Brazil is a country of contradictions when it comes to LGBTQ+ matters. While we have the biggest pride celebration in the world with an estimated 3 million people having attended in 2019, we are also the country with the highest violence rates against the community.
We are a polarised country with huge social inequality and that some, including transgender and black people, are hit much harder. On the other hand, social movements are getting bigger and more organised and LGBTQ+ rights have evolved significantly in recent years with joint adoption and same-sex marriage being legalised.
Three years ago, together with a co-chair of gPRIDE – a Genentech diversity network association that fosters inclusion and empowers community members to advocate for civil and human rights – I began to lobby the company to gather LGBTQ+ data. In 2019, leaders responded by expanding voluntary self-identification to include gender identity and sexual orientation for Genentech and Roche employees in the US.
The two sides of this coin are illustrated by a 2015 nationwide survey, which reported that while 51% of South Africans believe that gay people should have the same human rights, a disheartening 72% feel that same-sex acitivity is morally wrong. This is perhaps not unexpected as South African society, while diverse and complex, is overwhelmingly religious, patriarchal and morally conservative. In addition, traditional concepts of masculinity often result in homophobic violence and abuse, with 44% of LGBTQ+ South Africans reporting to experience verbal, physical and/or sexual abuse in their daily lives due to their sexual orientation. Clearly, constitutional protection makes little difference when you are threatened with corrective rape or gay bashing, or when you are abandoned by friends and family under the guise of 'love the sinner, hate the sin'.
We are such a diverse site where are LGBTQ+ people spread out across all of our departments, because of that people wanted to be able to come together more often and have a place to discuss things like the Orlando shootings, the rise of hate crimes and homophobic comments that happened after the Brexit vote came through. I went to London Pride the day after the Brexit vote which was really topical and saw other pharma companies.
That’s where we started. It was fairly easy to set up here and members were extremely keen when it comes to our entry in Brighton & Hove Pride, the largest Pride event in the UK that attracts over 500,000 viewers. We have been involved since 2017 and were the first Roche site to be in a pride parade.
I wouldn’t have been able to start the OPEN group in Burgess Hill without the help of allies. I relied on them to pass the invite around for the first meeting, making sure that those LGBTQ+ staff directly got the invite. Our allies are an integral part of the group, running socials and directly being involved with pride. We couldn’t have won that war without them.
One of the hardest things this year has been the cancellation of all the UK pride activities, we had planned to be at the Brighton pride and also in London. We also don’t know what LGBTQ venues will survive the COVID–19 shutdown, but we are determined to support them. The date for Brighton Pride 2021 was announced shortly after 2020 was cancelled. We decided to give everyone something to look forward to and shared it… so see you on Saturday, August 7, 2021!
Iain taking part in Pride