Two years ago Osborne Clarke employees founded the firm’s first LGBTQ+ network called OC Pride. This year, the network held its biggest ever roster of events for LGBTQ+ History Month.
All the events were virtual and included a book club exploring modern lesbian relationships, a joint event with author and queer anthropologist Dr Jamie Lawson, panel discussions and a comedy show with a diverse cast of LGBTQ+ entertainers. All these events sat alongside a daily calendar of actions sharing the stories and the histories of the LGBTQ+ community.
Gavin Williams, Co-chair of OC Pride and Senior Associate in our Projects team shares his three takeaways on LGBTQ+ History Month.
LGBTQ+ History Month is just as important as Pride
While Pride is always a highlight in the LGBTQ+ calendar, history month is every bit as significant. It’s a way for us to look introspectively at our community and reflect – away from the colour and excitement of a pride parade – on the experiences past and present of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and queer people.
Due to a lack of representation of older LGBTQ+ people, many young LGBTQ+ people aren’t aware of the history of their own community so it’s important we celebrate and remember the trailblazers who fought for the rights and protections we have today. At one of our events we had a guest speech by University of Bristol lecturer, Dr Jamie Lawson, who explained the history and symbolism of the rainbow Pride flag and its connection with the Stonewall uprisings. LGBTQ+ history is often missing from mainstream historical narratives and these types of events help educate those outside of the community too.
As well as celebrating and reflecting on the past, the month is also an opportunity to take stock of the challenges that lie ahead, for instance the continued fight for trans* equality.
Going virtual doesn’t mean missing out
Putting on events virtually due to the pandemic has made this year challenging but it’s still allowed us to share our messages widely. We’ve ran events which have been simultaneously attended by all our offices around the world – something we’ve never been able to do before.
Through our Q&A and panel discussions we’ve been able to raise awareness of the struggles LGBTQ+ people face. Members of our OC Pride network have bravely shared their own experiences and given colleagues a greater understanding of issues such as the importance of safe spaces and inclusive symbolism for the LGBTQ+ community.
Safe spaces and inclusive symbolism are incredibly important at work. In order to thrive, LGBTQ+ colleagues need to feel comfortable and that they can be themselves, as well as see the signs and symbols that let them know that this is true. One challenge the pandemic and move to home working has raised is that it’s often harder to offer a support system and create these safe spaces virtually. Symbols of inclusion such as rainbow lanyards are also missing in the home office. As home working becomes more prevalent, we will all need to reconsider how we show support to one another, and employers will need to adapt the way they deliver messages of inclusivity.
Never underestimate the importance of an ally
An LGBTQ+ ally is a straight and/or cisgender person who supports and advocates for LGBTQ+ people, or even an LGBTQ+ person who is supporting and advocating for other marginalised communities within the LGBTQ+ community. All through the month we’ve explored ally-ship and the ways in which people can become better allies – through their actions and their symbolism of their inclusive values. We’ve had fantastic feedback that this has really helped colleagues to reflect on their own behaviour and make positive changes.
When it comes to supporting the LGBTQ+ community the smallest actions can make the biggest difference. Simple gestures – be it openly displaying the rainbow symbol in the form of a lanyard or badge, adding your pronouns to your email signature or having a pride related background on a video call – can go so far in making an individual feel welcome and comfortable at work – both in the office and whilst working from home.
Gavin Williams is a Senior Associate in our Projects team. Gavin was recently recognised as an OUTstanding LGBT+ Future Leaders Role Model for 2020.