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Pride is more than fanfares and floats

We should get over our disappointment about World Pride in London, enjoy the day and remember what prides are really about says Thomas Anderson
Thomas Anderson, left, says gay pride should be about supporting the LGBT community.

Hundreds of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride events take place around the world every year. From small groups of people in a community hall to those on the scale of a big music festival with hundreds of thousands of people attending, each one has something in common. They promote equality rights, increase visibility of the LGBT community, build a stronger community, and celebrate sexual diversity and gender variance.

Pride is about celebrating who you are. Feeling you can be yourself. Letting the world know we are here. We all have the right to be treated equally, in all areas of life. We are all different and difference should be embraced and celebrated.

Pride also plays an integral and essential part in supporting many LGBT charities all over the world. Without pride they simply wouldn’t be able to provide the fantastic, and often overlooked services they offer to thousands of LGBT people every year. Whether that is being a caring voice at the end of the phone when you have no one else to turn to or supporting to those living with or affected by HIV, they rely on pride. This is especially important in a climate where many of them face the real possibility of shutting their doors due to the global economic situation and government cuts.

This is why care should be taken with the pride events and lots of thought and planning should go into how they are staged. They need people who have the diverse skills and experience to pull together an impactful event that does the LGBT community proud. Lots of people depend on them, not just the bars, restaurants, hotels and shops that will undoubtedly benefit hugely from the influx of visitors spending their cash. Those organising the events have a real responsibility to the LGBT community.

I am co-chair of the British Co-operative Group’s award winning LGBT employee network Respect. That means I work for one of the UK’s biggest businesses and one that believes in co-operation - working together towards shared goals and sharing the benefits of their success.

We are championing LGBT pride events on an unprecedented level this year by supporting an incredible 16 prides in the UK. These include sponsoring Manchester Pride for the fourth consecutive year as well as Liverpool, World Pride in London, Reading, Cardiff, Northern, Nottinghamshire, Bristol, Swansea, Glasgow and loads more. Supporting LGBT employees, members, customers and their communities is very important to the business. Co-operative are the only retailer in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index Top 100 at number 11 and have received lots of LGBT accolades in recent years.

As part of the team that arranges our support and presence at the events, one thing is for sure. The number one reason we are there is to show our support of the communities in which we trade. The Co-operative does have a branch in every postcode of the UK after all.

We take a grass-roots approach and our entries are about the people taking part and making the experience special. We bring people from all walks of life together, all smiling with pride and being proud of who we are and the business we work for. It is great to see the chair of The Co-operative Banking Group, Paul Flowers and chair of The Co-operative Group Len Wardle walking along with us every year. We all have a fabulous time.

The Co-op (as we are widely known) is all about inclusivity and everyone is welcome in our pride parade entries. Employees, members, customers, charities, your kids… the dog… everyone has the right to show their pride. Taking part in a pride parade should not be a privilege. That is one of the reasons we will be there. Every employee and member, each with their own unique personalities, skills and flair, help us to shape a diverse business where differences are seen as an asset.

We will be in the World Pride parade tomorrow (7 July). We never planned to have a float so we are not massively affected by the well publicised changes. We have had a bit of a headache keeping up to date with the rapidly shifting news and in turn updating our volunteers – as I am sure many of you have too. Some organisations I know have spent in excess of £30,000 ($47,000 €38,000) on their entries that will be wasted. And yes, you read that right.

But that isn’t so important. Pride isn’t about the expensive floats and huge spectacles anyway. Great if you can do it. Yes, they get people talking and may bring in the crowds but take all the fanfare and theatrics away and you still have the thousands of people who will be walking, skipping, dancing, singing and smiling with pride. I will be one of them.

Please turn up and show your support for all the groups taking part in the parade (it now starts at 11am), especially for lots of the smaller charities and groups, this will be a highlight on their calendar. Also dig deep and give what you can to the charities that will be fundraising, they really need it. Give them a cheer too!

Try and forget about the collapse of the original plans and your disappointment of the final outcome for the day. I too am dismayed by what has happened and the huge opportunities for putting the UK’s LGBT community on the world map. At least a pride is still happening so let’s all make the most of it and really embrace what pride is all about. I'll be ‘smiling with pride’.

Thomas Anderson is a process manager at the Co-operative Pharmacy and co-chair of the Co-operative’s LGBT employee network Respect.

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