5 Jul 2018
Policy area: Diversity and Inclusivity
Planning Out's Simon Brooksbank has written a guest blog in celebration of London Pride Festival 2018.
This weekend plays host to one of my favourite parts of the summer: the annual pride march in London. Pride holds a particularly special place for me as it brings back memories of what I call my ‘second coming out’.
It was in the summer of 2015 just after the Irish Referendum and the US Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. I was marching with Freehold, my second ever Pride I’d been to. The sun was beating down, and the crowds seemed particularly large that year. Even though I’d been out for 7/8 years, I hadn't ever been totally comfortable being gay. It was something I wrestled with, was conflicted and embarrassed by. Something which I accepted rather than embraced or celebrated.
As we be began our march and turned from Oxford Street onto Regents Street, I was hit by this amazing throng of humanity cheering, holding their hands out in support and celebration. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I remember, for the first time in my life, feeling truly proud and happy to be gay. It felt like in that very moment, the shackles of shame and embarrassment which had plagued me since childhood had finally broken free. What a liberating and joyful feeling that was!
Since then I haven’t looked back. Six months later I had the idea to start up a professional network for planning professionals, which would become Planning Out. Now that I was proud to be myself, proud to be gay, having a network of likeminded professionals seemed like a completely natural and logical thing to do. Even though I was now free, I was acutely aware how many people might still be going through the same struggles I’d been through. I saw Planning Out as a vehicle to help other people in my community make that same journey.
At Planning Out we say, if people can be free and open in their offices, they are likely to be a far happier and effective part of a team and life in general. Not only is it the right thing to do, there is a very real business incentive in encouraging employees to feel comfortable in their place of work. That is an underlying philosophy which continues to guide us.
Since its creation two years ago, Planning Out has grown to 700 members. We have been able to host a parliamentary reception, and are currently planning our second. We’ve had the privilege to work with UCL Urban Laboratory, City Hall and the Night Czar on protecting LGBT venues and queer spaces. We look forward to what impact we’ll continue to have to help shape the planning sector and continue to embrace diversity in the future.
I look forward to marching this Pride with my colleagues in Planning Out, Freehold and the built environment as we continue to celebrate the wonderful and precious freedom to be yourself and be truly free and authentic.
Happy Pride all!