Undressing Disability

Pride In All Its Forms with Carley & Ian

February 12, 2021 Enhance the UK Season 1 Episode 4
Undressing Disability
Pride In All Its Forms with Carley & Ian
Undressing Disability
Pride In All Its Forms with Carley & Ian
Feb 12, 2021 Season 1 Episode 4
Enhance the UK

Welcome back to our podcast! In this episode, Emily chats to the lovely Carley Owen and Ian Massa-Harris from the brilliant organisation Pride in London. They discuss how it feels to have pride in their individual identities, the importance of welcoming everyone regardless of how they identify, and what more could be done to ensure that Pride is an accessible event for all.

Show Notes Transcript

Welcome back to our podcast! In this episode, Emily chats to the lovely Carley Owen and Ian Massa-Harris from the brilliant organisation Pride in London. They discuss how it feels to have pride in their individual identities, the importance of welcoming everyone regardless of how they identify, and what more could be done to ensure that Pride is an accessible event for all.

Pride In All Its Forms with Carley and Ian


Audio recording, Emily Yates, Carley Owen, Ian Massa-Harris-McFeeley


Audio recording  00:09

Welcome to Enhance the UK's Undressing Disability Podcast, where we strip back all things taboo on sex and disability.


Emily Yates  00:18

Hello, and welcome to the Undressing Disability podcast.  To be proud of our identities, whatever they may be, is a really liberating and empowering feeling for many of us. In this episode, I'm going to be talking about pride in all of its forms, with two people who know lots about it, Carley and Ian from the brilliant organisation of Pride in London. So hello, both of you, thank you so much for your time. And it's wonderful to have you here. Ian, first of all, it would be great to hear more about Pride in London, and what it means to you.  And then Carly, if we could hear about how you got involved and what you like most about your role. That'd be great.


Ian Massa-Harris-McFeeley  01:04

Hi, guys. I'm Ian.  I'm Deputy Director of events for Pride in London. And I'm also one of the founding members of Pride in London. What Pride in London means to me, pride London, pride in itself is a chance to be who I want to be. Pride in London was in my mind set up to to, to open the door to everyone to be themselves and to have a platform where, wherever you sit in the LGBTQI plus spectrum, you could be yourself 100% all the time. And that's what Pride in London needs to be openness and openness, inclusivity and acceptance. 


Emily Yates  01:41

What a lovely introduction, that's perfect. And Carley,  if we could hear from you and how you got involved what you love about your role, but but I guess also what it means to you as well. 


Carley Owen  01:52

So I don't know how you follow that. Yes, it's great to be here. Thank you for inviting us down. Yeah, how I got involved. So I planned my full time work, so University of East London's first entry into the pride parade in 2019. It was the first time as an institution, we've been going from 1898, that we'd ever been featured in the Pride Parade. And I've never experienced a feeling like that feeling ever before. And from then I saw an opening of an event manager coming up within the Pride in London events team. And then from that I've been with the team for a year, I'm now deputy head of year round events. Thank you to Ian.  And yeah, we'll continue to keep growing the team. And I just I just love it. I love working with the community. I love working to get that LGBTQI plus community together, even in a pandemic, and and hosting and managing developing the Coming Out site, which is a brand new event platform for the LGBT community, which is accessed all year round. It's not just for the Pride Parade, or the Pride event, it is all year round, has been an absolute joy. And I can't wait to continue my work with Ian and the rest of the team on that. 


Emily Yates  03:00

Wow, that's so lovely. And I can tell you've got plenty of experience plugging these things that's perfect Carley, thank you. And I guess an extension of what both of you have just been saying, If you feel comfortable talking about this, it'd be nice to just hear a bit more personally from you both what pride means to you individually. And how would you describe that feeling of being proud of your identity to our listeners?


Ian Massa-Harris-McFeeley  03:27

Ladies? First, I guess? 


Carley Owen  03:29

Oh, I see gentleman all the way round, I love it. Oh, yeah, I think Ian touched on it on the pride and what that meant. For me, I'll keep on going about that euphoric feeling that I felt being on that float in the Parade of Pride, and having 1.5 million people in 2019 all be there just to celebrate that acceptance, that understanding of the LGBTQI plus community. There is no ever, there's not a feeling that I don't think I'll ever experience that is like that. I think that was just, you know, everyone from different diverse backgrounds all coming together was absolutely amazing. But it's that feeling of acceptance, that understanding, that being able to be me, you know, that's that's all it was. I've never been one to fly the flag. Like you have to accept who I am, you know, it is who I am. But it's about talking. That understanding and making sure that everyone's open to that is massive. And I've been reading I keep seeing this quote, that diversity is all about diversity and inclusion, of course, the big D and I words that everybody hears, but I keep reading and coming across this quote that diversity is being asked to the party and inclusion is being asked to dance at that party. Yeah, really, really kind of lovely phrase to kind of sum up kind of pride and and what that means to me. 


