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Inside White & Case
How White & Case is celebrating LGBT+ History Month in the UK

February is LGBT+ History Month in the UK. We asked Alex Underwood from the White & Case London Spectrum LGBT+ affinity group to explain why it's important to celebrate and mark this event.

"A lot has changed for LGBT+ people in the last 50 years, especially recently," says Alex, who's currently working in the EMEA Capital Markets practice. "We're in a better place than ever in the UK, but we should remember that progress can stop, or even slide back." He explains that LGBT+ History Month is an annual month-long observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender plus history, as well as a celebration of the history of LGBT+ rights. "It's a chance to educate, raise awareness and give some insight into the issues that the LGBT+ community has faced and still faces." 

Spectrum in 2020

As the new Associate Chair for the London Spectrum LGBT+ affinity group, Alex is excited about the activities that are scheduled to take place during February, including a fundraising quiz for an LGBT+ charity. "Beyond February, we have a really engaged and active Spectrum committee and we have a lot planned for 2020." Despite the regular Spectrum social events and the June Pride celebrations, Alex says that it is not all about having fun. "We're also constantly working to see where we can make positive changes with regards to LGBT+ rights, both inside the workplace and globally as a Firm."

An important role for LGBT+ allies

How does Spectrum and, more broadly, White & Case support and encourage LGBT+ allies? Alex says that allies are equally involved in all of our events and communications. "We have recently updated our Allies Guide, which is jam-packed with tailored advice and useful tips. Many LGBT+ allies choose rainbow lanyards for their official workplace IDs and that's a great example of visibly showing support. We're about to launch a new range of lanyards with colours specifically supporting transsexualism, pansexualism and bisexualism." 

Alex adds that our allies play an important role by being willing and ready to support the LGBT+ community. "The most effective allies will be ready to challenge poor behaviour, should it arise, and to foster a culture of openness and acceptence. It's also great to see so many colleagues coming to Spectrum social events or London Pride and it's a real demonstration of their support and solidarity." Alex also notes that the Firm takes on a significant amount of LGBT+ specific pro bono work; another opportunity for LGBT+ allies to put their support into action.

Celebrating progress, but not the end of the story

It's just over 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexual acts between men aged over 21 in the UK. There's much to celebrate in 2020, but Alex points out that it has been a long journey. He notes that Section 28 (which prohibited local authorities in the UK from promoting homosexuality) was only abolished in 1994. "LGBT+ History Month reminds us that the "unnatural offences" laws (used to convict people such as Alan Turing) were only repealed 17 years ago—within the lifetime of most at White & Case. Meanwhile, same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland only became legal last month."

Despite many steps in the right direction, Alex points out that many barriers remain. "There are countless improvements that should be made to the legal protections and rights afforded to LGBT+ individuals in the UK. Homophobic abuse is still a regular occurrence and the statistics are shocking: According to a 2018 Stonewall report, two in five trans people (41 per cent) and three in ten non-binary people (31 per cent) in Britain had experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months."

For these reasons, Alex feels that LGBT+ History Month remains as important now as it has ever been. "We still have much work to do. Being part of Spectrum or supporting LGBT+ rights as an ally inside and outside of the workplace is a great place to start."

Learn more about Spectrum, our LGBT+ affinity network
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Find out more about Spectrum around the world here.