Words: Lee Mabey, co-chair &Proud, Dentsu Aegis Network LGBTQ+ and Allies Community
It was an honour to march with my colleagues last year at Pride in London. The noise, colour and sights of that day are etched into memory.
Yet, 12 months ago, as we finally finished dancing and marching in the procession, it would have been unfathomable to think it wouldn’t happen this year. In 2020, for the first time in 50 years, there will not be a single Pride march in the UK – or almost anywhere else in the world – in the month of June. So, with the confetti cannons in hibernation and no rainbow floats parading down Regent’s Street, people can reassess and reflect on what Pride stands for.
Pride Month is marked around the world every June to coincide with the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, a seismic event in the gay rights movement. In the intervening half century many marches, especially on these shores, have moved from protest to party.
My reasons for attending Pride have changed over the years. I would be lying if my initial Prides were not in the name of drinking untold volumes of lager and catching as many Hazell Dean performances as possible (look her up, kids). However, I now realise there is more to why we march and I am privileged to have the opportunity to attend Pride (or indeed stay away).
There are people in the UK who do not have this choice. It might be because they are too young, they are not ‘out’ or live within systems which are not accepting of their sexuality, chosen gender or identity.
At the same time, globally there are 73 jurisdictions that still criminalise same-sex sexual activity, 45 criminalising same-sex relationships between women and 12 criminalising self-identification of gender (although the numbers of those with laws discriminating against trans or non-binary folk is far higher).
More depressingly there are horrifyingly still 12 jurisdictions where the death penalty can be imposed for same-sex sexual activity.
It is for these people, living under these circumstances home and abroad, I now attend.
My attendance as part of a collective of hundreds of thousands is an act of both solidarity and defiance. Those looking in from afar can see that there are people like them out there, and that their lives are valid.
I am taking this month to further educate myself about our community and its underrepresented voices. As a white cis-gendered gay man I am afforded privilege, so I must learn how to help those whose stories need to be heard.
Pride 2020 is more vital, more essential than ever before. Now is not the time for silence – it is imperative that we are both visible and vocal, helping those who drew hope from watching the marches through our streets.
Dentsu Aegis Network is committed to keeping Pride alive. Our LGBTQ+ and allies network; &Proud, has curated an incredible season of virtual events with our people, clients and media owner partners. Throughout June and the summer, we will ensure we are keeping the debate going; to educate, inform and encourage change in our industry, as there’s still much to be done.
Dentsu Aegis Network is the only agency holding group (and one of only three media companies) to be named in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index Top 100. We are honoured to be part of a select club, but we need more to join us. We must do better for our people and the wider society.
We may not be pounding the streets this summer, but we will absolutely not stay quiet this Pride Month. Silence is not an option when there is still so much work to do.