Ian Massa-Harris-McFeeley  04:38

And so I'm obviously I'm a little bit older than both of you.  But I've been very lucky, I've never ever had a problem as a gay man. As you know, I've never had a problem I've never, I come from a privileged background. I've never been in a situation which is I've not been able to be myself. So I, for me Pride in London there was a chance to, I've been I've been involved in giving back to the community for, God, 15 to 20 years maybe, in various ways. And for me, it was a chance to give back in a way that I know how to. I'm not an activist, you don't see me getting all vocal about things, because that's just not my thing. I mean, I'm a performer, I'm an opera singer, I do things for the performance community. I wanted to help my community, or the people think the performing arts, it's a very open environment, I can tell you, it's not. And I wanted to, I wanted to give the performing arts a voice. And then that kind of grew and grew and grew. And so for me, Pride in London, it became a chance to to help people that have not been as lucky as myself, to have a voice. That's what it became. So it's not about me as such, it's about what I've been able to give the community, to give them a voice because sometimes, I mean, I'm loud, I'm outspoken, I am very happy with me, but not. But not everyone is as happy as I am. And, and you know, it takes a, it takes a lot of guts to be yourself. It takes a lot of guts to say, you know what I'm here, accept me as me. So I joined Pride to give people a voice. And that's why we're still here.


Emily Yates  06:11

And I think I kind of wanted to bring in this discussion, the pride of being disabled as well, of course, you know, pride is for that LGBTQI plus community. And that's absolutely what it should be there for. But I think sometimes, for us as a charity, Enhance the UK, we're also trying to empower disabled people to be proud in their impairments and their identities, as well. And I'm a wheelchair user. And I feel very proud to be a wheelchair user. And I feel that more and more disabled people have publicly became proud of their impairments and their identities. So Ian, a question to you, is Pride as, as an event changing? And is there more of an openness towards people who maybe identify as disabled and also in the LGBTQI plus community? And what's happened, that's really positive, what work is there still to be done?


Ian Massa-Harris-McFeeley  07:17

Absolutely. So. So I, myself am visually impaired. Not many people know about it but I've got no problem, and I'm very proud of being visually impaired. And like, we all make adjustments. And so inclusivity for me, and especially helping the disabled community be, feel part of it, is very important. So I don't know if you're aware, but we were awarded Access is Everything, the organisation Access is Everything, we were awarded awarded bronze in 2018. And then we actually went up to gold in 2019. We have maintained 2019 gold, and of course, we will, we have to keep setting standards to be with it. And we, all our volunteers receive inclusivity training and also they they they receive very specialised training on how to work with all types. Whatever those situations are, and we do never ask the questions, you never would think, you will never see us asking a question about a disability or identity or anything like that. To us, it doesn't matter. We accept everyone irrelevant to who they are, where they came from, aspirations etc. So I mean, this, this, we always have lots of work to do, don't, I mean, I think the world has a lot of work to do when it comes to acceptance.  You're nodding at me because I completely agree, Emily. And so little things like that. I mean, for example, things that we are we looking at going forward, we want to put our shuttle buses to collect people from the station, take them to the parade areas, we want to better our dedicated access to area for volunteers at the front of the parade. And we want to identify people that need queue jump to certain areas to help them access certain like settings, certain stages and stuff like that, and improve our mobile loo, mobile facilities for people that need specialist facilities. And we are, every year we add more BSL interpretation on our stages. So every year we up stage. So we always started with Trafalgar Square. And every year we've added one to be, you know, to the footprint. We've got to improve. And I think we're always wanting to improve our information, the way we deliver information on our website. So that's also always in constant improvement. And we also want to help with people that have care animals, people with dogs, for example, have them an area they can have a quiet space and an area for the dogs to relax. Because it's very important if you if you're visually impaired and you have a guide dog, the dogs with a lot of noise and also people can get very stressed. So that's something we've identified. I mean the list goes on and on. But we needless to say they accessiblity, we have a, we have a dedicated accessibility team. They look at these issues all year round and they make sure that all the other schemes of Pride in London fits within that. So the Coming Out platform, one of the things that's Coming Out team are always looking at accessibility, and make sure that all the venues and all the events we work with, as much as possible, fulfil accessibility requirements. So there you go. That's what we're doing.


