Listen above or read the full transcript beneath, which has been edited for clarity.
Jon Kennard: Delighted to welcome to UNLEASHcast Sam Bailey today from NASH Squared. We’re going to be talking about Pride Month and everything around that. It’s the 50th anniversary of Pride Month. It’s good to reflect on how far we’ve come not to underestimate also how far we have to go. What are your feelings about the progress made? And what else can be done for workplace equality?
Sam Bailey: Yeah, I think particularly in the workplace, I’d say the main progression we’ve made is just general outlook on the community in general, [and] opinions towards and impressions towards the LGBTQ plus community. I think people are becoming open. Obviously, I’m familiar with the tech sector, and as a sector of the workplace that is very forward-thinking – and you can’t really join tech and not be completely open for everything, not just limited to LGBT people – I think it’s a great example of almost getting rid of prejudice completely. It definitely still exists, but I think with that it accompanies as a byproduct a complete lack of care for it [prejudice], and [that’s] a really positive outlook towards the LGBT community.
Attitudes aren’t fully open as I said, there are lots of prejudices out there. And that comes with an abundance of factors, whether it be age, where you’ve worked previously, where you’ve grown up, but I do think, generally, attitudes towards queer people are becoming mostly positive.
I would say we’ve reached that point where it’s definitely not entirely negative in the way that it used to be. But I’d say there’s still a lot of room for people to get past the point of queer people being palatable, and now being actively included in the workplace.
JK: So, while we were setting this up, one thing you said was, how “disclosure of identity or sexuality etc, doesn’t have to change how you’re treated, or how well you can do the job”. As a trans man, is this the next step? Do you think it’s indifference or neutrality, is this the next step to help level the playing field? It’s a bit of an odd question. But what do you think?
SB: Yeah, I mean, I definitely think it’s something I believe in. And I know that that is quite specific to my experiences, I know several trans people that are quite close to me that really do embrace their trans identity and actually do want that visibility. And that really is a purely personal experience. And I do know, that can be a slightly unpopular opinion, a sense of as you said, neutrality, but I do speak to a lot of queer people, and I have a lot of queer people in my life. And I mean, my partner talked about it a lot. And I do think that specifically when we talk about Pride Month, and when we come into June, and there’s rainbows everywhere, and you know, everybody wants to get involved.
And I know that has good intentions. And I know what’s behind that and the history behind that. But I do believe that for complete acceptance, you do need a sense of neutrality, I don’t think that you need to be going around for the whole month of June, just throwing Pride flags at everything and calling it acceptance and calling it support. I don’t actually think they come as hand in hand as people think. And I do think it’s not the same.
I understand that it’s not the same, but I do often make the connection between how with people of color, obviously, some prejudice still exists and this is not something I have obviously ever experienced, but you would never make a thing of having a person of color in the workplace, that would just never happen anymore. Especially not in the tech sector.
You don’t have that diversity pledge anymore when it comes to people of color. And I don’t think that that needs to happen with queer people either. I don’t think you need to be specifically ‘looking for queer people’ to get that ‘diversity pledge’, as I said, and I think that comes hand in hand with a sense of neutrality.
I think queer people are able to do the job just as well as cishet people and I don’t think it’s necessary to be so obsessed as well of making a thing to hire or be, ‘inclusive’, openly and excessively inclusive of queer people, because we are just as able to do the job as anybody else. It’s ironic that I’m doing this today, because actually, this week, with Pride Radio coming out and we’ve been talking a lot about this stuff.
And I spoke to one of my trans friends, and we both play football and we met in an inclusive football team. And we were talking about how the differences between the ‘worst’ player on the team and ‘best’ player on the team on an inclusive team across all genders and sexualities, is really quite minimal. If you’re doing something you love, and something you’re, you’re experienced in doing, you just have just as much difference in ability, as a group of, you know, all cis men, or all straight people.
Queer people are not any less or more able to do anything than anybody else. We’re all just human. And I think, like attitudes and biases need to be gone, positive and negative, for people, for queer people in the workplace, but that I do understand that that comes from a place of privilege for me, being a cis-passing trans man.
And, when I joined my company now, I was under no obligation to tell people about my identity or not tell people about my identity, it really made no difference for me. And I understand that is not the same for a lot of people. And that’s why it’s a debatable subject in the neutrality sense. Because some people being trans is a huge, huge part of their identity. And being visibly trans is a huge part of their identity, and they look for that inclusion and that extreme ‘openness’ in the workplace. So it’s definitely difficult, but that is my personal opinion. With my experience, and it has worked out for me, so, you know…
JK: It’s a difficult one, isn’t it? Because I think, hopefully, that’s the next stage of beyond acceptance and into true equality. But I say this about every awareness week or month, is that it’s great to highlight these things. But for one, it shouldn’t be just a month, it shouldn’t be all the time, obviously. But I get the idea of gathering up all the energy to make it something special.
