “silly” to ask; it is important to step out of your comfort zones and not be complacent. Not only will you learn about the LGBTQ+ community, but you’ll learn more about your colleagues, their perspectives on life and learn how to avoid discriminating or associating stereotypes of them.

Many digital streaming services have created their own sections for Pride Month, but a few films I would personally recommend are below; some focus on LGBTQ+ issues, the dilemmas people can go through coming to terms with their identity, and others are dramatized historical documentaries:


The still developing nature of LGBTQ+ rights, both in the UK and around the world, highlights there is still more to be done, we cannot be complacent, and it is important that we still mark Pride Month, to maintain awareness and keep people informed of LGBTQ+ issues, but it is even more important that we maintain the awareness and conversations 365 days of the year, not forgotten once June is over.  


* https://census.gov.uk/census-2021-results/phase-one-topic-summaries/sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity

** https://lgbtplushistorymonth.co.uk/