Rachael’s Blog: Pride is a protest and a party

Posted on: 17/06/2022

We are proud to be an open and inclusive employer and there are many ways in which we support our LGBTQ+ employees. Progress Lifeline colleague, Rachael, shares her experiences…

When I was in school, Section 28* was going strong so there was little-to-no representation of the LGBTQIA community which meant I could never really identify with anyone I saw in the media (unless we count ‘that’ Brookside kiss). Whilst there was nothing really out there for me to see, I never really registered that as a negative – I’d had a relatively easy time coming out both with family and friends, so I moved through my queer teenage years with a certain degree of ease.

Being a Preston girl, I was happily immersed in the very limited gay nightlife, which consisted of one gay bar and one gay club (I use the term ‘club’ loosely - a more accurate description would be a church hall style room which boasted a free buffet on a Sunday night). Going to Manchester was an annual venture and I always found it quite overwhelming with the sheer amount of bars, clubs and people. I generally stuck to my safe and quieter scene in Preston, occasionally mixing it up with a trip to Flamingos in Blackpool.

At that point in my life, I never really understood or appreciated the struggles of the queer community, and I didn’t identify with the saying, ‘Pride is a protest, not a party’. I didn’t really know what Stonewall was, I had no experience of homophobia, and I certainly was not aware of the history of our community. My first couple of Pride visits consisted of long days and nights in bars and clubs, watching the parade and FAR too much alcohol but as time went on, I learnt that I had totally missed the point of Pride altogether.

It’s hard to recall the time my eyes were really opened to LGBTQIA history, but I remember clearly what did it – it was a documentary that DJ Scott Mills hosted called ‘The World’s Worst Place to be Gay’. Scott went to Uganda and reported on how the gay community was dealt with by the government and the general population. I could not wrap my head around the fact that it was OK to publish papers with pictures of ‘suspected’ gay people and entice people to kill them on the street like animals.  I remember the feeling of helplessness watching this and it has stayed with me for so many years, along with a certain amount of guilt for having it so easy.

From there, I have opened myself up to really understanding our history and developed a huge sense of appreciation for the people that have sacrificed their privacy, time and sadly, in too many instances, their lives. 

The last Pride I attended, I was lucky enough to be invited by my wife’s work to be a part of the parade. What an experience! Walking the length of the parade and seeing so many hopeful, supportive and happy faces was a brilliant and overwhelming – even the standard picket of people holding homophobic signs didn’t bring anyone down.

Pride means so much more to me now than it ever did. Whilst the partying is fun and I love to celebrate my community, I am forever reminded of our history and of the crusaders that paved the way for my freedom to love who I want to love.  Pride is a party AND a protest.

*Section 28 was a legislative designation for series of laws across Britain that prohibited the "promotion of homosexuality" by local authorities. Introduced by Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government, it was in effect from 1988 to 2000 (in Scotland) and 2003 (in England and Wales).

How does Progress Lifeline and Progress Housing Group support LGBTQ+ employees?

  •  An LGBTQ+ networking group – The network exists to empower LGBTQ+ colleagues to achieve their full potential through creating a positive and supportive working environment and it’s an opportunity for colleagues to meet up to discuss their shared experiences
  • Educating colleagues via internal communications – Colleagues who identify as LGBTQ+ have shared their personal experiences with the wider team via blogs
  • Specialised training – We provide ongoing Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity training to all colleagues
  • LGBTQ+ colleagues – We have many employees throughout the organisation who are members of the network group and the LGBTQ+ community
  • Policies in place – We have an Equality, Diversity & Inclusion policy in place that all colleagues must adhere to.

Staff give us their thoughts on Pride and working at Progress Lifeline:

“I feel very proud to work for an organisation that takes the time to celebrate and highlight LGBTQ+ milestones such as 50 years of Pride in the UK, one that raises awareness for these kinds of events internally and via social media, and that continually strives to maintain an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace.” Cory

“Having visible LGBTQ+ role models at a senior level have a huge impact on creating a truly inclusive workplace and helps us to continue to deliver an inclusive service. I'm proud to say that here at Progress, we can all be ourselves, thrive in a truly inclusive environment, inspire each other, learn from each other and deliver the very best for our customers and service users.” Loraine