JK: But on the other side of that is, you don’t want it to be a pinkwashing exercise for a lot of companies, which it is, where you can ghettoize all these thoughts and these initiatives into one specific timeframe, and then go about conducting your business in the way that you would have before without really embedding these behaviors or cultures or practices. But it seems like we’re in an interesting time. And it seems like, certainly, NASH Squared is a great place to work in this respect. And my last question was going to be about… – this is not other conversations panned out, what I was gonna say was, this conversation could be quite boring, because the idea is that everyone works in a company, regardless of protected characteristics. You’re doing the job, right? – but what’s your experience with NASH Squared? It seems like a great place to work, right?
SB: Yeah. So I came into the company, maybe in an unorthodox sense. My boss, David Savage, who runs the Tech Talks podcast, he actually placed my mum in a role about nine years ago or so. So he’s known my family for a long time. And, he was looking for a marketing assistant of sorts, and we got on really well. And that’s how I got into the role. And so you know, I was much more familiar with him than Nash Squared as a business very early on.
And David’s great. I mean, he’s sort of the exact thing we were talking about earlier, it literally doesn’t bother him at all. He’s very politically accurate with this thing, obviously; running a podcast and speaking to all different types of people, my first interaction with Nash squared was through him, and I automatically felt not pressured one way or another to disclose any parts of my identity or to not.
I really felt like I knew very early on that that just wasn’t gonna change anything. And I’m lucky, I’ve spoken to a lot of people in Nash pride, which is the D,E&I group that I’m part of at Nash Squared, and I’ve been lucky enough to not experience a lot of the prejudices that a lot of my peers have, in past work, in university, any of these things I’ve done, and then meeting all of the wider people in Nash Squared and being part of Nash Pride. There’s been a real lack of just anything negative. I’ve never experienced anything like that.
And across absolutely everybody, whether it’s Nash Pride, whether it’s members of the LGBT community, or allies, or just anyone, there’s a real attitude of that. It’s so far beyond not acceptable, like nobody would even fathom the concept of there being any issues for queer people in the workplace, to the point where I speak to my peers…I was speaking to one of my peers yesterday, and she got some backlash on a LinkedIn post – not from anyone in the company – and that actually came up in a conversation we were having with somebody, and they were like, ‘oh it wasn’t anyone internal’ and you wouldn’t even fathom that that would happen.
I don’t really disclose my trans identity. When I first meet people, I’m at a point in my transition for anyone who’s listening to this, I’m really cis-passing, it doesn’t often change anything about my interactions with people. And I felt the same in the workplace. But I felt like my specific experiences as a trans person over people with different sexualities could be of use, and especially with Pride Month, and National Pride as a committee, I felt that one, I would not get any background for it but two, it could be a useful thing to disclose. And when I did, it was a real nothingness reaction from people.
As I said, it’s before with the neutrality thing, personally, I don’t really respond well to those comments that you get whereas a trans person, and for any trans people that might be listening, I think we’ve all been there with, ‘you’re so brave’, or ‘I never would have known you are trans’ or, ‘you’re really open about your identity’ and things like that.
And there was a real nothingness about that at Nash Squared, which was so refreshing, because, you know, I’m 22, I’ve recently left university, before that I was in school, you know, people my age and younger, they really have a quite a knack for saying what they think is the right thing to say, but usually, it’s a bit condescending, and I’ve never had any of that at Nash Squared, all I’ve had is everybody’s really grateful for me sharing my experiences, everybody’s been really open for me to be able to share that and, therefore make the content that we make and everything, just that bit more informative.
And in that sense, I think, myself and everyone I work with, we’re all in agreement that Nash Squared is a great example of how perfectly to handle these situations. And this new age that everyone says we’re in of, you know, accepting queer people. And, yeah, I think I’m not the only one that would say that. It’s a great example of how to properly accept people without, as you said, just the tokenism that June often brings around.
JK: Well, that’s great to hear, and thanks for talking to UNLEASHcast. I mean, it’s really appreciated, we are quite far into Pride Month already. So it was we organized this quite quickly, but I do really appreciate you talking to us today. We will speak to you very soon, Sam. Thank you.
For the full conversation – listen above…