Pride celebrations around the world are looking very different this year due to the coronavirus lockdown. As part of our Being Out, Staying In series, we’re speaking to our LGBTQ+ employees from around the Virgin family to find out more about how it’s affected their plans.
Selina Campbell is a payroll and benefits advisor at Virgin Management. We spoke to her about her experiences of the workplace as an LGBTQ+ person and why Pride is important to her.
What does Pride mean to you?
I guess it's kind of changed over the years. For me, when I was younger and I first came out, Pride was a chance to celebrate that community. We'd go down to Soho, maybe watch a bit of the parade and have fun. It was a chance to be free, see your friends, see people you haven't for a long time. Celebrate the fact that you could be out and free, however you want, in this environment - particularly because my LGBTQ+ family and my biological family were quite separate at that stage. But, as I've grown older I've tried to merge the two more so.
Last year, I went to pride with my sister and her three kids. We all had t-shirts on and we went to see the parade and then they left and I had some fun with my friends afterward. So I guess Pride for me and how I celebrate it is being with family - whatever that means at that particular time. When I first came out it was people that I had met through going out and they had become my family. And then last year it was my biological family. So pride is about celebrating with family for me.
What will this year look like?
Hopefully, I can join some online celebrations. If only just to show my community that I'm still there. I guess what I take from the community has changed over the years but I still want to be able to support it in a way that it can still continue to provide the things that I needed to another generation. So I'm hopefully going to attend some sort of online event, whether that's an Instagram gathering or something like that.
Pride for me is definitely about experiencing it with people so I'll definitely go to my sister's with my partner so we can all be together.
What's your experience of being an LGBTQ+ person in the workplace?
I guess I've had it easier than most. Particularly because my sexuality is a little bit more obvious from the way that I present myself. So I think in terms of negative responses, I guess it's easier for people to be negative that you're quite masculine, oh that must mean that you're gay. But my interactions with work have pretty much been ok.
I do remember one negative experience when I worked in retail for a clothing brand. I worked there for quite a long time, at least three years. For the majority of those three years I wore the men's clothes because we had to wear the brand’s clothing as uniform. Everybody within our store was very much aware of that and I was more comfortable in the men’s clothes. For me, the clothes and feeling comfortable and my identity, they all went hand in hand and it was something I wasn't willing to compromise in any way.
Just before I left they started to tell me that because I was female I had to wear the female clothes that they sold. And I remember feeling that I wasn't willing to compromise on that. I understood that I needed a job and I needed money but how I felt was more important. It just so happened that it was coming to the time where I was going to hand my notice in anyway, but if I had I needed to stay there, it would have been something I was willing to fight for.
It meant so much for me, particularly when I was younger, it was part of my identity. It was almost like a uniform for the LGBTQ+ community. It was a way for people to be able to identify me as being part of the community. It had taken so much mental strength for me to come out and be comfortable with myself that I wasn't going to let anyone push me back in.
I think that's the only negative experience I've had in the workplace really. To my knowledge, I've not been discriminated against because of my sexuality. I think people have realised that I have a unique perspective and it's been mainly a positive experience for me.
How does that compare to working at Virgin?
As I get older, the need for a certain kind of working community has become even more important to me. And so being somewhere I can identify with the company's values and direction is now definitely more important to me.
Being at Virgin I've felt like our morals and our values align. I can definitely see that the aim to try to understand and acknowledge and learn is definitely there. I can see that the attempt is there. It's only been positive experiences that I've had at Virgin - and ones that I want to contribute to as well.
I think that Virgin's open nature as a whole attracted me to work for them. They're known for being supportive of causes that are connected to me - not necessarily just LGBTQ+ but in combination with other things as well. I guess Richard Branson's ability to go against the norm meant that I knew that Virgin's stance on something like LGBTQ+ issues would more than likely align with mine. So I didn't have to fear or worry about whether that was going to be ok or if there was going to be any conflict there.
Read more from our Being Out, Staying In series: