Rainbow flags at the ready… It’s time to celebrate 50 years of Pride! Since the first Pride rally in London on 1 July 1972, inspired by the 1969 Stonewall Riots in the US, June has become a month-long celebration dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community.
It’s a time for people all around the world to come together in love and friendship; to celebrate our differences, to show how far LGBTQ+ rights have come, but to also highlight the work that is still to be done at home and around the globe.
But what does Pride mean to us at Utilita?
Inclusivity is important to us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – that’s why we work alongside Pride 365 and Stonewall throughout the year to ensure that EVERYONE feels welcome at Utilita. Always.
To celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of Pride Month, we spoke to members of our LGBTQ+ Inclusion and Diversity group to hear their stories and find out what Pride means to them…
What does Pride mean to you?
Harley Morgenstern (Senior Revenue Protection Analyst): Pride is a great opportunity to remind people that the fight for equal rights is still not over, whilst also making it clear that we’re not going anywhere and that we are owning our differences and will, in fact, celebrate them. Even here in the UK where things have come in leaps and bounds compared to recent years, we still need Pride to highlight where changes are still needed. Until everyone can freely live their most authentic selves every day and be legally recognised for who they are, we need pride to provide a safe space where all can thrive.
Steph McNally (Void Account Manager): Pride to me means a sense of belonging. For a long time in my teenage years, I felt isolated because of who I was. But as I got older and started going to Pride celebrations across the country, I felt like I wasn’t on my own, and that there are people just like me.
Nic Rhodes (Director of Brand Marketing): Pride is an opportunity to celebrate who we are and therefore counteract the shame that many of us have been made to feel about our sexuality or gender. It also allows us to pay tribute to many members of our community (and allies!) who fought so hard for us to achieve the equal rights we experience today. Whilst so much progress has been made, it’s also important to remember that many countries in the world don’t face the same level as acceptance as us. Pride events give a message of hope to everyone around the world.
KT Fry (Postroom Assistant): That’s a biggun’! Pride [to me] means community and acceptance. It means showing up and taking up space to be seen and heard as equal members of society in the face of adversity, as well as remember all those that came before us in the struggle to be recognised and valued as those equals.
Can you tell us about your experience of coming out?
Amy Haskett (Billing Team Leader): So, I openly came out to family around 17 years old. Initially the experience was daunting and scary, but I have very loving parents and they have just embraced me as is. I told my sister first, as her and I are very close, then Mum. I will say this though, Diana Ross singing ‘I’m coming out’ on the radio was a novel touch. Mum and I still laugh to this day.
Harley: Which time? Haha! The first time was to my (lesbian) stepsister when I was 15; I confided in her that I might be bisexual (didn’t know a word for pansexual at the time) and she then outed me to my parents before I’d even really had a chance to come to terms with it. Unfortunately, as is often the case for bi or pan people, despite having gay parents, they weren’t quite as supportive as I would have liked. In terms of my gender identity, that one is less hard to pinpoint. I had struggled with my gender identity and expression for most of my life. It was only when I learned that genderqueer and non-binary are terms that existed that my struggles really started making sense. I flip-flopped about coming out for years but finally bit the bullet in 2018.
Damian Drouet (Senior Field Sales Compliance Officer): I came out when I was 19. I was outed as bisexual by someone I put my trust in and I struggled for years to come to terms with that. My mum didn’t mind, although it took a while for my brothers to accept it, but once I was happy in myself, I then become a new version of myself - so I now kind of thank that person for outing me.
KT: I don’t think I’m alone when I say I’ve come out a few times now. First when I was 15 as bisexual, at 18 as a Lesbian and at 27 as Queer and Non-binary. Although there has been some backlash, it’s overshadowed by the overwhelming acceptance I’ve received.
Do you have any tips that could help someone who wants to come out?
Jack Mizel (Pride 365): It’s important to remember that everyone’s journey is different. Some people come out at a young age; some never do. Others tell everyone they know whilst some only share it with a select few. Basically, there is no right way to choose. How you come out will depend on the individual’s own lived experience and situation.
There are many inspirational figures in the LGBTQ+ community, such as Marsha P. Johnson, but is there anyone that you are personally inspired by?
Nic: My husband inspires me every day. We met at 17 (we both chose to come out on the same day to support each other) and ever since, his bold and positive attitude has helped me overcome a lot of the trauma I carried from my youth. He has given me the confidence to be unapologetically me.
Steph: Ellen DeGeneres is one that sticks out for me, she came out at a time that ended up hurting her career. But she came back braver than ever to defy the odds and look at her now!
Damian: I have many gay friends and they are all amazing but, my aunt is a massive advocate for me and has always supported me. She is my inspirational figure.
Amy: I have always been inspired by Laverne Cox. She has not only opened up in as much detail as she could about her journey through life, but was also willing to immortalise it in a TV show called Orange is the New Black. That’s brave and raw, which to me deserves my adoration.
