It’s June! It’s Pride month!

Rainbows! Love is love! We’re your ally! Buy stuff with rainbows on! Let’s come to your Pride parade, but make sure you tone it down a bit! More rainbows! Buy our products! Look, we’ve put a rainbow on it! We love everyone! We love absolutely everyone, in a very non-specific way! We definitely love sparkly unicorn rainbows! Go on, buy our rainbow stuff! Pride in everyone! We definitely mean that ally bit, honest! Rainbows!

Wait, what? Is that really what Pride is about to you?

If you’re part of the LGBTQ community in some way, or even just if you’re close to it, every year can feel a little bit like this. Every corporation—including, let’s be honest, Scott Logic—switches its logo to a rainbow version. A lot will announce some sort of rainbow-themed product. Train and bus companies will throw a party to unveil a rainbow-painted vehicle. Then, at midnight on July 1st, the rainbow logos disappear again like so much faery gold.

Speaking as a self-identified queer person, this feels, frankly, unsupportive. If your Pride support is something that can disappear from view overnight, is the LGBTQ community going to feel truly supported by you? In some ways, performative surface-level support can feel worse than no support at all; it makes you feel like a pawn, like a figure rolled out to make the company look good. That applies whether you’re a customer, a consumer, or, I’m sure, an employee of those companies—after all, virtually all companies will have LGBTQ members of staff within their workforce, whether those people feel willing to be open about their personal life or not.

Trying to make our support be meaningful, when it’s truly needed right now

I’m lucky: I work at Scott Logic. And here, we genuinely do take a lot of effort to make sure that our support for Pride isn’t purely performative, that it isn’t something that will just fade away in a few weeks’ time when the logo on our website goes back to the standard one.

We’re striving constantly to ensure that everyone within Scott Logic feels included, that everyone at Scott Logic is able to bring their real self to work just as far as they are comfortable with, no more and no less. We support our LGBTQ colleagues all year round to bring themselves fully to work. We look around all the time to make sure we are doing our best to make our office environments safe spaces. We support any colleagues wishing to transition to their true gender. We have LBGTQ staff at all levels in the business, including in the boardroom, and have done almost since the company was founded. We keep the Pride flag flying, every month of the year.

In the Scott Logic Bristol office, the Pride flag hangs all year round.  Photo by Sarah Haswell.

This is important. It matters, because although in the UK the majority of people are fully accepting and supportive of the rights of LGBTQ people, a vocal minority of those who do not has in recent years been growing in size. Hate crimes recorded against LGBTQ people have been increasing, up to and including murder. Britain’s position in the annual ILGA Rainbow Europe Index, a measure of LGBT safety and equality across the continent, has been dropping sharply.

Reactionary interests are seeing the growing support for the LGBTQ community, and are trying to push anti-LGBTQ policies as a result, even though the wider public shows very little concern on these issues. The recently announced guidance to English schools that they should not teach the truth that a person’s gender can differ from that assigned at birth, is just one example. It shows that attempts are clearly being made to return to the time 30 years ago when all UK public authorities were effectively barred from supporting, hosting events, or talking about LGBTQ issues at all.

Since our CEO Steve Foreshew-Cain talked about this three years ago, things have only gotten worse. In this context, Pride is still vital. It’s still a must. All of us must be proud to stand up and say that, no, acceptance matters. We do not want and do not consent to being forcibly returned to the society we had in the past, when “queer” was a term of abuse and rights such as marriage equality were a distant dream.

Hiding is painful

When I first started working at Scott Logic, I was in the closet. To the vast majority of people around me—everyone other than a tiny number of my very oldest friends—I wasn’t out. My sexual orientation and my gender identity were both a very closely guarded, very-well-hidden secret.

I know I’m not the first Scott Logician to say this, but if you can’t bring your true self to work, if you are constantly hiding a large part of yourself, it is very hard work. It involves constantly masking, constantly checking what you say or do, constantly filtering yourself. It’s a bit like if you left your computer running a whole pile of software that you don’t really need. It’s a full-time cognitive load that is a constant drain on you. It’s feeling you can’t talk about your partners or your past; it’s feeling you have something to hide, and waking from regular nightmares in which you’ve been found out.

For years, I was scared of coming out; when I did, it was a massive weight off my mind. I’d figuratively dressed in a chain-mail suit to protect myself, a suit of armour that grew one link at a time, and I didn’t realise just how heavy it was until I took it off. Looking back, I know now just how much coming out and being able to be myself at work has helped me grow, develop, and become a better developer and consultant. Coming out is still an ongoing, continuous event for me, just as it is for every other queer person, but I’m so glad I managed to crack my previous shell.

Meaningful support can mean a lot

I said at the start of this post that this is the time of year that train companies unveil special Pride liveries for their vehicles. A couple of months ago, I travelled down to London to attend an AWS showcase workshop that I’ve written about elsewhere on this blog. Getting off the train at King’s Cross, I stopped to take a photo of the train that had brought me there. An LNER employee, waiting I think for his next train to work, came up to me.

“If you’re interested,” he said, “I just saw our Pride set pull in to the other platform. I thought you might like a photo of that too.”

The LNER Pride train standing at King's Cross station.  Author's photo.

Painting a train in Pride colours might appear to be a surface-level, performative Pride activity. The kind of actions that that rail worker showed towards me, though—spotting a visibly-queer woman taking an interest in the trains, and sharing a piece of info he thought she might appreciate—is exactly the sort of “grassroots” action that makes people feel genuinely welcome and included. It wouldn’t have been possible without that livery, of course, but that small action was a much bigger statement than the livery itself. It was a meaningful action, rather than a performative one.

That is what LGBTQ people collectively need: meaningful actions that say you stand with us, you support us, you want us to be part of your community. They’re not necessarily big things; it can start off with small and simple things, like not assuming the gender of partners, or confirming someone’s chosen pronouns when you meet them. From these little acorns, greater things can grow. The more that LGBTQ people are shown that the colleagues around them are happy with this kind of openness, the more open we will be in return, and the stronger your work community will grow.

Pride month is an ideal opportunity for companies to start to make those jumps, to promote little touches of inclusivity. If the momentum is kept up once June has turned to July, soon you will be able to boast that your office has a diverse, inclusive, open and welcoming community, in which nobody needs to hide their gender or sexuality behind a mask.

It’s June, it’s Pride month, and I’m proud. I’m not just proud of who I am and the life I live, I’m not just proud of my professional career achievements, but I’m proud to say that I work for Scott Logic, a company that genuinely believes in meaningful actions to develop a diverse and inclusive working environment. We’re not perfect, and any of my colleagues reading this will admit quietly that we still do have a way to go, that there are lots more meaningful actions that we could take. I’m definitely proud to say that we are working on that, that we accept that this will always be a journey and there will always be new suggestions and ways we could improve. The important thing is that we have started the journey and we’re not going to stop or go back.

I hope reading this has inspired you to reflect on what you could do to do the same; and remember, sometimes, small changes can be as important as large ones. I really hope, though, that more and more organisations will start to use Pride as a turning point for meaningful change, not performative slogans. Above all, I hope that you, reading this, have the freedom you need to be the person you know you are. Happy Pride.