Emily Yates  10:15

That's amazing. Wow, thank you so much Ian. And I think that's really important to talk about those things because quite often when it comes to physical events, you know, in a in a non COVID, environment, physical events where we're all going to, I think a lot of disabled people don't attend to these things, because they feel that they won't be accessible or inclusive to them. So having that discussion about what is available is really valuable. So thank you for that. 


Ian Massa-Harris-McFeeley  10:41

And also, I think, I think I need to say that we're not always going to get it right, but we always try to get it right. And you know, if we don't do something, right, we always welcome the feedback so actually what can we do better, so we can make it better? And that's how we've evolved through the years, really. 


Emily Yates  10:54

Yeah, that's brilliant. Thank you so much. And a question for you, Carley, as well. So for people who may be still struggling with their identity, and finding it difficult or problematic to feel that pride around their identity, whether they're disabled and part of the LGBTQI plus community, or of another minority group, what words of encouragement and wisdom would you give to them? And are there any great resources you could direct them to? 


Carley Owen  11:26

Yeah, great question. I think before I answer the question, I'm going to set the scene a little bit. But I think a few years back, I travelled with your CEO Jennie in the UK to Serbia, to train males 18, aged 18, to 30, in the hills of Serbia, and with all different impairments that they had about just because they have these impairments, it's about what you express, doesn't mean that you can't lead this normal life, inverted commas that we're all apparently need to strive for. And we had a week of them, living with them, staying with them, going out with them, training with them. And it came to the kind of last session of the week. And we decided to do a debate of against LGBTQ and pro LGBTQ, to sit in a room full of 30 males 18 to 30 in Serbia.  So not too sure whether you're familiar with the view at the time, wasn't too gay friendly. So yeah, as you can imagine, the team that was against LGBTQ were coming out with every kind of derogatory comment you can think of. And there was only myself that defined as LGBTQ in the room at the time. And when we got to the pro side, erm it was silent. And these guys that I'd been joking with, laughing with all week,  some had asked me on dates, they're all sat there just like, Oh, we got nothing to say Carley. Absolutely nothing to say at all positive. And I was like, okay. And then Jennie Enhance CEO said, is anyone in this room, do they define as LGBTQ, and I felt myself shaking as the against what we're, you know, we're saying all these derogatory things were going mad. And I put my hand up, and I didn't think that I would.  I didn't think I felt safe, didn't think I would, but the reaction that I got when I did is something that I will never, ever forget. And it's that impact that 30 guys in that room that day went into that room with a perception of what LGBTQ was, and leaving that room, I believe that a lot of them their thoughts had changed. And that for me was a pinnacle moment. You know, they were asking for selfies. They were asking for pretty much autographs it's like, woo just for being gay. I was like, This is amazing. Felt like Kim Kardashian. It was amazing. So with that in mind, I think it's going back to what Ian said about I wasn't ever an activist, I'm not wanting to be like, Oh, we have to do this. But to make little changes like that, to have discussions, to talk openly about being LGBTQI Plus, and they're the little things that are really going to make a difference. And I wrote a blog for yourselves and a lot of other companies. And in my recent work, I've had students and staff that have approached me discreetly to say, thank you so much for sharing your story. Thank you for that, you know. I didn't have struggles as Ian didn't. I wasn't, I was very fortunate and lucky. But just to say, look, we're here. We're queer, and we're here to bloody stay. That is the message that needs to emulate out and I think it is just about don't panic about pronouns and all these and what the plus means. I went me and Ian are still learning that, you know, I don't think we can confidently, we can confidently not say what LGBTQ plus everything is, you know, but we're open. We're open to learn. We want to listen, we want to listen to them voices. That's the most important thing I think that I'd offer of words of encouragement and wisdom. As for resources, Coming Out, let's keep plugging it, Coming Out the Pride in London website, which is available all year round, even through the pandemic, please go there for all community events. Wherever you are in the world. It is there for you. We've got the LGBT history month, which is coming up in February. So LGBT, the LGBTQI plus History Month website is available for all resources. If you're homeschooling at the minute, there's plenty on there for kids. The theme is body, mind and spirit. So lots lots of events to do with that and mental wealth and health and well being. ELOP is a fantastic LGBTQ plus mental health charity for anybody struggling in the pandemic. There's lots of resources with ELOP as well. And then Stonewall Housing which Enhance the UK will feature on a podcast coming up in the next few weeks. Anybody struggling in the pandemic that is living in a place that they feel unsafe in, are struggling with, Stonewall Housing are there to offer advice to help rehome and so plenty I could go on forever about the resources. But yeah, I'll shut up and let Ian talk..


