JOINING THE PRIDE CELEBRATIONS IN BELFAST
This year, for the first time, M&S will be taking part in the Pride celebrations in Belfast, Northern Ireland – the only part of the UK where same-sex marriage is still to be legalised. We caught up with Carl, a gay man and drag queen who works in the coffee shop at our Lisburn store, to talk about Pride, being LGBT+ in the Province and his experiences at M&S.
Carl has taken part in three Pride events in Belfast. “The first time I went with friends and it was an incredible experience. I wore the Pride flag, as I always do, and my favourite red wig at the time – everyone was so loving and accepting,” he remembers. “Pride for me shows everyone that, no matter who you are, you should just be yourself and embrace it. Never be afraid to show your true colours! It’s great that M&S will be taking part in the Belfast Pride celebrations for the first time as it shows that, as a company, we believe that people can be themselves whatever their role, and we accept people for who they are.”
Carl grew up in Dromore, a small town in the middle of the Northern Irish countryside. When he was young he remembers LGBT+ was never really discussed, but that changed as he got older. “Once people heard about LGBT+, they reacted according to their opinions and beliefs. I’ve seen a lot of anger and hatred, but at the same time I’ve seen the kindness and love of true people.” Carl can’t wait for Northern Ireland to allow people to marry who they want – and that’s not all. “There are a lot of changes we need to make, apart from same-sex marriage. One should be to lift the ban on LGBT+ people being allowed to give blood.”
Working at our Lisburn store as a gay man and drag queen, Carl believes he has had nothing but 100% support from his colleagues. Every year, the store holds an annual dinner, usually in March, and every year…
“I have gone in my nice outfit and my killer heels,” Carl tells us. “And for our 29th annual dinner I went in full drag. I got a round of applause and could feel the admiration for not being afraid to show who I am. I received a big ‘thank-you’ and ‘well done’ from so many colleagues and managers. It was the talk of the store for at least a week and a fantastic experience. Here’s to the people I work with – you are so lovely and kind!”
But Carl feels that there is always something more we can do to support the LGBT+ community. “I’d like us to look again at our ‘his and her’ items, and have more ‘his and his’ and ‘her and her’. And I’d love to see a window display with Rainbow flags at the back and four mannequins, two male and two female standing back to back, wearing the Rainbow t-shirt and showing the love!”Inside M&S