Why Virgin marches with Pride

LGBT issues are very important at Virgin. This was highlighted when Scott Anderson, Finance Culture Manager for Virgin Money Edinburgh joined Richard and other Virgin colleagues on the Pride march through London. He shares his colourful tale.

If I’m being quite honest, I wasn’t sure why I was marching. I guess I’ve been very fortunate – I came out at 21 (that wasn’t yesterday!) and have been surrounded by family and friends who don’t register being homosexual as ‘a thing’ at all. It’s no different from their heterosexuality, which I’ve learned to accept over time (I’m kidding!). I’ve worked in businesses where, again, it has never been ‘a thing’.

I think, both selfishly and foolishly, I had forgotten the previous 21 years and have, in a sense, brushed over the reality for those people not afforded the same basic human rights that I have. That weekend I received a reality check – a big all-singing all-dancing reality check.

Marching together

On Saturday 27 June, a selection of Virgin Group colleagues from across the UK made their way to the Virgin Management Office in London, where we gathered before embarking on Virgin’s first participation in a Pride march. As a Pride ‘virgin’ I was unsure what to expect, but as colleagues from Virgin Money, Media, Management, West and East Coast Trains assembled on the sun-drenched roof garden, we could all feel it was going to be a really special day. The music was pumping out as Gladiators danced with Disney characters, and then our very own Richard Branson appeared on the roof terrace accompanied by two larger-than-life drag queens who tottered alongside him in their six-inch stiletto heels.

After a few drinks, photos and a ‘best-dressed’ competition (won by the Gladiators), we headed off to our starting point down on Baker Street (cue the saxophone). Like a big school outing with a rainbow flag, we left the offi ce and made our way through the streets to a reception of cheers and honking of car horns. We were scheduled to start marching at 1.30pm but, due to a delayed start caused by the sheer numbers of people marching, we were forced to sing and dance with all the party goers for couple of hours. Well, some people were singing and dancing... All right, I was singing and dancing.

Celebrating heroes

Shortly after 3pm, we began to march towards the official starting point at the top of Oxford Street. More than 260 different organisations took part in the parade. Just in front of us, Fujitsu held up banners of the computer pioneer and codebreaker Alan Turing. In 2013, Turing was given a posthumous royal pardon 61 years after he was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ and sentenced to chemical castration. He took his own life two years after his conviction.

‘Gross indecency’ is was what they called being gay 60 years ago. Pride’s theme last year was Heroes and, although it’s fantastic that this pardon was given, LGBT organisations along with others continue to work towards the pardon of 49,000 other men who were convicted of the same offence during this time.

Once we got a good pace up, we arrived on Oxford Street, from where we would march down towards Regent Street, through Trafalgar Square and on to the finish line at Embankment.

People from all walks of life lined the route, clapping and celebrating the event, including tourists, families, clergymen, children and dogs, too. Looking up to the shops and offices there were people hanging out of windows, cheering and waving flags – including a group of workmen who were stood on some scaffolding cheering us on (I have to say, they did look like the Village People).

The biggest impact on me that day (by impact I mean I started crying) was when I saw a really old man standing at the barrier. He had on a T-shirt that had the word PROUD across it in bright colours and was covered in badges and stickers given to him from the marchers on parade. It is incredible to think that when he was a young man he couldn’t admit who he loved or how he felt for fear of arrest and being brutally punished. Now, he was standing in the closed streets  and roads of London celebrating love for all with a million others.

Hope and glory

It wasn’t about why ‘I’ was marching, it was about who I was marching for. I was marching for that young child who feels alone and scared, for the children that have taken their own lives because they were being bullied for being gay, for that person who cannot get a job or a promotion because of who they love, for the people who are arrested, punished and even killed simply for being gay. We marched together to show people that Virgin Money and the Virgin Group support and encourage diversity in their business. I was marching for all those people who made it all right for me to march, and I was privileged and honoured to do so.

The Virgin Group are committed to ensuring that Virgin is an inclusive place to work, where differences are celebrated. They firmly believe that this is a huge opportunity, not a challenge, and it’s great for the communities it serves. The Virgin Group have the desire to make a positive difference to people’s lives by changing business for good, so they create an environment where all people can thrive – because of who they are, not in spite of it.

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