Spotlight on PRIDE: Stu Hosker, Founder of Queer Voices Heard

What does PRIDE mean to you?

For me, Pride events are an opportunity to celebrate our identities. But they’re not just ‘parties’. For so many in our community, they are one of only a few opportunities to freely express who they are and to connect with others. That’s why ensuring Pride events continue at a time of a global pandemic is so important. They also act as a reminder of how far we’ve come, but also of how much more there is left to do. The conversations we must have to support the LGBTQ+ community at home and abroad; the rights we need to achieve and the inequalities we need to reduce.

How has the cancellation of Pride 2020’s outdoor celebrations impacted the conversations you are currently having with your clients? 

As a social enterprise, we rely on sponsorship of our research by brands so that we can produce content and spark meaningful conversations within the LGBTQ+ community. Prior to the pandemic, we were in discussions with a number of brands who were looking to partner with us. This content would have launched during Pride month and the months that follow. Sadly, these brands decided to postpone until “after coronavirus”.

It’s also now clear that some brands have distanced themselves from visibly supporting the LGBTQ+ community this year as a result of Pride 2020 not being an outdoor celebration. Yet their support, both in terms of funding and public-facing activities, have never been more needed.

Given your work and the name of the agency, how important is diversity with your own organisation?

Representation and intersectionality are extremely important. But as a cis-gendered white gay man, I can only offer a very small window of insight to the LGBTQ+ community. Therefore as co-founder of Queer Voices Heard, I work really hard to include and listen to a variety of different queer voices. From the participants who take part in our research programmes, to the freelancers we collaborate with in research facilitation and content creation.

There’s always more work to do, but hearing the lived experiences of different voices in our community is essential to how we as a social enterprise start meaningful conversations.

Are the brands you work with concerned about the authenticity of their alignment with an LGBTQ audience, given that many businesses have been called out for this?

“Rainbow washing” remains a problem during Pride season. A quick look on social media at this time of year shows brand’s changing their logos, or putting out a post or two, but there’s very little authenticity to it.

We are fortunate enough to have worked with, or in discussions to work with, brands who truly engage with the LGBTQ+ community all year round. They understand that to be authentic they must engage with queer people regularly and work with LGBTQ+ businesses and charities like Queer Voices Heard in doing so.

What change would you like to see/help to enact in the next year?

Using the insight from focus groups and polling, and sharing stories and experiences through engaging content, has the ability to spark meaningful conversations and bring about positive change. Yet there is a void in LGBTQ+ research being commissioned on topics and issues that disproportionately impact the community.

As we enter the ‘new normal’ world brought on by coronavirus, Queer Voices Heard will continue to engage the community through the use of research to better understand and represent queer people.

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