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Influential People

October 02, 2020

The actions and behaviours of inspiring individuals who proactively led us to new paths and onto greater things, we can recall their faces, names, roles almost instantly. In our histories, our own personal pasts and experiences, we can do the same.

The sense of determination and passion for creating change for the benefit of their communities are qualities that our LGBT+ Working Group value. The LGBT+ community comes from a darker history, facing many challenges in the forms of discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, violence, emotional abuse – all with unacceptable outcomes.

Thankfully, the community is much more celebrated now in many ways. Others require much more acknowledgement, representation and determination to influence the minds and actions of others.

We owe so much of what we know today to so many people throughout our history, advocates and role models who have influenced many industries who themselves lived through uncertain times. Some of whom suffered greatly as a result.

We take a look at the work of a few.

Alan Turing

As a digital business, everything we do relies on the field of computing and as such the work of whole generations of engineers. But focussing on one individual, we can say with #pride and humility that we recognise iconic and inspirational computer scientist, mathematician and philosopher Alan Turing as one of our most highly influential icons of 20th Century history.

Through much determination, Alan’s incredible intellect and logic played a pivotal role in the Second World War cracking coded messages. It is believed that without this work the war would have continued another two to three years, killing a further 14–21 million people. This, alongside a plethora of achievements throughout history including the Turing Machine, solidifies his recognition with many—and to us—as the Father of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence.

Despite this, the 1950s was not a welcoming time for those within the LGBT+ community as homosexuality was a criminal offence. Alan was prosecuted in 1952 and chemically castrated. Sadly, he passed days before his 42nd birthday, and it was later determined that Alan had committed suicide.

While many laws have changed and recognition is becoming more apparent, there is still much more that needs to be done in the way of true acceptance.

In later life, Alan became fascinated by the mechanisms by which nature produces diverse and unique patterns, publishing work which is considered inspirational in the field of mathematics. It’s hard not to see this as evidence that being different is far from unnatural. We are humbled that our central hub is based in the city that this great man completed much of his later work. May we, in today’s society, continue to be thankful for Alan’s extraordinary developments that paved the way to modern day as well as acknowledge the real discrimination that he and many have endured—unforgiving judgements made based solely on sexuality.

Julia Grant

As a business that’s proud of our culture, driven by our values, we would like to commemorate and honour the late Transgender Activist, Julia Grant.

Julia was a courageous character who helped many transgender people change their lives with a pioneering documentary back in 1979 ‘A Change of Sex’. The documentary followed Julia through her transition up to 1999. It is believed to be the first documentary which addressed transgender issues, and as a result, Julia became an inspirational role model and leader for the LGBT+ community.

Manchester Gay Village is known worldwide for its welcoming atmosphere, and it is where Julia chose to call home and run many successful businesses. Right in the heart of the village was the Hollywood Show Bar which was run by Julia up until

  1. It was a place many of the community can recall fond memories of.

While some people may have said Julia was controversial, she brought hope for many. She advanced visibility of transgender and gender dysphoria and helped others in understanding what was, and still can be a maligned and excluded minority in society.

As controversial as she may have been, Julia was recognised and respected for her life choices and received high accolades from politicians and the Mayor of Manchester following her recent death in January 2019.

Julia lived her life with courage and determination, and in the days when ‘being different’ was merely not accepted due to lack of education, she paved the way for transgender people today to be able to live in a society where they can be true to themselves.

Sir Ian McKellen

Looking further afield to our community within London, many role models have paved the way in the Capital also. One of these is Sir Ian McKellen, who although he was born in Burnley has been an integral part of the London theatre network for over 40 years. He is known mostly for his work in the film and theatre industries, being twice nominated for an Oscar and winning every major theatre award in the UK and USA. However, some may not be as aware of his role as a passionate advocate and role model within the LGBT+ community.

Sir Ian publicly announced he was gay for the first time on national radio, during a debate on Section 28 of the Local Government Bill 1988 which criminalised “promoting homosexuality”. He continued to oppose such laws in the UK and internationally also, playing a vital role in increasing the visibility of gay men in the media and dispelling the stigma and shame surrounding those who identified as gay in a time where the LGBT+ community were invisible.

In the years following, he co-founded LGBT rights charity Stonewall, who do incredible work for the LGBT community and work with organisations like us to ensure that everyone feels able to be themselves both in and out of work. To this day Sir Ian inspires people from across the LGBT+ community to express themselves and continues to be a vital role model.

He has been involved closely with Manchester Pride as well as being a patron of London Pride and Oxford Pride. He continues to support many LGBT+ charities and is a patron of The Albert Kennedy Trust, The Lesbian & Gay Foundation and LGBT History Month. He has campaigned for further and more accurate visibility of LGBT+ individuals within the media and advertising – and has publicly spoken about the need for significant brands to update their portrayal of identifying as LGBT+ and celebrating those individuals.

Of course, there are many other individuals who we would love to celebrate as we reflect on LGBT History Month and all it means to us. By recognising some of these people, it allows us to look back and appreciate how they have paved the way by tackling the discrimination that so many of the LGBT+ community have had to endure. Without these people, our local and national communities may not be as diverse and representative as they are today.