Interview with the MPA BeYOU Employee Network – The Importance of Pride Month 2024

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Reading Time: 9 minutes


Ray Pagden, CEO, Motus Music & MPA BeYou Network Champion
Maria Angel, Production Manager, MediaTracks
David Simkins, Richard Toeman Scholar 23/24
Luca Balbao, Music Publishing Administrator, TRO Essex Music Group

What does Pride Month mean to you?

Ray: To me, Pride Month is a time to honour the legacy of those who came before us, acknowledge the ongoing struggles many in our community still face, and recommit to the fight for equality and acceptance for all LGBTQIA+ individuals. It’s a reminder that while we’ve come a long way, there is still much work to be done.
We enjoy the freedoms we have today because previous generations stood up, fought against persecution, and campaigned tirelessly for change. Their courage and resilience laid the groundwork for our progress.
While street parties and celebrations are a vibrant expression of our identity and joy, they can sometimes overshadow the deeper significance of Pride. Many pioneers who fought for our rights faced immense hardship and are often forgotten in mainstream celebrations.

Maria: Pride month is very important for me because it celebrates the efforts and work that the LGBTQ+ community has had to go through to earn the rights that we have today. It is also a beautiful opportunity to honour the lives of those activists who have dedicated (and sometimes sadly lost) their lives to making a more inclusive world.

David: A dog isn’t just for Christmas. Similarly, the LGBTQIA+ community and the problems we face don’t disappear overnight at the end of Pride month. But it’s a great opportunity to raise awareness and celebrate queer joy. Personally, I love seeing rainbows
everywhere in June, why not keep them up longer? In my old office, they had the Pride flag
on the wall all year round, not just for June. That’s the right attitude.

Anon: Pride Month is a time to celebrate the community, recognise the progress we have already made towards equality, and the path that still lies ahead to fully achieve it. For me, it is a period of reflection and an opportunity to learn about the history of the LGBTQIA+ community, and promote a world where everyone can live authentically and without fear of discrimination.

Luca: A moment of celebration but also reflection. I often think of LGBTQIA+ people still being persecuted and even murdered because of their identity or sexual preferences in too many parts of the world, where religious bigotry prevails. Furthermore, we do have our own challenges and areas of improvement in Western countries when it comes to respect and inclusion, especially for trans people.

How are you planning to celebrate Pride this year?

Ray: I admit that I’m not the best at planning. I’ve found myself at London Pride more often by chance, simply passing through rather than intentionally attending. I’ve only marched once, and while it was an incredible experience, I tend to leave the celebrating to those who are more outgoing. This year, I’ll probably enjoy Pride in a more low-key way, reflecting on its significance and supporting the community in quieter but meaningful ways. Whether it’s supporting industry initiatives, attending virtual events, or just taking a moment to appreciate the progress we’ve made, I find my own way to celebrate Pride.

Maria: I am lucky enough that I also have my birthday on pride month, so it is an entire month of celebrating with friends, family and loved ones. Later in the year I also attend the wonderful Brighton Pride parade.

David: I’m going to London Pride for the first time. I’ve only been to one in Bristol before, so I’m looking forward to the parade. I felt kind of overwhelmed at my first Pride and a bit shy, so I’m hoping to feel a bit more confident socialising this time. Then I’m going to a Janelle Monáe concert in the evening with my twin sister. I’ve always wanted to see Janelle live, so I’m over the moon!

Anon: This year I do not have any specific plans to celebrate Pride this year but will be using social media platforms to consciously amplify LGBTQIA+ voices and stories.

Luca: I do like to go see the Parade on Regent Street, it’s super fun! I’m not much of a gay circuit party guy but it just feels very nice to be out in central London that day to experience this unique feeling of joy and togetherness.

Who are some of your LGBTQIA+ role models?

