'Rainbow. Happiness. Fabulousness.'
Laura Thomas is a trainee solicitor at Tameside Council and one of our most recent members of our LGBT+ Lawyers Division Committee, having been appointed in April 2019.
In this interview she tells us about common misconceptions people have about Pride and how she has celebrated it, what being an 'ally' to the LGBT+ community means and perfectly sums up the month in 3 words.
You recently joined the LGBT+ Lawyers Division Committee in early April. What made you want to join?
I am passionate about being able to contribute to raising the profile of LGBT+ lawyers and creating a more inclusive and diverse profession. The work being done from inside the Law Society is hugely important to the perception of LGBT+ issues within the profession and outside of the profession and I wanted to be a part of building on the great work already achieved by the Committee. Also as a proud Welsh woman and an adopted Mancunian, I wanted to make an impact for the committee in Wales and up in't North.
In the legal profession, what issues do you think the LGBT+ community struggle with the most?
One of the biggest issues within the legal profession is 'being out' in a professional sphere. In a recent Stonewall survey, 18% of people disclosed they are not out to anyone in their work place and the legal profession is not immune. This creates invisible pockets of the LGBT+ community and can easily leave people feeling isolated.
The fact people are choosing to remain closeted at work also suggests there are still barriers, or at least perceived barriers in place to being out. The emergence of LGBT+ networks and promotion of LGBT+ role models within work places has been a fantastic start to turning the tide.
Why would you recommend an individual or organisation participate in Pride or the diversity calendar generally?
The Pride and the diversity calendar presents the perfect opportunity for an organisation to show they are committed to diversity and inclusion. From one lunch time Stonewall talk, a LGBT+ committee was founded at one of my previous employers, showing even a relatively simple step can generate momentum for big changes.
For individuals, it presents a unique opportunity to become involved in events away from the traditional office setting and networking with other LGBT+ Lawyers from all walks of the legal profession. Providing support by attending or organising these events also encourages important visibility for LGBT+ Lawyers.
How have you celebrated Pride?
I have attended and volunteered at different Pride weekends, from my home Pride of Manchester Big Weekend to smaller local events. Pride season is when all the rainbow items emerge from my wardrobe and not smudging rainbow face paint becomes a personal challenge!
I have always found the atmosphere at any Pride is incredibly open and friendly. It remains the only place I have gone from a Rita Ora gig one day to an emotional vigil for HIV and AIDS victims the next day, surrounded by the same people. I have marched with the Law Society in Cardiff and Manchester which I thoroughly enjoyed and would encourage everyone and anyone to sign up to march at a Pride near you in 2019 with the society (Rainbow face paint encouraged and provided!)
How can straight people celebrate Pride? What does being an 'ally' to the LGBT+ community mean?
Straight people can celebrate Pride in any way they want to support the LGBT+ community. Any positive steps that help to bring the visibility to Pride and the work being done is encouraged. The phrase 'ally' for the LGBT+ community encompasses a whole host of different people, however at its core it is supporting LGBT+ people and helping to create a tolerant world.
What are some common misconceptions about LGBT Pride?
There is a misconception of Pride weekends being an excuse for the LGBT+ community to drink to excess and it is not a family friendly affair. My home Pride of Manchester holds a whole variety of events over the weekend that are 'dry' and events for families too. There is also plenty going on at every Pride I have been at with live music, stalls, silent discos, movie screenings and even a bit of sunshine on occasion!
How would you sum up Pride in three words?
Rainbow. Happiness. Fabulousness.