25th June 2015 at 11:06am
Flying the LGBT flag
The multi-coloured flag of the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender communities (LGBT) flew above our headquarters last weekend to celebrate the Edinburgh Pride Festival.
We’re working hard to improve diversity and inclusion at Standard Life alongside the inspiring people in our own LGBT network. We’re very proud to support our employees and make our workplace as inclusive and equal as possible; and we want that approach to be the same for the communities we work with and our customers. That way, we’ll create a truly sustainable business.
But sometimes it’s not enough to just say we’re inclusive and welcoming. There’s a real need to make visible commitments to show you mean it, so to see the rainbow flag flying high made me feel really proud.
Here’s one very good reason why.
Last year, our LGBT network won an employee award for their work to improve diversity and inclusion at Standard Life. The award came with a donation of £3000 to the charity of their choice, and our network decided they wanted to share the money with LGBT Youth Scotland.
Handing over the award, we were joined by Chief Executive Fergus McMillan and Garie, who’s benefited from their work, to talk to us about what they do. Garie shared his story:
Garie’s story: Coming out
“In November 2012, I finally plucked up the courage to tell someone a secret that I tried to bury for 15 years, thinking that there was something wrong with me. I told my mum, “I’m gay”. It felt so good to finally say it to someone. After that night I realised I didn’t know who I was. I started going through so many phases in such a short space of time that mum said she didn’t know who I was any more either. We went from being each other’s best friends to hardly being able to talk without screaming at each other.
“I searched online for some sort of support to help us start talking again; I found LGBT Youth Scotland had just opened a new youth group in Inverness and I mentioned it to my mum. We finally went along to the group and when one of the youth workers asked us to introduce ourselves; I found that saying “I’m gay” stuck in my throat. I had spent so long denying it, it felt wrong to say it to people who I didn’t know. I kept going back to the group each week and I got more and more confident in my identity so that I felt I could come out to more people; I came out to my family and my friends.
“Finally, Pride 2013 came around in Edinburgh; LGBT Youth Scotland was offering to take the group down for the day with our youth workers. It was amazing. Rainbows everywhere, drag shows, a square full of people who went through the same process I did. I went from being a shy little boy who hid who he was for so long, to skipping down the Royal Mile with a rainbow flag wrapped around my neck. I stopped caring what people thought of me. I took that confidence with me back to Inverness and I’ve never looked back since. There are always going to be people who try to pull you down but I know who I am now.”
I was really struck by this, and the courage Garie showed. It’s horrible to think of anyone growing up feeling isolated and uncomfortable just because of who they are, and it’s still too difficult to grow up being gay in the UK. The stigma hasn’t been destroyed yet, and that’s why events like Pride remain necessary. As one tweet I saw this weekend said: “You don’t have to be gay to support equal rights. It’s called being human.”
And that, for me, says it all.