June 2022 marked 50 years since the first Pride march in the UK. Here at enei, we recognise the importance of celebrating this milestone and are commemorating the occasion by sharing some of the LGBTQ+ icons we admire.
A brief history of Pride month and why we celebrate it…
In some parts of the UK, the month of June has become intrinsically linked with Pride celebrations. But in the early days of Pride, social breakthroughs for members of the LGBTQ+ community were yet to come–and so were the celebrations. Instead, activities were focused more on protests and political activism. For several decades, LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies have been fighting hard to give the community the right to get married, start families, and continue that momentum to combat discrimination in work and society today.
In June 1969, police raided a gay bar in New York City called the Stonewall Inn. After this event, LGBTQ+ people created spontaneous demonstrations to protest this action and fight for their rights. Since the passage of the Equality Act 2010, LGBTQ+ people in Great Britain have been protected from discrimination in the workplace, and additional social progress has been made as well.
Pride month is a time to acknowledge the progress made, recognise the issues that the community still face, and show support for LGBTQ+ colleagues. There are several ways for your organisation to do this, including some of those suggested in the Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion (enei) Pride Hub 2022.
So, here are 10 LGTBQ+ role models who have shaped the attitudes of some of Team enei:
Meghan O’Neil, Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator
“Growing up in the US watching the nightly news with my parents, Anderson Cooper became one of the first public figures that I looked up to come out as openly gay on his show in 2012. Eight years later, he announced that he had a child via surrogacy while on-air and later talked about the experience openly, holding back tears, when his son was born. In my eyes, Anderson Cooper is an icon for so many reasons, but at the top of that list, I admire him for his vulnerability, openness, and how he helped redefine what a family can look like.”
Emily Wilkinson, Marketing, PR and Communications Coordinator
“Blair Imani is a name I only came across in the last two years and have since followed and admired. She is an American author, historian, and educator who identifies as queer, black, bisexual, and Muslim. Her short #SmarterInSeconds Instagram videos and Read This to Get Smarter book are wonderful resources that make learning about complex issues and topics easy.”
Michelle Davies, Service Design and Delivery Director
“The iconic Scottish pop singer and songwriter with the pop groups Bronski Beat and The Communards, who released the song Small Town Boy in 1984. This was my inspiration for moving to London from my own ‘small town,’ discovering the LGBTQ+ community and being able to develop my own sense of identity as a bi-sexual woman.”
Annette Henry, Marketing, PR and Communications Lead
“I discovered John’s work through his book The Promises of Giants and was hooked. His story is one of determination to achieve against all odds. He empowers and inspires, a true LGBTQ+ role model, especially for Black and Brown peeps.”
Kali Bolawole, Diversity and Inclusion Lead
“I love the late great Leon Andre Talley and how he influenced fashion for Conde Nast during his time at Vogue. Whilst he hated labels such as ‘gay’, he was very open about his sexual fluidity regarding physical attraction.”
Emma Jennings, Diversity and Inclusion Lead
Phyllis Akua Opoku-Gyimah “a queer powerhouse. She is the founder of UK Black Pride, a political activist, and executive director of the LGBT+ charity, Kaleidoscope Trust. She is a true role model for the community, shifting the UK’s political and societal landscape for ethnically diverse LGBTQ+ individuals.”
Lou Gonzales, Finance Administration Assistant
“I feel like I have grown up with Madonna. She is the whole package for me. Influential, charismatic and creative. She is not scared to say what she thinks. She is a powerful LGBTQ+ ally and has dedicated her career to achieving equality for the LGBTQ+ community globally.”
Tara Edwards, Finance and HR Operations Manager
“Pink was an absolute icon for me growing up. Pink shattered stereotypes with style and boldly challenged views on gender expression. Her fearless lyricism and videos, commitment to authenticity, and advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community is why she was and continues to be a role model for me.”
Dana David, Diversity and Inclusion Lead
“Growing up in post-communist Romania in the 90s wasn’t exactly heaven for LGBTQ+ expression. However, when Dana International won the Eurovision song contest in 1998, her name was across our TV screens. I automatically liked her because of her great stage name (I wasn’t biased at all 😉). Still, most importantly, she is an example of a strong, independent woman who was not scared of pushing societal boundaries to be herself.”
Kerry Kirk, Diversity and Inclusion Lead
“I have huge admiration for Val McDermid – her authenticity, achievements and action to support gender equality!”
Would any of these icons appear in your list? Or your organisation’s list? Why not run a poll to find out—and make sure to share the answers with us!
This blog post originally appeared on 27 May 2022 and was revised in July 2022.