Ian Massa-Harris-McFeeley  15:36

I'm gonna add one thing on my list okay. Can I add something? So we always, I don't know if you know but we have a community engagement team at Pride. Now this team works with various communities. So I will say to anyone listening, if you're part of the community, and you feel you're not being heard, or you feel you need help, the emails to the Deputy Director of Community Engagement and a Director on our website, by all means, reach out, we have representatives for each of the communities. So we got trans communities, we go bi community, we got everyone represented. Someone is there to help you out. And the one thing I'll say that I will never forget, it was my, it was our, It was 2014. So it must have been our year two. I got an email for Pride from a young trans lady. At the time, we used to have body painted models around our stages. And she said to me, and I will never forget this. She said erm, To Ian,  thank you very much for yesterday, it was incredible. Because of you, I have been able to say to my parents that I'm a trans lady, and I would not have been able to do without Pride in London. I mean, I literally read this email, and I just started crying. I couldn't stop. Okay, I was probably very tired because it was the morning. But I will never, that's why I try to help people be who they want to be. I don't care where you sit in the spectrum. I'm not, it's not important to me. And even straight allies, they need straight allies, they need to understand their friends. And I, we get a lot of straight allies coming to Pride who want to experience Pride because they want to understand their friends, and they don't know how to understand or sympathise. That's what we're here for. So that I will never forget that.


Emily Yates  17:09

That's absolutely amazing. Yeah, I feel like I've learned a lot throughout just chatting to you now very, very briefly. And And the last question really, for both of you is whether or not you've got anything else that you'd like to add that you'd like to share with us that you'd like to plug. Erm, and any kind of final words of wisdom.


Carley Owen  17:29

 Go on an, I'll let you take it.


Ian Massa-Harris-McFeeley  17:32

Oh, my God, I'm being, that goes against, it goes against the grain to go before ladies. Anything else? Pride in London is not just here for the day, we're not just, we're not a party, we're not a demonstration. We're not, We're not a protest, we are everything. We're a place that people should be able to be who they want to be and do and celebrate pride however they want to be whether that is being an activist, whether that's being a demonstrator, whether that's been a positive person, we are here to shine the light to you, as a person, give you a day that you can be yourself. And we are always here to listen. To any of us, you can email any of the board or any of the deputies, we are always around. And we will then send it to one of our teams. And in my team, all my heads of department and my deputy heads of department are fantastic. So they're always around. Final Words from me are, It's not easy to be yourself, whether you are disabled, to struggling with identity, you don't know where you fit or you, you haven't defined it because sometimes as we all know, you just haven't decided where you want to be. You know, all I would say, you know what I mean? So all I would say, is  it's not easy to be yourself. But there are people here at Pride In London that will help you be yourself if you let it. So just contact us.


Emily Yates  18:51

Beautiful. Thank you so much. And Carley,  don't worry if you don't have anything else.. 


Carley Owen  18:56

..follow that! How do you follow that! Yeah he left it amazingly. I echo everything that Ian said. The Pride in London family is here for every single person that is struggling to find themselves or knows themselves and wants to just just give that you know that voice and that platform. That's what we're here for. But for me, it's just to be open to things keep being open to things that we don't know, keep learning, let's keep educating ourselves and talking to each other. Ignorance is what causes most things that go bad and wrong against all minority groups. Ignorance and not that chance to open the brains and, and talk so just keep open, keep learning keep talking and change will happen. 


Emily Yates  19:33

Wonderful, what a place what a place to end it. Thank you so so much both of you for your time, and your wisdom and your expertise and your knowledge. And thank you to you guys for listening. For more information or to have a chat with us, please visit us at enhance the uk.org. From there you can also sign up to our Undressing Disability hub, a platform for professionals to connect and collaborate in the arena of sex and disability. We'll see you next time. Thank you.