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Saving lives with Pride

This month, people from all around the world are celebrating Pride – including RNLI volunteers across the UK and Ireland. But why is it so important to celebrate? 

RNLI wellies in a rainbow of colours

Photo: RNLI/Simon Moss

We speak to three lifesavers who are allies to the LGBT+ community to find out what Pride month means to them, and how supporting it helps save more lives at sea.

You don’t need to have plenty of maritime experience, qualifications, or even have been aboard a boat to be an RNLI lifesaver. But you do need to feel free to be yourself. The water does not discriminate, and neither do we – that’s why we celebrate Pride.

‘Feel empowered to have these conversations. Allow yourself to be challenged’

Nick Evans, RNLI Face-to-Face Manager

‘Pride is a celebration of diversity – and not just among the LGBT+ community. It’s a place to accept and embrace differences between people. Pride has become a touchstone for people who feel excluded, and that’s the magical thing about it.

‘I’ve been to Cardiff Pride for the last 3 years, and it has been amazing to see how much it’s grown – it’s enormous! It takes over the whole town and every high street chain you can think of has a part in it. It’s just a big joining together and people are pleased to be part of it. 

‘More people need to get involved because it’s good to challenge yourself. If you feel this way, be honest and say: ‘I don’t feel comfortable at Pride and I don’t understand it.’ That’s OK! Feel empowered to have those conversations, especially if you don’t feel like you’re part of it. Allow yourself to be challenged. It’s a really warm, welcoming, inclusive community.

‘If we’re (at the RNLI) not engaging with it, or making it a natural part of our culture and conversations we’re having, we won’t be relevant in 50 years’ time.’   

‘I look forward to a time when anyone feels confident enough to volunteer to save lives at sea’

Jen Abell, RNLI Area Manager

‘I support Pride because one of my favourite people on the planet is transgender – and watching her receive negative comments for just being herself breaks my heart. 

‘For the thousands of people who haven’t come out yet, for those who have fled persecution in countries where not to be heterosexual is to be illegal, and for those who are killed globally for who they are – Pride is a reminder that they’re not alone. 

‘To support Pride is to support love, respect, and a notion that to be authentically you is the best you can be – who doesn’t want to support that?'

A spectator waves a rainbow flag at an LGBT Pride march in London

Photo: Shutterstock/Ink Drop

‘While on the RNLI stand at Pride last year, I met someone who hadn’t come out to anyone – and to watch him in an environment where he could be himself for the first time was truly moving. The sense of community in Pride events takes my breath away.

‘In 2018, I attended Pride Cymru and Pride London. Pride Cymru had its biggest parade ever last year, and it was great the RNLI could be a part of that. We gave out hundreds of safety messages, alongside Respect the Water and Float to Live advice – and with Pride in London being so close to the River Thames, those messages could genuinely be a lifesaver. 

‘I look forward to a time when anyone of any gender, sexuality, race, religion or with any disability feels confident walking into any lifeboat station to volunteer to save lives at sea. We rescue without prejudice and we must send a clear message that we’re creating RNLI communities without discrimination – one Pride at a time.’

‘We’ve still got work to do’

Mike Smith, RNLI Face-to-Face Manager

‘The biggest reason to support Pride is because every person has the right to be who they want to be and feel comfortable in doing so. I believe my demographic and generation are more open-minded – but there’s still a gap among others, which shows we’ve still got work to do. 

‘I’ve been to Bournemouth Pride a couple of times before which is brilliant. There are so many people, lots of sunshine and live music. Everyone is so welcoming and happy around each other and there is so much colour and entertainment. 

Face-to-Face Fundraising Manager Mike Smith

Photo: RNLI/Nathan Williams

Face-to-Face Fundraising Manager Mike Smith

‘I’ve never been asked about my sexuality at Pride – it’s just an open, honest space for people to have the conversations they want to, without prejudice. More than anything, the events are a celebration of diversity and love, of who you are as an individual and what you bring to the table. 

‘We need to celebrate Pride because we all deserve to live in a society where people can be who they are. Supporting Pride shows you’re demonstrating acceptance of the LGBT+ community – and that we’re part of a bigger community that are supportive of one another. 

‘It’s important we apply this inside the RNLI too. We’ll have a wider, more diverse talent pool of interesting people, and a happier workplace where people can work to the best of their potential and give everything to help their community.’ 

The RNLI’s LGBT+ Network 

It takes a deep level of trust for our lifesavers to work as a team – to their full potential – to save more lives. That requires work, from the inside out. 

That’s why we have an RNLI LGBT+ Network, run entirely by our volunteers and staff, to educate, engage, enthuse and empower individuals. It’s here to make a difference. 

Jacob Davies, RNLI Lifesaving Manager and Chair of the network says: ‘There are staff and volunteers out there who are actively hiding who they are out of fear. Fear for their welfare, careers, friendships, and for how those around them will treat them. That is why we need a network. We are here for our colleagues. We are here to support everyone.’

Be a proud lifesaver

The RNLI will be at eight Pride events all around the UK and Ireland this summer – and each one of them are here to unite and celebrate your family, friends, colleagues, and neighbours for exactly who they are. So show your support, and get ready to celebrate: