Over 50 years of fighting for LGBTQ+ equality

A young Richard Branson holds a tape recorder for his interview with James Baldwin
Image from Virgin.com
A close up of Richard Branson smiling, looking at the camera
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 15 June 2022

Pride month is a time to support and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. However, LGBTQ+ equality should be fought for every day of the year.

No-one should ever be discriminated against for who they are and who they love – and everyone needs to defend this. Thankfully, more and more businesses are supporting LGBTQ+ rights. As mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, colleagues and friends - it is simply the right thing to do.

Richard Branson hugging family after a hike
Adam Slama

For over 50 years at Virgin, we’ve been advocating for LGBTQ+ equality, celebrating our LGBTQ+ colleagues, and working hard to ensure everyone feels safe and included in the workplace. It all started when I was 16 and we launched the Student Advisory Centre. The LGBTQ+ community faced so much hostility at the time, so we created a safe space where people could be themselves and ask difficult questions. One of the questions that people kept asking was how to connect with other LGBTQ+ people. This is why I went on to buy a gay nightclub in London called Heaven, which was a wonderful and safe place for LGBTQ+ people to meet. The struggles LGBTQ+ spoke to us about really stuck with me and it was part of my inspiration to create businesses that makes people’s lives better and challenge outdated ideas. From that point onwards, we made it our priority to always fight for equality at Virgin and use our power to encourage other businesses to do the same.

Over 50 years on, our resolve has only grown stronger – and this video highlights some of the initiatives, policies, and marks of progress we’ve made in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality.

How Virgin has fought for LGBTQ+ equality for over 50 years

Meaningful advocacy has been at the heart of what we do. During the HIV/AIDS epidemic, we launched Mates Condoms - with profits donated to HIV/Aids awareness. At the time, sex was a very taboo topic, but we persuaded the BBC to run advertorials to educate people about safe sex. We also ensured Mates was a lower price-point to other condom brands, so safe sex could be more accessible.

Mates Condoms
Mates Condoms

A few years ago, Virgin became a founding partner of Open For Business – a coalition of global companies dedicate to LGBTQ+ advocacy, and making the economic case for LGBTQ+ inclusion. When you look at it from a business point of view, it’s clear to see that successful businesses thrive in diverse and inclusive societies, and the spread of anti- LGBTQ+ policies run counter to the interests of business and economic growth.

LGBT+ red and white image
Image from Open for Business

I’m also incredibly proud of our Virgin companies for putting the right policies in place (such as Virgin Media O2 funding employee’s gender transition surgery) to ensure that we deliver on our word.

Over 50 years since we started Virgin, we remain incredibly proud of our LGBTQ+ colleagues and how they’ve shaped our businesses. Let’s all do our bit to celebrate our LGBTQ+ colleagues and friends, and fight for their equality each and every day, all around the world.