Sarah Garrett, Founder of the RBS British LGBT Awards, blogs for Emerald about the forthcoming annual event, highlighting past winners and why the awards are so important to the community.
Sarah Garrett: What the LGBT Awards mean and why they are so important...
We are now in the run up to our awards, and I’m pleased to say the ceremony is shaping up to be the biggest yet. We’re really excited that LGBT advocate Mel B announced she will be hosting the event alongside Duncan James. There has definitely been a great buzz around it and the shortlist in particular has raised a lot of discussion.
We have received the highest number of individual votes this year for our celebrity categories, over 24,000, and our corporate winners have been selected from the shortlist by a panel of expert judges, including Steve Wardlaw, Chairman of Emerald Life.
In the past we have had high profile winners such as Clare Balding, Stephen Fry, Graham Norton, Jane Hill, Paul O’Grady to name a few, but also those who don’t always get recognition such as corporate role models, charities and those working tirelessly behind the scenes. Last year Captain Hannah Winterbourne, a trans woman from the Army won, and since she has gone on to be a visible role model for others.
So why are the awards important? There has been so much great work done over the past decade, especially by last year’s Lifetime Achievement winner Ben Summerskill who was Chief Executive of Stonewall. However, while much has changed through the legal system for equality, there is still a lot of work to be done around changing society as a whole - and their views towards the LGBT population. That is why companies are now needing to offer better services and products to LGBT customers.
That is why I’m really proud that Emerald Life, which offers insurance for LGBTs, have recently come on board as a supporter of the awards. I think it is important that LGBTs can speak openly about their needs without having to hide parts of their identity or fearing that when declaring they are married, not having to correct the assumption that this is to the opposite sex. Emerald Life has also done a lot of research on how to tailor its products specifically around LGBT people’s needs. Without organisations like Emerald, the awards could not exist.
There is certainly a bigger picture around the awards and celebrating the great work done by many…
The awards have gone from strength to strength over the years and now provide a great platform to do more - we not only have looked to engage LGBT media, community and corporates, but the great news is we are speaking to those outside of the LGBT community, too. I see this as the only way we will make a change within wider society.
Behind the scenes we are also working hard around LGBT areas that need support, initiatives include aiding gay and bisexual female role models, building awareness around same-sex families and we are looking into areas such as multicultural LGBT communities.
We have also fundraised through the awards for charities such as Diversity Role Models and the Peter Tatchell Foundation. This year we will again be raising money for the latter - I don’t think people realise all the good work they do! They do a lot of awareness campaigning work, but have also helped LGBT people whose lives have been threatened get refugee status. They really don’t shout about all the achievements they have made. Peter Tatchell was a Lifetime Achievement winner and that is also why we need awards, they help raise profiles, especially for those who don’t get commended for their work.
So as we move closer to the awards, due to be held on Friday 13th May, we are really looking forward to praising those who have given their time, changed their workplaces or generally made the world a little bit more of a friendlier place for the LGBT community. Good luck to all nominees!