What’s the great thing about people? Well, we’re all different, we are all unique, we all have our own story to tell. Our life experiences are what makes us diverse. So, we’re opening up.
Inclusion and diversity is the belief that every single individual matters. And that’s why by opening up and sharing our stories, we can celebrate difference and uniqueness that bit more.
Every February in the UK is LGBT+ History Month. At Colt, we reached out to our employees and offered them the chance to open up and highlight an LGBT+ person in history and what they’ve done.
Today we spoke to Jake Potter, our Head of Social Media, based in the UK. Outside of his day role, he is the global lead of Colt’s LGBT+ and allies network, Pride Matters.
Q: Jake, thank you for taking the time to open up to us. Firstly, can you sum up what LGBT+ History Month is?
A: LGBT+ History Month is our opportunity to highlight people who have made their mark in history. Not only do we take this time to showcase them, but it also gives us an opportunity as LGBT+ people to thank them for the work they have done for us.
Q: Why is it important to the LGBT+ community?
A: History is taught in schools around the world. As a child growing up in the ‘90s and early millennium, LGBT+ history was never taught, so as a child who may identify as gay, I didn’t feel included or aware of the people who came before me. Teaching about LGBT+ history helps build an inclusive environment, and also allows us to understand the work people did to make life easier for the next generation.
Q: What does LGBT+ History Month mean to you?
A: To me, it’s about remembering. LGBT+ people have had a tough time in the past and, in some places, are still having a tough time today. Learning about who came before us, who laid the path that we walk on today, helps us understand how far we’ve come, and as LGBT+ people today, what we need to do to continue paving the way for the future.
Q: Do you think we need to do more to talk about LGBT+ history and why?
A: Yes absolutely! I love celebrating LGBT+ history month and pride month, but identifying as an LGBT+ person is an all-year thing, so we should celebrate LGBT+ people every day of the year.
Q: Who is your role model in LGBT+ history and why?
A: I believe that we, as LGBT+ people should do our best to continue to build an inclusive environment and inspire change. This is because of the people who have enabled change through their actions to make life easier for LGBT+ people.
In 1969, the Stonewall Inn in New York City was raided by the police, an act that occurred regularly as identifying as LGBT+ was classified as a mental illness at the time. On this night, Marsha P Johnson resisted arrest and led a series of protests in the following days demanding rights for LGBT+ people. These protests shook the world, and inspired rights groups around the world to fight for equality. These protests led to marches, which today we call “Pride”. The actions of Marsha P Johnson were a pivotal moment in our community, and I’m not sure what the world would look like today if it wasn’t for these protests.
Marsha grew up in a homophobic household and left home with just $15 and a bag of clothes. Their life was dedicated to helping others, and after the Stonewall riots, Marsha went on to be a founding member of the gay liberation front and STAR, an activist group that provided homes to homeless LGBT+ youth. Marsha achieved so much for the LGBT+ community and we have so much to thank Marsha for, so I will take this moment to say “thank you”.
Q: Do you have a specific quotation that resonates with you in your life?
A: I’m an avid fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and at the end of each episode Ru says “if you can’t love yourself, how can you love anybody else?”. It really hits home to me, because as an LGBT+ person who grew up in the UK under Section 28, we were taught to hide ourselves, to not promote learning about LGBT+ history, and not be free. Unfortunately, this makes it hard to love ourselves. Thanks to RuPaul, I use this quote daily so I don’t hide who I am, and stand up for LGBT+ people.
Q: If you could encourage people to do one thing this LGBT+ History Month, what would it be?
A: My motto is “ignorance is bliss, education is change”. As people, we find it very easy to “keep calm and carry on” when we should really be keeping calm and learning. If you can do one thing today, spend five minutes reading about LGBT+ history and find an LGBT+ person that inspires you. LGBT+ History Month is not just for LGBT+ people to celebrate, so take the time to celebrate with your LGBT+ friends.