Every June, social media is awash with rainbow logos and celebrations are in full swing for Global Pride Month. However, we believe that the spirit of Pride - empowering, celebrating, and standing in solidarity with LGBTQ+ communities worldwide - shouldn’t be confined to 30 days per year. Taking action is something that can - and should - happen every day.
The champion of that perspective is Joe White: a leading light in campaigning for a more inclusive future in football (and society as a whole). Joe is a lawyer by profession but has grown into a truly inspirational voice over recent years as one of the world’s leading queer and non-binary football campaigners. Joe co-founded Three Lions Pride (the England football team’s LGBTQ+ supporters’ group) and is co-Chair of Arsenal’s LGBTQ+ fan group, Gay Gooners - the first in the UK, and the largest in the world.
We were fortunate to be introduced to Joe and the Gay Gooners through our company CTO and loyal Arsenal football fan, Kieran Gutteridge. We were so excited that Joe was able to join us for a thoughtful and honest discussion around Pride, football, diversity, and inclusion (as well as England’s nearly-but-not-quite run to the final of the Euro 2020 tournament that was coming towards its culmination at the time!). Joe’s hour-long session with the Cutover team opened the door for us to explore and question our own approach (individually and collectively) to championing equality and inclusion. Joe had a few anecdotes of their own, some harrowing, some downright inspirational, and some uncovering the football escapades of the very CTO that gave Joe the stage (don’t worry though Kieran, your stories are safe!)
One of the key areas Joe touched on was the need to move our collective societal focus from being an ‘ally’ to becoming a ‘champion’ to affect real change. Joe walked us through their thoughts on the limitations of ‘silent allyship’ (e.g. being a passive supporter of a cause, but doing nothing to actively further it), in comparison to the real change that can occur with vocal, passionate, proactive championing of a cause, movement, or mindset. Joe summarised this concept of silent allyship well, saying: ‘Silent allyship is purely someone using the label ally to make themselves feel better; it does nothing for whatever community you’re saying you’re an ally to”.
This takes us back to the ‘rainbow-washing’ swathe of logo changes regularly seen throughout June. This isn’t a criticism of the brands who show their support in this way; it’s good to show solidarity through gestures such as changing a logo, but without substance and action behind it, nothing will change. Through opening up company-wide discussion and building awareness, we feel that we are taking the right first steps internally to build strong foundations to enable us to make incremental change. In Joe’s terms, we want to encourage everybody to be an active champion and to feel empowered to take action, be more vocal in confronting issues head-on, and collaborating with those around them to build genuinely inclusive environments for the long term.
So, even when Pride Month is a distant memory, these conversations are still vital to actively support LGBTQ+ conversations and equality. We can’t, and won’t, just pay lip service, and instead, we want to be accountable for taking action and to continue to build an inclusive environment in which people feel that they can bring their whole, authentic selves to work. That starts with a conversation and continues with ongoing, meaningful, and educational focus to build the platform for those active champions we mentioned before.