Alongside a number of Law Society colleagues, Rob Marrs, our Head of Education, joined The Glass Network and CMS at Edinburgh Pride on Saturday. Here he explains the importance of Pride and how you can adapt the culture in your workplace to ensure everyone is equal.
Saturday was Edinburgh Pride and I was honoured to be invited along to be part of The Glass Network and CMS Pride brunch, before many attendees headed along to the march itself. A number of Law Society colleagues including the Vice President came along. To my knowledge this was the first time the Law Society has taken part in Pride and I can promise you it won’t be the last.
For those of you who don't know, The Glass Network is the advisory and networking body for LGBT+ legal professionals in Scotland. We are proud to support them and have enjoyed working closely with them over the years. The highlight of the event was CMS' managing director for Scotland, Allan Wernham, signing the newly minted Glass Charter. The Charter comprises five principles and signatories choose which two to prioritise. Those are: inclusive recruitment; local action; senior buy-in; allied commitment; and innovative intersectionality.
The brunch was attended by LGBT+ members and allies. It was very much a family friendly affair, lots of children running about. As a straight guy attending, it really was lovely to be invited to be part of the celebration. I'm always aware though that whilst Pride is a celebration, it's a lot more than that too. In the week of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising we should remember Pride's other functions. It is a protest. It is an act of defiance. It is a space for people who throughout history have been marginalised to come together and just be themselves.
Anyone doubting the need for Pride might remember recent events of two lesbian women being beaten up on a bus. Or that over this weekend there was a suspected homophobic attack in Liverpool. Or that there is a part of the UK that still does not allow same-sex couples to marry. Progress that has been earned towards LGBT+ equality is relatively recent (homosexuality was only decriminalised in Scotland in 1980; the section 28 repeal only occurred in 2000; same-sex couples were only allowed to marry in Scotland in 2014) and we mustn't assume that just because progress has been made there will be no backsliding.
Turning our eyes to the legal profession, we know things are getting better but there is still work to do. We know that a significant percentage of our LGBT+ members are not out at work. While no one should ever feel they must be out at work, We do know though that some of those who said they weren’t out at work would like to be. Think about that for a second. Across the profession, LGBT+ people cannot be themselves at work. They don't feel able to talk about their partners. They don't know how their colleagues will react so they never mention their sexuality. In such circumstances it is difficult to - say - talk about what they did at the weekend over a coffee.
Imagine how that feels day after day. Afraid that your biggest secret might come out and that might impact how your colleagues - your bosses or your clients - feel about you and treat you. Imagine how that worry will impact your wellbeing, your performance, your productivity, your happiness.
Now imagine you are a straight colleague. How can you foster a culture within your organisation and wider profession? There are lots of ways: Learn about LGBT+ issues, support LGBT+ people in your life (ask questions and listen!), challenge inappropriate comments, advocate for LGBT+ equality, attend Pride, speak to LGBT+ colleagues about their experience and see how your workplace can be more LGBT+ friendly.
A senior figure in the profession once told me that as a young man in the late 70's he had danced with another man at the SYLA summer social. This did not go down well with the assorted Law Society and legal profession bigwigs who looked on in horror. That reaction is unthinkable today. The same man told me when we collaborated with The Glass Network on a digital campaign a few years ago that he couldn't believe his professional body was doing that; he couldn’t believe how much we’d transformed as a professional body and as a profession. We've come a long way but ultimately none of us have equality until all of us have equality. We've still some way to go. Let's march together as we do.
"The march itself was a joyful event with many families, children and young people participating. Waiting for the march to start at the Scottish Parliament building there was an air of excited anticipation, and it was wonderful to see so many people gathering at the heart of Scottish democracy. Once we were off and marching up the Royal Mile there were many people lining the route cheering the marchers on. Even the traffic lights (which were covered with diversity symbols) showed their support! There were also many large organisations participating there, as well as CMS, we saw banners and representatives from LNER and Barclays. Seeing organisations who were (quite literally) walking the walk as well as talking the talk was gratifying. However a strong representation from campaigners for trans rights was a reminder there is still much to do."