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why Pride should be an everyday thing, for everyone

Whilst we can’t take to the streets to celebrate Leeds Pride this year, we’ll still be showing our support.

We’ve long been supporters of Pride and in 2016 we became a key sponsor of Leeds Pride. All the colour, the noise, the parade, the people, the message – it’s something we’re extremely proud to be part of. We have also been part of the Pride celebrations in Glasgow joining the march with our Scottish colleagues.

Although the event is officially cancelled this year, it won’t stop us celebrating Pride from home, listening to each other, supporting each other and spreading the message far and wide.

Pride is who we are at first direct. Whether part of the LGBTQ+ community or not, we all take pride in being a team of brilliantly unique people, doing amazing things every day.

Spreading awareness, showing support and educating each other on LGBTQ+ issues is so important to us. We’re committed to paving the way for progress and making a real difference, as a company and as a community. Through education, we believe we can help to raise awareness and keep breaking down the barriers to equality and diversity, together.

To help us do this, we have an in-house Pride Network who work closely with our Diversity and Inclusion team. In addition to hosting events for our colleagues, they’re working hard to make positive changes to our policies, programs and practices to make sure we’re keeping inclusivity and diversity at the forefront of our actions and ultimately for our customers, for example rolling out LGBTQ+ ally training for our colleagues as well as encouraging them to share their preferred pronouns.

Because everyday pride is powerful.

It’s the way we feel, the way we act. The way we support each other, the way we accept each other. It’s the way we educate ourselves, express ourselves and love ourselves.

It’s a shared understanding that Pride isn’t just a day or a month or a rainbow or a social post. It’s everyday life, 24/7. For all of us – not just those who identify as LGBTQ+.

We spoke to Ali, co-founder of Leeds Pride, about how this year will be a different kind of Pride celebration…

“Leeds Pride has always been about togetherness, but this year we’ve all got to stay safe and celebrate Pride at home.”

“Some of our acts will be performing on social media, so look out for links on the Leeds Pride social channels.”

How did he feel about the decision to cancel Leeds Pride 2020?

“It was gut-wrenching having to cancel, but we had to do it. We left the cancellation until as late as possible, clinging onto that hope that it might happen. But we got to a stage where it was impossible to run it.

“For us, it would have been our 15th Pride event. We started with 300 people in 2006 and every year it’s just got bigger and bigger and bigger.”

What is so special about Leeds Pride?

“We try to get all of Leeds involved, even those not part of the LGBTQ+ community know when Pride is happening and they look forward to that day too. It’s so positive because everyone’s there for the same reasons – either part of the LGBTQ+ community or an ally of the community, they’re there to enjoy the day.

“We are a free event, we want to be open for everyone. We don’t have any age restrictions, anyone’s welcome into our space. It’s important we do that just for that one person who wants to come to our event. If you are a 15 or 16 year old questioning your sexuality and you want to come to a Pride event, we need to remove all the barriers for you to come.

“Someone told me that they came to Leeds Pride with their Mum for 2 years and they now feel safe enough to come on their own and be proud with their community on their own. That inclusivity…that feeling of freedom, safety, confidence and acceptance. That’s the atmosphere we want.

“Without the sponsors, we couldn’t have it as a free event. We couldn’t put the event on at all. Partnering with first direct for all these years has been fantastic. Everybody is 100% behind it and every year they bring hundreds of people to the parade itself. That’s exactly the kind of allies we need.”

Why is education so important for Pride?

“Educating people at a younger age is brilliant. If you’re taking someone to a Pride event at 4 or 5 years old, they’re not going to grow up to be homophobic. No one was born homophobic. It’s something they learn.

“So if you educate people at a young age and you go to Pride events and get involved with the LGBTQ+ community, everything is so much easier in the future.

“I see that a lot with young people now that they do understand the community a lot more. So when we’re going into schools and doing training courses and stuff, they’ve got a great understanding of it. And with the laws changing recently with regards to education of LGBTQ history and their rights, it’s going to be so much easier in the future for people to come out and not be bullied and not be abused.

Why is ‘everyday pride’ such an important thing?

“There’s no point having an event that lasts for a day and then it’s forgotten about. It’s 51 years since the Stonewall riots and 50 years since the first Pride event…

“Pride was a protest. It was about LGBT rights at the time and we are still fighting for those rights. With the Gender Recognition Act, it’s still very difficult for people from the trans community to live their lives the way they want to and we still have correctional therapy going on in this country. It’s banned in so many countries but it’s still allowed here. It’s happening on our doorsteps, it could be happening in a building in Leeds city centre.

“Hate crime for the LGBTQ+ community is on the increase, too. It could be because we’ve got the law on our side now so people feel more comfortable reporting it, they might not have reported it in the past.

“We’ve come so far, but there’s a long, long way to go.”

What will Leeds Pride 2021 be like?

“Don’t worry, we’ll be back bigger and better next year. There’ll be even more colour. We’ll make even more noise.

“The parade will be bigger, too. Having that visibility, being loud, saying ‘We’re here!’”. That’s what Leeds Pride is about.”

So, what can you do to show your support this year?

While you can’t go out and take part in the Leeds Pride parade this year, you can take pride in listening, learning, accepting people, supporting each other, educating yourself, and expressing yourself instead.

From garden parties, educating yourself on how to become a better ally, or even just having conversations about Pride and understanding how you can make a difference, you can show your support and make positive changes.

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