Ray: I have a great deal of respect for Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple. Much like myself, he is a rather private individual, and while those who worked with him and knew him personally were aware of his sexual orientation, he never publicly addressed it. However, when he openly acknowledged his identity in an article he wrote in 2014, it was not so much a surprise that Tim was gay but rather that the CEO of the world’s largest corporation publicly came out. This also made him the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company, of which now there are still only 4. He made this decision because he recognised the importance of visibility and representation, aiming to pave the way for future LGBTQIA+ generations. I certainly found his article inspiring, and it has given me the confidence to be who I am more publicly.

 Maria: Chavela Vargas, famous Costa Rican/Mexican lesbian singer, Manuel Velandia, the founder of the first-ever pride march in Colombia (1982), Peter Tatchell, Harvey Milk, Marsha P Johnson.

David: I’m a big Russell T Davies fan. I was deeply moved by his AIDS drama It’s a Sin in 2021, which came out about the same time I did, so I feel quite personally connected to it. Russell’s recently been bringing LGBTQIA+ themes to Doctor Who which I’m SO here for. But most of my role models come from the friends I’ve gradually found around me in the creative industries, some my age and some older. They’ve all inspired me to be myself, thanks everyone!

 Anon: Pier Paolo Pasolini as homosexual writer and filmmaker. And Elliot Page as an actor and advocate for transgender rights.

Luca: Ru Paul.

Describe an issue the LGBTQIA+ community is facing that many people might not know about.

Ray: An issue the LGBTQIA+ community is facing that many people might not be aware of is the ongoing prevalence of conversion therapy. Only 14 countries have outright banned this practice nationwide, and another 14 have banned medical professionals from performing it.
Conversion therapy refers to a range of practices that attempt to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. These practices can include counselling, psychotherapy, and, in extreme cases, physical interventions. Conversion therapy is widely discredited by medical and psychological professionals due to its harmful effects on individuals’ mental and emotional well-being. It often leads to increased rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicide among those subjected to it.
In the UK, there are currently no bans on conversion therapy. In 2018, the UK government committed to working towards a ban. However, between 2018 and 2023, the government publicly flipped on whether they would introduce such a ban and quietly dropped the proposals in late 2023. This indecision leaves many vulnerable individuals at risk of being subjected to these harmful practices, highlighting a significant gap in protections for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Addressing this issue requires urgent legislative action to implement a comprehensive ban on conversion therapy in the UK, ensuring the safety and well-being of all LGBTQIA+ individuals.

Maria: Even though rights for lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals have had great progress in some cultures, there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of our trans and non-binary siblings. As a community, we need to remember that we will achieve greater things if we are UNITED, so we should stand alongside trans/non-binary people and support them. Additionally, we must not forget that in many many countries, cultures and religions across the world, homosexuality is still considered a crime and is severely punished. The LGBTQ+ communities from these territories need a helping hand (relocation support, pressure from other countries to their discriminating governments, etc.).

David: Can we talk about confidence? With so much ongoing discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community globally, it takes a lot of guts to show authentically every day. And even if you do, you can end up feeling unsafe or insecure. That’s why I’m really grateful to anyone who creates an inclusive space where everyone can feel comfortable being themselves.

Anon: An issue that the LGBTQIA+ community is facing that many people might not know about is the challenge faced in healthcare. There is bias and inadequacy, leading to disparities in health outcomes.

Luca: Within the cis gay community, a lot of people suffer from being too “camp” or too “fat”. Overall,  masculinity or “fit appearance” are glorified feats and the dating scene can be very cruel for many people There are also instances of racism towards Asian and African ethnicities. Also, trans and non-binary rights are not always understood or tolerated within the cis gay and lesbian community. People may think that the entire LGBTQIA+ community is united in their fight for respect and tolerance towards another in that same community but that is not yet the case unfortunately.

What is the biggest or most common misconception about trans people?

