Lawrence Tribe-Endt is the head of marketing and Natasha Isabelle is a client relationship manager at VERCIDA Group.
Natasha grew up in Slough in the 1990s, had a catholic upbringing and went to a catholic school.
“I always knew I was gay but going to a catholic school it was a battle in terms of coming out. My parents didn’t know what gay was and it wasn’t something you could talk about at all. It was a struggle because it was like there was something wrong with you. You didn’t fancy boys and it wasn’t right in one way or another. It was hidden and I lived two lives. One was a family life with my parents and one with my friends. It’s only in the last three years that my dad has accepted it,” said Natasha.
February is LGBT+ History month, not to be confused with Pride month, which occurs in June.
“LGBT+ history is about the historical context, the stonewall movement and where that all started,” said Lawrence.
Lawrence grew up in historical Rochester, Kent and likens his upbringing to Natasha’s, drawing similarities between the two towns and the lack of education and awareness around the LGBT+ community in the 90s.
“Growing up in the 80s and 90s it was hush hush and the aids epidemic was around so that was a whole negative thing around being gay. I knew I was different to my friends but being young I didn’t know what it meant. I didn’t know what gay was and I didn’t get the negative connotations of it at the time,” said Lawrence.
With the inclusion of LGBT+ History and Pride now running within the calendar year, awareness for the challenges faced by the LGBT community is on the rise but that doesn’t mean the challenges have disappeared. Many workers still hide their sexuality in the workplace.
“A friend of mine is gay she is quite high up in the business. She’s married and she has never freely told people that she’s gay. She takes her wedding and engagement ring off before she goes to work. Having people around me who are gay who still don’t feel comfortable in who they are is quite frightening considering it’s 2020,” said Natasha.
Until 2014 same sex marriage was illegal in England, Wales and Scotland, and, until this year, it was still illegal in Northern Ireland.
“I was married in the first year same sex marriage was legal. We have come a long way but there are still so many obstacles in the way. People need to remember that we would be stoned, hung and killed in previous times and it’s quite scary really. Even living in the fifties and sixties we wouldn’t even be able to talk about this,” said Lawrence.
Although overall there is less discrimination against the LGBT+ community, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center poll, 24% of people in the UK still think homosexuality should not be accepted by society and there are still far too many cases of violence and verbal abuse against individuals in the community.
“I know there are a lot of people out there who have experienced discrimination but I have been lucky. People get beaten up and some think it’s funny,” said Lawrence.
At VERCIDA Group we are proud of the fact that we offer an inclusive working culture where each individual can bring their whole self to work. As a small team we do not have particular initiatives in place, we just exercise a culture of openness and understanding.
“I think everyone understands each other and accepts how each other are. We’re quite close. We’ve got diversity and we’ve got inclusion and it’s in the acronym of our name VERCIDA.
“In previous roles I kept my sexuality private because there wasn’t a network or community that was open within the business. Moving from there to a London based company where the acceptance was greater, because there were openly gay people, which made it easier for me to feel comfortable,” said Natasha.
VERCIDA stands for values, equality, respect, culture, inclusion, diversity and accessibility.
“You’d think for a small company like we are that it would be harder to be supported as there are only fifteen of us here. But even having this conversation, we talk about personal stuff, and this is the first organisation where I can be myself,” said Lawrence.
When asked what they would say to younger members of the LGBT+ community Natasha said:
“Don’t be scared. Because your gay that doesn’t mean you can’t get where you need to be. If you’re good at your job and you’ve got skills don’t ever let anyone put you down. Be out and proud.”
“Don’t hide yourself. Be confident in who you are no matter where you come from or what stage you’re at.”