Have you ever faced any challenges or bias as a member of the LGBTQ+ community?
Harley: Having gay parents and going to school in the 90’s and 00’s meant, that even without my own identities, I had a target on my back. As a genderqueer/non-binary pansexual person, I am somewhat at the mercy of a very binary world. Bi/panphobia is a big problem even within the LGBTQ+ community, as is transphobia, in particular against non-binary trans people. For a few years after coming out as non-binary, I tried to be ok with binary gender pronouns because I didn’t want to draw attention to it or cause a fuss for others, but last year I finally did myself the favour of asserting that I was not comfortable with that. Some people were overwhelmingly supportive; however, others were not and in some cases met with outright hostility and/or what seems to be an extra effort to use gendered language unnecessarily.
Amy: Being a LGBTQ+ member is still tough. We read stories daily of acts of violence, bulling and sometimes death. The stigma behind being who we are is a daily challenge and specifically for me… Culturally Lesbians are still a taboo subject. I do sometimes feel anxious holding my partners hand in public and I can literally feel my resting face appear, however over the years I have learned that I am happiest when I am authentically me. So now I don’t tent to frown or lower my head, I simply walk with confidence.
Nic: Being a teenager is tough. Being a LGBTQ+ teenager can be emotionally and physically painful. Like many LGBTQ+ people, I experienced bullying, ridicule, and torment on a daily basis. I’ve learned to see these experiences as lessons that have shaped me into the person I am today. But they can be scars that many people carry for the rest of their lives.
Steph: I was bullied at school, I have received comments in the streets, even being on a night out I have been in a gay club and received homophobic slurs, and I sometimes receive them at home based on the way I dress and cut my hair, my words are “I am me, and you are not changing that”.
How long have you worked at Utilita and how do you feel about the support available to you in the workplace?
Amy: I have been in the company for over 4 years now, which just shows what a great place to work this is. I cannot credit my peers, allies, the LGBTQ+ staff members and the general rule of inclusivity here enough. We have a great partnership with Stonewall and Pride365, as well as our I&D groups where we can have our voices heard.
Nic: I’ve worked at Utilita for over 6 years, which affirms how accepted and safe I feel here. As both a Director and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s incredibly important to me that our inclusive principles aren’t just superficial, but ingrained into the culture of our business. Our partnerships with Stonewall and Pride365, excellent ‘Great Place to Work’ inclusivity results and most recently, our new Inclusion & Diversity groups all validate the genuine values that live at the very core of the Utilita brand.
KT: I have worked here 3 years now and the support here is much more readily available than other places I have worked.
What is the best thing about working at Utilita?
Amy: We care about ‘people’. As a consumer myself I know how difficult it can be when you have a difficult or challenging customer experience and the fact, we put our customers at the heart of what we do, impresses me daily. That carries over to how the staff are treated also.
Damian: I really enjoy the family vibe and support you get no matter who it is from around the business. Everyone always wants to do good and has a general investment in the business instead of it being just a job.
Harley: The fact that Utilita is always stretching and growing and evolving, not only in terms of the services with provide customers but also in terms of their attitudes to how they treat their staff.
Steph & KT: The people!
Nic: The people and the genuine determination to change lives for the better.
Tell us one thing that you wish people knew about the LGBTQ+ community…
Steph: As much as we raise our flags and celebrate our Pride Months, the battle is not over yet.
Love is Love 🌈 Pride 365
Nic: Coming out isn't a one-time thing. It happens over and over again. It can be scary every time.
Damian: It’s not all about rainbows and sunshine. We all have our dark days and in the community of the LGBTQ+, you will always find someone who is prepared to listen and help where they can. Straight or Gay it does not matter. We are all as one.
Do you have any tips on ways we can all become better ally to support the LGBTQ+ community?
Harley: Just be respectful. No matter what you do or say, if it’s from a place of genuine care and/or respect then it’s unlikely to be bad. If you (or someone else) misgenders someone, just correct yourself/them and continue, nothing more – there’s no need for an explanation/justification for your mistake.
Amy: Be brave, don’t be afraid to shine your light. Feeling comfortable is key and if there is no malice in you asking questions or inquiring about something then your life will become richer and fuller.
Steph: Just be genuine, we are people just like anybody else. Ask questions 😊
Nic: Never be afraid to ask questions. As long as you both feel comfortable and your intentions are good, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to learn more about someone and their experiences. New perspectives are what make the world a rich and diverse place.
Jack: Where do we start? Positivity and wanting to show support is a great way to begin. Listen to the LGBTQ+ community. Gain an understanding and take time to recognise the strength in diversity, acceptance, and inclusion. Be a role model for kindness and allow people to be authentic around you and in your organisation. Through our work at Pride 365 and our forthcoming collaboration stay informed and educate your communities about equality.
Happy Pride Month to all our customers, staff, and partners!