Eirik Fermann: — It is time to celebrate “Pride for all”.

Express yourself respectfully and leave your boxes /phobias at home. If you are not ready, then there is always next year. No pressure!

It is that time of year again – Pride Month!

I apologize sincerely, but we have a month to make you feel uncomfortable in the office and publically. However, let me put it out there.

I am not gay for a day, a week, a month – it is for life as I was born that way (I think!). Let us not bore you with the history behind it.

You can Google it, but gays fought for their equal rights and have come a long way since then. There is indeed the “When in Rome” model, and there is still a long way to go legally in certain jurisdictions, but let us stay positive, patient, and respectful of where people are in their inclusion journey.

However, you would be pleasantly surprised how many people from the list of countries declared officially hostile are much more open-minded than you can ever imagine. Change happens over time, especially at the top. However, history does offer a lesson as gays fought for equal rights; we do not just matter!

As a gay white man and somewhat privileged, I have attended the mainstream Pride events in London numerous times, both socially and with the hat on as EMEA Pride Co-Chair at my previous employer. I also made it to the Mardi Gras in Sydney once upon a time. However, I always feel very uncomfortable in those settings, but I still expose myself to the experience.

To quote the one and only Hannah Gadsby – “Where are the quiet gays supposed to go?”

I so relate to that, and I guess that demonstrates that I am somewhere on the spectrum. It is indeed a spectacle! Get on the floating stages if you feel comfortable or watch the parade if you prefer, but I have a secret weapon up my sleeve if neither option attracts you to accommodate—the same procedure as every day. I have referenced gays on purpose (dare I say white ones), as we are the most visible.

It was LGBT, then LGBT+ or LGBTQ+, and if you want the full abbreviation LGBTQQIP2SAA. Am I up to date?

I might have to Google it myself, to be honest. However, the fact is that, dare I say it (yes, I am allowed), the “Queer “community is one of the most diverse.

What hope exists for the broader inclusion agenda if we cannot sort out inclusion within our community?

My first Pride experience was marching with my sister in the Oslo Pride parade; I think was it 1996 if my memory serves me well, but I suppose we all have a bit of amnesia these days. I have never felt so uncomfortable, but that moment contributed somewhat to me coming out at a later stage.

Have I mentioned trans yet or non-binary yet? Let’s get even more uncomfortable. How could they fit in an office or my social circle? I have heard it so many times during my professional career and socially. With my first encounter with those who identify within those categories, I was very uncomfortable as I was unsure what to say or act. However, please remember it is not the words you choose or how you act. It is all about intent, and lifelong friendships are waiting.

I like to be a rebel behind the scenes (or in the basement) and make things happen to progress the inclusion agenda throughout my career by lifting others rather than myself.

I do not need to be on stage or steal the show, so I invited my “SHEro” and dear friend Dr Yvonne Thompson CBE to contribute to the concluding points.

Yvonne is one of those people who naturally shines on stage (She has been at the SHE Conference a few times!). Therefore only appropriate to include her in the closing arguments and give full credit to her partner and my “HEro” Patrick Lewis, who was a total trooper taking photos at SHE2022.

Patrick says inclusion is not what you do but who you are. As a note, the photo shoot was true during the Jubilee weekend, as unfortunately, inclusion work never ends. Maybe one day.

Now onto our concluding point – separate Black Pride events. There has been a strong and justified feeling of exclusion from people of colour in mainstream Pride events for decades, with undertones of white superiority signalled through who attends, artist/music lineup, and even basic catering options.

Not to mention what the mainstream Pride movement has prioritized regarding the policy agenda, which is very different from what the Black Pride movement has focused on. Again Google it! 

Eirik did offer you an alternative for the ones who prefer a more relaxed atmosphere rather than flaunting your lifestyle in the Pride Parade (at the mainstream Pride event and/or Black Pride) or just watching the spectacle, wherever your local celebrations may take place or wherever you may travel to. You do have the option to host your own very own house party or street party with tea and biscuits (or whatever your preference is!).

If you do not identify as too tired, please feel free to get organized! It is time to celebrate “Pride for all” – We are all Queens and Kings, regardless of gender, race, age, or sexual orientation. Express yourself respectfully and leave your boxes /phobias at home. If you are not ready, then there is always next year. No pressure!

We look forward to the next generation of Pride, and if you feel brave, please do flag the progress Pride flag rather than the traditional rainbow flag that we are accustomed to by now in 2022. It is indeed busy, but the progress flag represents all.

Inclusion always wins. This is our love message – together, we are indeed better!  

We are already looking forward to SHE2023 at Oslo Spektrum!

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