Ray: One common misconception I’ve encountered is the belief that being transgender is a modern Western concept. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Throughout history, many cultures have recognised the existence of more than two genders, with individuals outside the binary often playing significant social roles within their communities. These cultures have long celebrated the diversity of gender expression and identity.
It’s often Western intervention and colonialism that have led to the vilification and marginalisation of non-binary and transgender individuals in these cultures. By acknowledging and understanding the rich cultural heritage of diverse gender identities, we can challenge harmful stereotypes and promote greater acceptance and inclusivity for transgender people worldwide.

Maria: I wouldn’t even know where to begin… There is so much judgment and misunderstanding of our trans siblings. I guess the main source of debate is the difference between the biological sex an individual is born with, and the gender (which is a social construct) that they identify with.

David: Trans men, trans women, and non-binary people all have their own unique circumstances and challenges. Ultimately, I think we can help everyone overcome misconceptions and foster greater empathy towards this community by considering the intersectional experiences of individuals.

Anon: A common misconception about trans people is that gender identity defines sexual orientation, whereas, in fact, it is distinct and a fundamental aspect of a person’s identity.

Luca: That those people want to change sex because of “trends” or just on a whim. Also, that they get angry and confrontational when addressed with wrong pronouns while in reality they would appreciate any efforts and be open to discussing and educating on the meaning of those pronouns.  Finally, people often disregard and do not understand that for many trans people, continuing to live with their shell and gender assigned to birth can lead to suicide or mental health degradation. The right-wing ideology often uses rare examples of trans people who regretted or struggled with their transition to make their point, which is a very harmful bias.

How can we use our MPA BeYOU Employee Network to reach out to the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies, internally and externally?

Ray: With smaller publishers, where there are only a few staff members, they work closely together and share information. Within larger publishers, only a handful of people within each organization interact directly with the MPA. I think we need to start a dialogue with the larger members and work on a cooperative strategy where the promotion of employee networks and other MPA services are actively promoted within each publishing company.

Maria: Continuing to give a voice to people who would normally be underrepresented in the industry. Also setting up in-person events so the community can be built stronger.

David: A lack of professional networking opportunities has been highlighted as a major career barrier for LGBTQIA+ musicians. I think the MPA should continue to grow its BeYOU Employee Network by providing accessible opportunities for LGBTQIA+ people to connect, share their experiences, and build their community.

Anon: Internally: Create safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ employees, and regular training on diversity and inclusion. Externally: Partner with LGBTQIA+ organisations, participate in community events and advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights. Use social media and public platforms to raise awareness and promote inclusivity.

Luca: Organizing some events or doing charity work on the field could be interesting to raise awareness for specific causes. Also, some charities in London and in the rest of England could benefit from the help of our members whether it’s on a punctual or regular basis.

If our sector could do one thing better to be more inclusive for LGBTQIA+ people what would that be?

Ray: Well, you can’t address an issue until you acknowledge its existence. In the music industry, the UK Music 2022 DEI (Diversity, Equality & Inclusivity) survey collected data on LGBTQIA+ individuals. However, beyond the very broad statistic of 17.2% identifying as “not heterosexual”, there was no in-depth analysis or cross-referencing of this data, as was done for all other demographic groups. I’ve raised this concern with UK Music, but unfortunately, they have refused to address it in their 2024 survey, despite having the necessary data and the minimal workload involved.

Maria: Work to have more diversity if the more senior positions within the industry.

David: I hesitate to give one-size-fits-all advice. Personally, I feel uplifted when I see individual allies and companies actively sharing and celebrating LGBTQIA+ artists. It’s signposting “This is a safe space, you’re welcome here.” That’s such an easy way for everyone to foster LGBTQIA+ inclusion and you get to discover new music at the same time. Win-win!

Anon: Our sector could improve inclusivity by implementing comprehensive diversity and inclusion policies and training that specifically address the needs of LGBTQIA+ employees.

Luca: Facilitate and encourage the creation of LGBTQIA+ social groups in mid-size and big companies.

For more information, please contact Helen in the DEI Team:
Helen Choudhury
Head of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion
Champion of Menopause
Mental Health First Aider
[email protected]