Championing everybody’s right to express themselves
It has been wonderful seeing the reaction to Virgin Atlantic updating its gender identity policy. For those who missed it, our cabin crew, pilots and ground team can now choose which of the iconic, Vivienne Westwood-designed uniforms best reflects them – no matter their gender, gender identity or gender expression. It’s such a great initiative and I’m so proud of Virgin Atlantic, which has long been seen as the most inclusive airline in the skies. You can see how proud the team are in this longer video, and I’m sure the overwhelming majority of our customers will feel the same.
However, when the campaign went live, I opened my inbox to somebody writing: “Sad, I’ll never fly Virgin again.” There were several negative comments like this and, sadly, more on social media. I must admit, I had a moment of concern about how some people would react.
It’s fascinating how minds work sometimes. You see somebody who looks different to you – they have a tattoo, a different dress style, whatever - and you react differently than if they looked just like you. Because of the way some people have been brought up, where they are from, because of all sorts of factors, they may have certain prejudices. I know I have at certain moments and will continue to learn and grow as life goes on. It’s part of the journey of being human.
Progress happens when individuals and organisations make it happen. Even if everybody isn’t ready for it, leaders push the culture forwards and soon enough others will be running to catch up – and eventually the right thing will be widely accepted.
We still have a long way to go until LGBTQ+ rights are championed around the world. While many battles have been won in the West, people can be locked up for life or stoned to death for being gay in several countries around the world. We must all come together to keep fighting for equality around the world, and business must play a role in this fight.
Virgin has long been a proud supporter for LGBTQ+ rights, from running the Student Advisory Centre to opening Heaven, London’s biggest gay club; from sponsoring Pride festivals to helping launch Open for Business (a business-led coalition to make the economic case for LGBTQ+ inclusion); from the first ever Pride flight to supporting the abolition of anti-LGBTQ+ laws.
We will continue championing the LGBTQ+ community, and everybody’s right to express themselves exactly how they want to.