Celebrating Pride Month: An interview with our CEO Gen Dearman

Pride Month, a month-long celebration and recognition of the LGBTQ+ community, is observed in June each year. Originating from the Stonewall riots in 1969, Pride marked a pivotal moment in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. During Pride Month, various events and parades are organised worldwide to promote inclusivity, equality, and acceptance for all sexual orientations and gender identities. It serves as a platform to raise awareness about the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community and to celebrate their achievements in advancing human rights. Pride Month provides a way for LGBTQ+ individuals to express their authentic selves and celebrate their identities without fear of discrimination or prejudice. Moreover, it acknowledges the progress that has been made in terms of LGBTQ+ rights, whilst highlighting that there is still work to be done in achieving full equality for all. Throughout June, we honor the struggles and resilience of the LGBTQ+ community throughout history, and recognize the contributions they have made to society. Ultimately, Pride encourages dialogue and education, fostering a greater understanding and acceptance of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities whilst simultaneously being a happy and colourful celebration of love, unity, and self-expression.

This June, we asked our CEO, Gen Dearman, her opinions surrounding Pride Month. We asked her five very important questions and here is what she had to say.

What does Pride Month mean to you and how do you celebrate it? I think it is important that we remember why Pride came about – it was to commemorate Stonewall and the demonstration for equal rights. Whilst now Pride is also a celebration, it still remains a time where we can raise awareness of issues we may experience being part of the LGBTQ+ community. Inclusion is something that really matters to me and is a huge part of my values and something I try and encourage all year round. As for celebrating – Surrey Pride if I am not working that weekend at a Challengers Event.  

What do you think can be done to raise awareness? Both during Pride Month and outside of it?  

I think Pride Month is a great example to amplify a voice that needs year round consistency to really make a difference.  The more we can use our voices to share stories and experiences we can help raise awareness of the importance of love, acceptance and inclusivity.  

Do you have any advice for people who are afraid their identity might hold them back from achieving their dreams? 

Research has clearly shown that people are far more likely to regret what they did not do than what they did. Primarily, I would encourage everyone to be their authentic self when working towards a dream, because when you start chasing your dreams you often will find your people on the way. I would love to say that there will not be resistance, or negative attitudes because sadly it is still a fact of life. Not everyone will be as accepting as you are. In my own experience I have found painful experiences where I least expected them, and support from the most unlikely source but I do not ever regret being open about who I am. Following dreams is always easier said than done – the path may pan out, but quite often in my experience I found myself on a detour, the scenic route if you will which was entirely different, but just as fun and rewarding. As Helen Keller, the disability rights advocate once said “optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence” 

Do you think Challengers provides an inclusive work environment, specifically for LGBTQ+ individuals?  

Quite simply yes and I think this is a question that is relevant for anyone who works at Challengers. At the heart of us as an organisation is The Challengers Approach. As part of this we empower our communities of staff, volunteers, trustees to be confidently inclusive. We are person-centered, celebrating individuals for who they are and respect their identity, needs, wishes, choices, belied and values. I believe all employers have a responsibility to create supportive workplaces for LGBTQ+ employees. Campaigning organizations like Stonewall are doing some brilliant work to help upskill employers to have equal workplaces and to help remove the fear of discrimination. 

In your opinion, what does it mean to be an ally? What advice would you give to your straight allies?  

I think ally means several things. It means education – learning about the history and struggles faced by the community for example. Listen – let people share their experiences and provide them with a safe space to do so; Respect – pronouns and challenge any discriminatory remarks or actions you witness. And most of all be consistent with your support. It takes all members of society to make true acceptance and respect happen. Your open and consistent support will hopefully lead as an example to others.  

Finally, as this Pride Month draws to an end, we would like to encourage and remind everyone to support the LGBTQ+ community throughout the whole year, not just the month of June.