12 June, 2018

A WARM RECEPTION

Kath is Section Manager at the New Change Simply Foods store – bisexual and non-binary, they attended their first Pride through M&S. “Although I’ve been in and around the periphery of a few Prides, last year was my first full Pride experience.”

But the decision came with some deliberation, “I was relatively new to M&S, so I signed up to the M&S London Pride via Yammer. I was initially quite hesitant, as I suffer from incredible social anxiety and a huge fear of crowds. However, I couldn’t have wished for a better day. Everyone was so welcoming and inclusive, and it was such an amazing thing to be part of the march, such an incredible experience.”

And the pleasant surprises didn’t stop there: “Ultimately, that day led onto me being involved with the M&S LGBT+ network, working towards planning further Pride events and other LGBT+ initiatives within M&S.”

But for Kath, Pride also brings with it a sense of responsibility. “Although some might say Pride in later years has become more celebratory than a protest for LGBT+ rights, Pride must always have activism at its heart and, as such, serve as a reminder of what has been achieved and a motivation to push forward. As we celebrate our diversity and equality, we must think of those who cannot celebrate, and keep those in mind who are still persecuted for who they are or who they love.”

As attitudes towards the LGBT+ community evolve, there’s still a way to go. “In my lifetime, I’ve experienced the UK transform in terms of its acceptance of the LGBT+ community; however, we’re not there yet. In the last few years I have seen a growing understanding and acceptance towards non-binary identities, but like bisexuality, often some discrimination and misunderstanding comes within the LGBT+ community itself.”

Kath’s career journey has seen a shift towards LGBT+-friendly employers. “At a store level, my colleagues treat me no differently than their non-LGBT+ colleagues and that’s how it should be. M&S does an impressive number of things for its LGBT+ employees, including support via the LGBT+ network, Yammer Group, Facebook group, events, Pride presence and so on.”

“I’m proud to be part of the M&S LGBT+ network and will be extremely proud to be in this this year’s parade, knowing how far I have come and how far we have come as a business in a year. I will fly our flag with so much ‘pride’.”

Inside M&S