What Pride Means To Me

Initially realising that you are LGBT+ is possibly one of the most isolating experiences anyone can face in their lives. Being LGBT+ you’re immediately born into a family that is different from you, your family may not realise it but you are one of the 2% in the UK who identify themselves as Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual1 - with trans being an even significantly smaller percentage. You’re immediately born with a ‘burden’ that you may not know exists until you’re in your teens – which is already an incredibly volatile part of your life. The stigma that surrounds gay people, especially at school in your teen years is immense. The feelings of guilt, disappointment and shame are often so overwhelming that you hide it away. You take the most precious part of life – love – and you hide it away because you are fearful that the people you care about the most will reject you, for something that you didn’t ask for and cannot control. To be LGBT+ comes as naturally as breathing, you don’t choose to breathe, you can’t help but breathe, it's just a part of life you have to live with. It's not something that a third party can immediately recognise or see, which is part of the never-ending story of having to come out. 
 
Before you come out stress and anxiety are ever present in your mind, constantly trying to cover your tracks, filter your words and actions and make sure that you daren’t give the secret away. There is a constant feeling of shame, guilt and disappointment but you cannot speak to anyone about it as you fear that they might tell someone else. For most the pure mental stress of holding onto something for so long eventually breaks them, and they spill their secret – if they aren’t outed by somebody else first. Yet some people may go their entire lives without revealing their identity, constantly filtering, hiding and repressing themselves, all to appease those they hold dearest and even those they do not know to avoid rejection and shame. 

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Eventually, you have to come out to yourself, which is largely one of the hardest parts, along with coming out to those you love and care about the most. Then for the rest of your life (depending on how visible you are) you have to come out to every new person you meet. You might think ‘oh why do you have to tell everyone you’re gay?’, it’s not about having to tell, it's part of a person’s entire life. Just a simple conversation often leads to talk about partners, friends, places you visit or things that you do.
 
People live this every day, which is where Pride and LGBT+ groups come in. They make being LGBT+ visible, and this is the most valuable part of these events and organisations. They put everything at the forefront and make it visible to everyone. They allow people to see that they aren’t the only one, they aren’t Isolated, they don’t have to repress themselves and they can be who they are. Pride showcases that the LGBT+ community proliferates every profession, race, religion and society. It allows people to see that they shouldn’t be ashamed or feel guilt, its part of who you are and you do not have to hide away. By standing up and being who you are you allow others to see you and stand up alongside you. You give them the confidence to see that they can live a perfectly happy life and they can be who they are. 
 
Being visible, confident and content in yourself can give others the feeling of security that they need to take the next step and be open about themselves. I have experienced this personally when working for my first company, they had no LGBT+ network and nobody in my department or vicinity that was visibly LGBT+. I didn’t have the confidence to tell my colleagues as I was unsure about how it might affect the way people treated me. Eventually I joined a different company where I had visible gay colleagues and it gave me confidence that if they could be out at work without out any issues so could I. After coming out to my colleagues my visibility within my team allowed a colleague who had worked for the company for almost 3 years to finally come out. Seeing the change in that person was remarkable, they transformed from being one of the most reserved team members to one of the most social. They no longer had to constantly filter their lives to the rest of the team. The most powerful part about that experience was that I didn't do a thing, I just lived my life openly and honestly and that allowed someone else to live their life openly and honestly, purely because I was visible. So having a parade or a network at work where people are visible allows LGBT+ people to become the everyday and when it becomes the everyday it becomes the norm and that's a part of what pride strives to do.
 
For Pride this year I marched with the Link Network which is an insurance market wide LGBT+ network that aims to promote Inclusive workplaces within the insurance sector. This is my third time in the parade and as ever it was a fantastic day. It was brilliant to see such a wide variety of floats, from the finance sector to the military, and the turnout was amazing with thousands of people lined along the route watching.
 
Pride means many different things to many different people and this is blog only raises one tiny fraction of what pride means and how it helps move the community to becoming accepted. The list of different things pride stands for is immense but the other key factors are equal opportunities and equal rights, not just in the UK but around the world. 
 
For instance:

  •  One in eight trans employees have been physically attacked by a colleague or customer in the last year.
  • One in five LGBT people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the last 12 months.
  • One in five lesbian, gay and bi employees have experienced verbal bullying from colleagues, customers or service users because of their sexual orientation in the last five years.
  • A quarter of lesbian, gay and bi workers are not at all open to colleagues about their sexual orientation.
  • Nearly half of trans people are not living permanently in their preferred gender role stated, they are prevented from doing so because they fear it might threaten their employment status.
  • 72 countries criminalise same-sex relationships.
  • The death penalty is either ‘allowed’, or evidence of its existence occurs, in 8 countries.
  • Nearly half of trans people under 26 said they had attempted suicide, and 30 per cent said they had done so in the past year, while 59 per cent said they had at least considered doing so.

Pride is a complex and diverse topic that has many different agendas that it aims to tackle. In spite of this, Pride (along with LGBT+ groups all over the world) undoubtedly plays a critically important role in the effort towards acceptance, equal opportunities and equal rights and helps shine a light on a community that often feels forced to hide

About Louie

Louie started off his insurance career in 2014 at QBE as a Multinational Case Handler, however his true ambition was to acquire a role in Catastrophe Modeling. After nine months as a Multination Case Handler he moved internally to the Cat Modeling team at QBE. Four months later he moved on to attain a permanent role at MS Amlin in May 2015, where he worked on several specialty lines such as Cargo, Specie, Builders Risk and Energy, along with managing the operational side of the departments learning and development. With a successful 2 and half years under his belt at MS Amlin, expanding his Cat Modeling knowledge and SQL abilities, he has now moved to XL Catlin where he has been working on numerous Specialty Lines for the past year.

When not at work, Louie loves travelling and scuba diving.

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Louie O'Donaghue

Catastrophe Modeling Analyst, XL Catlin