Celebrating LGBT+ heroes in history

February is LGBT+ History Month and Avril Clark Attraqt’s Group Credit Manager and LGBT+ ambassador talks to us about the significance of celebrating and recognising heroes. 

LGBT+ History Month is important as it recognises the history of the gay and LGBT+ civil rights movements. It is intended to raise awareness, combat prejudice against LGBTQIA+ people and educate to promote an inclusive modern society. This is done by celebrating the lives, achievements and promoting awareness of the LGBT+ community and is an opportunity to remember and celebrate important figures of history alongside those today who continue to contribute to and fight for equality in our society.

It is an important cause now as sadly it is not unusual for LGBTQIA+ people to face unnecessary prejudice about their sexual orientation, gender identity or appearance and hate crimes against the LGBTQIA+ community (particularly the trans community) are rising significantly with abuse on social media being particularly high. There are still many countries where it is illegal to be in a same sex relationship or divert from societal ‘norms’. LGBTQIA+ inclusivity still has a long way to go worldwide as full equality has not yet been reached.

 

Who is your LGBT+ hero in history?

I have lots of LGBTQIA+ heroes past and present, who set the foundations and continue to push for rights of the community. If I have to pick one, Marsha P Johnson was an outspoken advocate for gay rights and was one of the prominent figures in the Stonewall uprising of 1969. She was a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front and co-founded the radical activist group Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.) with her close friend Sylvia Rivera. On the first year anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion, 28 June 1970, she marched in the first Gay Pride rally (Christopher Street Liberation Day) which was the founding of the modern day Pride marches that are now held worldwide every year.

 

What have we been doing at Attraqt to raise awareness to support LGBT+ team members? 

During LGBT History Month relevant articles and information were shared daily by various different people culminating in a very successful LGBTQIA+ quiz which was well attended by team members from around the business. Last year I was appointed as Attraqt’s first LGBTQIA+ Ambassador, giving a safe and independent point of contact for anyone should they need it.  

 

How important is having this community in place at Attraqt?

Attraqt acknowledges that we have a wide and diverse team. The LGBTQIA+  quiz showed how engaged and interested people across all teams are. Not just for the fun side, but also a willingness to learn and be educated. Here at Attraqt we want everyone, whoever they are, to feel comfortable to be themselves.

 

Avril, we’re lucky to have you as our LGBT+  ambassador, as you’ve been an active lobbyist in the wider community for many years!

I have always been an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community. However, my involvement in the trans community, in particular, became focused when my wife revealed 20 years ago that she was transgender. Although we confided in a handful of trusted friends, over the years we lived a double life, and while being part of the trans community we pushed for their rights. Everything changed when she came out to the world in a pretty big way in 2018 (front page of a national newspaper!) as the world’s first transgender football referee. This put a bit of a spot-light on her and the cause!  Earlier that year we founded Trans Radio UK, a radio station made by the Trans Community for the Trans Community (www.transradiouk.com) which is now listened to in over 100 countries and has a team of 50+ volunteers. As well as connecting LGBTQIA+  people with music we also use the platform to campaign for trans rights and amplify voices of the Trans and LGBTQIA+ communities and educate allies as they have powerful voices and it is important that we use them.

 

What excites you about where we are as an organisation on diversity? What more do organisations need to do?

Personally, I am really excited at the strides that Attraqt has been making on Diversity and Inclusion. It has been important that it is not just a tick box exercise, but an investment and a real push for change at all levels of the organisation.  

Many companies have made huge strides in supporting LGBTQIA+ employees in the workplace however there is still a misconception that not much more needs to be done by employers, given that society appears to have made progress towards equality. Unfortunately, that is not the case, as research carried out by Stonewall revealed that 35% of LGBTQ staff have hidden their identity at work for fear of discrimination. Likewise, 18% admitted that they have experienced discrimination when applying for jobs because of their sexuality. This fear of being passed over for promotions and job interviews is still a very real problem for LGBTQIA+ employees. Education and training are key, followed by strong anti-discriminatory policies in every aspect of the company and training everyone, even if they are not LGBTQIA+, on how to be great allies.

Some the heroes we learned about this month include: Alan Turing, Roberta Cowell, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, Ivan Dimov, Nayab Ali, Magnus Hirschfeld, André Baudry, Storme DeLarverie, Marsha P. Johnson and Bayard Rustin

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