Pride: keeping the conversation going
28 Sep 2023
28 Sep 2023
Following on from Louis’s article on the opportunities that Pride month brings to all communities (if you haven’t read it yet: check it out!), we wanted to keep the conversation going beyond Pride month. This time, we took some time to talk to Amy, one of our Senior Ecology Consultants, a part of the LGBTQ+ community and one of our Tribe, about life after Pride month.
At Tyler Grange, 2023 was the first year in our company’s history that we’d actually done something in recognition and celebration of Pride month. First of all, we wanted to interrogate the reasons why we, and companies like us, hadn’t been officially celebrating such an important movement. Secondly, to think about the challenges facing the LGBTQ+ communities for only 30 days of the year doesn’t seem quite right, does it?
“Let us not, then, discard Pride on the 1st of July. Let us all, everyone, celebrate and seize that opportunity.”
Since Tyler Grange began over 14 years ago, we’ve always tried to be a welcoming and accepting company. It’s written into our company values, it’s something we place great importance on, but we know we’re not perfect and we’ve never claimed to be.
This year we wanted to pay proper attention to Pride month, the celebration of LGBTQ+ community and the recognition of the challenges people in these communities are still facing in today’s society. We’d never expressly done this before. So, it was the right time to kickstart awareness in our company, to look at it with an inquisitive, open mind and create a dialogue of learning because, admittedly, it’s something that’s long been missing from our own company’s culture.
We know how easy it is to change your logo on X or Instagram to rainbow colours and hang some rainbow bunting in our offices for a month but, as Louis says, these symbols and their impact can get discarded soon after Pride month ends. This idea of ‘rainbow washing’ can do more damage to the Pride cause than good. It’s rightly seen as inauthentic and baseless, an easy way out and – in some cases – a clear attempt to commercialise what is not only a celebration but a reminder of global prejudice, injustice and even violence happening in the world today.
There are obviously huge positives to highlighting the month of June as Pride month. It’s a celebration of pride, not just for the LGBTQ+ community, but for everyone. It stands as an important symbol, a recognition of living history that needs to be celebrated and remembered. The only danger: the celebration and awareness stop after a month, but the prejudice, misunderstanding, ignorance and injustice go on.
“As a queer woman, I spend a lot of time seeing things that other people don’t see. And people don’t necessarily realise those things. For one month of the year, we talk about it and then for the rest of the year – everyone ignores it again.”
After the June celebration is over, it’s important to remember that there is still work to do – to continue celebrating and embracing the opportunity that Pride month brings to us all by keeping the conversation going. It’s what inspired us to have conversations like the one we had with Amy – to ask questions, listen to opinions and try to be better.
Many of us, Tyler Grange included, haven’t been asking the right questions, or haven’t been asking questions at all. If we’re going to embrace the opportunity that Pride affords us, we have to be willing to ask questions, educate ourselves and accept that we might be wrong but willing to learn from it.
“I think a lot of people don’t want to ask questions because they feel like they shouldn’t … it’s not because they don’t want to know, it’s just they’re ignorant to it because people don’t talk about it.”
Authenticity is important to us at Tyler Grange. That means honesty, openness, listening and understanding – even if it’s something that we are criticised for or aren’t doing well. We built our company on a set of strong values that we still uphold today. Perhaps our most important value when we’re talking about Pride is belonging. It’s the reason we describe our people as a Tribe. Pride month brought us an opportunity to review the idea of belonging in our Tribe and educate ourselves more deeply on what belonging to a community truly means.
Fostering an environment where people feel a true sense of belonging is not something that happens overnight. One thing we’re learning is that there’s no place for making assumptions about anyone. It’s important that we allow people to be who they are, before we decide what they are for ourselves. For example – we recently asked our Tribe if they wanted to include their pronouns as part of their company profile. We thought we were doing something positive, but without a proper understanding of what this might mean for people, we hadn’t handled the situation as well as we could have.
A person’s pronoun can be an ever-changing thing. It can be something that’s an evolution for them, not static. We needed to understand this, help our Tribe feel comfortable with the way they are able to present themselves at work and knowledgeable about how they can do this. Our approach was typical of a lot of companies’ methods: to assume what we are doing is a good thing, without properly including those who it affects. If you’ve got to change, you’ve got to give people it affects the opportunity to talk about it.
“People have just been worried to do anything about it, too worried about upsetting anybody. Therefore, nothing’s been done. And no one’s talking about it, because they’re too worried about opening the conversation and saying the wrong thing.”
Education and learning are crucial. We celebrate Pride month in June in remembrance of the Stonewall riots of 1969. As Amy notes, there doesn’t seem to be enough understanding of the importance of this terrible event in relation to Pride month,
“I think even within the queer community, it’s not known enough. People don’t always realise why they’re celebrating in June… and I don’t think it’s necessarily just the younger generation.”
Outside of the LGBTQ+ community, a business might put a rainbow on their logo in June and not have a true understanding why they’re doing it. Learning its relevance and discovering that violence and prejudice aren’t simply things of the past, they’re happening every day is scary – but it’s absolutely vital in empowering systematic change in our society.
Yes, it’s a positive signpost to adopt a rainbow on your logo and fly a rainbow flag in your building, but it has to be backed up with understanding and change. Show what you’re actually doing in support of the LGBTQ+ community, show how you’re starting positive conversations and be open to criticism; there can’t be a perfect company at the moment because the world isn’t perfect.
When we fly that rainbow flag in our office, we have to remember to fly the flag in every way, all year round. That means challenging ourselves to start the right conversations, listening to people’s experiences, asking the right questions, accepting mistakes and learning from them.
Perhaps the most important message we’re reflecting on from Louis’s article is the idea that Pride is for everyone. As such, everyone should not only celebrate it but keep the conversations going and be open to criticism and change. What did need to change here at Tyler Grange was that we needed to open up the conversation, and we hope that will help people feel a greater sense of belonging and support. It’s our hope that we can continue to provide a platform and that more people will want to come forward and open more conversations in the future. We have a voice and we have to use it to affect positive change, not shy away, but speak out and be proud!
“To me, that’s the point of pride. The point is that everybody’s welcome. No matter how you identify, everybody’s welcome to feel pride.”