Neil Hudson-Basing, emcee, host & moderator, conferenceemcees.com, and senior events & community manager at PinkNews, shares how eventprofs can play a role in ensuring that LGBTQ+ inclusion, and inclusion more broadly, is a year around effort and commitment, and not just during Pride month…
It’s Pride season – a time to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. And as per every year, I guarantee you’ll see an abundance of the following:
- Workshops, talks and podcasts featuring queer guests
- Pride merchandise in shops/ online
- Parades and events popping up everywhere from large cities to small villages
- Rainbow tinted logos as far as the eye can see!
And d’ya know what?! I am here for it. ALL OF IT. I love the summer months of June/ July/ August, largely due to Pride events and seeing queer joy everywhere.
But I’ll be honest, the current state of play for LGBTQ+ people in the UK, particularly the trans+ community, is a stark reminder that we are far from the perceived freedom many believe exists. And when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights worldwide, in many countries we have a long way to go.
So, what’s going on right now that is making me rain on this glittery, fabulous parade? Let me summarise a few current issues for you…
- A study of nearly 4,000 participants, aged 18-25 years old, carried out by the charity Just Like Us found that over two thirds were ashamed of being LGBTQ+ – with young lesbian adults and trans/ non-binary adults being the most likely to feel ashamed.
- Anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes have risen massively across the UK according to police figures. That’s the ones that have been recorded. I’ve experienced both verbal and physical attacks this year.
- The ongoing attacks on the trans community. From constant debates over public toilets to conversation therapy bans not including trans people, to puberty blockers, record high cases of transphobic hate crime, Scotland’s gender recognition reform bill being blocked by Westminster, outdated school policies and the Rishi Sunak’s latest transphobic rant caught on film – it is RELENTLESS.
Why am I sharing this, you might ask. Well, I simply want to highlight that it’s not all parties, cheesy tunes and declarations of ‘I am what I am’. Because many people simply do not have that freedom. I’m not going to give you a history lesson on Pride – there’s Google and Wikipedia for that. But it must be said that it started as a protest and must remain so until that freedom to live authentically is a reality for all.
Like many event professionals, I have fallen into the trap of just focusing on LGBTQ+ issues during LGBTQ+ History Month/ Pride season. Likewise with issues affecting other minoritised groups. Annual awareness campaigns are a great hook to spotlight topics, challenges and barriers faced by many. But these do not simply exist for a day/ week/ month. They’re ongoing.
I’m going to be a bit predictable here and say that companies need to do better than slapping a logo rainbow on their website and hosting a pride themed lunch. Yawn. Yeh, we’ve all heard that. It should go without saying. It might raise a bit of awareness but that alone doesn’t lead to the change needed.
As event professionals, we can play a role in ensuring that LGBTQ+ inclusion, and inclusion more broadly, is a year around effort and commitment. PRIDE365 if you will. Therefore, I’m going to leave you with a few practical take-aways and a bit of guidance which will hopefully help you to make your events more inclusive and support you in becoming a better ally/ colleague/ manager/ friend etc. Take a few moments to have a read through then choose a few to put into action straight away!
- Ask attendees their pronouns at registration stage and include these on name badges – let people own the pronouns they often have to fight for
- Features speakers’ pronouns on presentations/ programmes/ lower thirds – we’ve got used to having them in our email signatures, let’s take it a step further and normalise this
- Where possible, make your venue toilets gender neutral. I’m not talking about knocking walls down – a simple sign will suffice
- Join a staff network… or start one! These build community, hopefully create safe spaces and help to drive change
- Educate yourself on the issues faced by LGBTQ+ people and other minoritised groups – there are so many activists to follow, podcasts to listen and books to read
- Ensure your event panels and campaigns are truly diverse and representative of the whole LGBTQ+ community – hit up organisations such as Diverse speaker Bureau and OutSpoken for this
- Similarly, make sure your allyship goes beyond sassy white gay men – that includes within the LGBTQ+ community and particularly when it comes to supporting trans folk
- Challenge micro-aggressions, uncivil or discriminatory behaviour, questionable language and outdated assumptions, including your own – does your organisation offer unconscious bias training/ active bystander intervention training or any form of awareness training? If so, go on it. If not, ask for it!
- Call out homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, lesbophobia, racism, misogyny, xenophobia, ableism, ageism and any other similar bullsh*t – take a zero-tolerance approach
- Have a chill out space at your event for those who need it eg. those with neurodivergence – not strictly related to the LGBTQ+ people though a high number of neurodivergent people identify as such
- On a similar note, consider not featuring alcohol as a focus of social activities – not all Pride events have to/ should revolve around getting drunk and this is also important when it comes to considering attendees and colleagues who are religious/ pregnant/ teetotal/ don’t drink for medical or other personal reasons
- Listen to lived experience, open your mind and heart – take time at your event to really engage with the content. We all need to do the work!
- Check in with people, whether it’s a colleague or an attendee – make sure they’re ok during these tough times. The current climate can be triggering.
- Don’t forget the joy! Beyond stats and headlines, barriers and challenges, are people. Factor that into your content and storytelling. Shine a spotlight on that!
These small acts can make a massive difference to your attendees’ experiences. Not only will they make your LGBTQ+ guests feel more welcome, comfortable and considered but you’ll be doing your part in:
- Creating a more inclusive environment
- Challenging traditional ways of thinking & doing things
- Raising awareness to the experiences, needs and barriers facing minoritised groups
- Encouraging and inspiring more inclusive practices
Finally, you’re invited to celebrate Pride with us. But we also need you to show up and speak out too.