Let me first start off by introducing myself and what I do, or should I say, what I study. My name is Jake McCrea, and I am a proud gay man from a town just outside of Philadelphia. I am currently a third year at Arcadia University, based in Glenside Pennsylvania, and I am now studying here in London for the academic year. I am an International Studies Major with a concentration in human rights and public health, and I am working on a minor in Political Science. While I am in London I am part of the internship program, I am currently working with a venture philanthropy organization called Alfanar, which means ‘Beacon’ in Arabic, what they do is help women and children refugees in Egypt, Lebanon, and other regions in the Middle East by funding organizations that refugees start up on their own in their respective countries. I heard about this event through Polly Penter who works at Arcadia in London as an Associate Director of Student Services. If you end up coming to London, Polly, along with every single one of the staff members, are truly kind-hearted people.
On October 19th, 2019, I attended Pink News’s LGBT Leadership conference in central London. As an out and proud gay man, and someone who is interested in becoming a leader in whatever field of work I decide to go into, I was beyond ecstatic to attend this event. But at the same time, it was a somber memory of how long we have to go to gain equality in the world for all people in the community. Specifically, our transgender brothers and sisters, as well as the Bisexual community and many others. In addition to this sober feeling, I thought of those who were, unfortunately, victims of blind hatred. Specifically, Matthew Shepard, a young gay man, that was murdered on October 12th, 1998. Shepard died the same year I was born, my parents and many adults in my life remember this egregious hate crime that was committed. I thought of him as well as many of my other brothers and sisters that lost their lives to suicide or a hate crime on this day. So, I decided privately among myself, to dedicate my day to them, and I dedicate this article to them as well. Now, I hope you enjoy my recounts on the day, what I thought of the overall messaging was and what it meant to me.
We started off the morning with a small breakfast and a meet and mingle of my fellow peers attending the conference. Afterward, we then moved on to an amazing interview with Lord Chris Smith, for those of you who do not know him, let me give you some facts. Lord Smith was the first Member of Parliament (MP) in the UK to come out as gay; he moved up the political ladder swiftly, and in 1997, he became the Secretary of State for Culture. He was at the forefront in a push to restore free admission to national museums and galleries in the UK; in addition, he became a member of the House of Lords in 2005 after he stepped down from the House of Commons that same year. Lord Smith has a long list of accomplishments, and is a deeply inspiring man; he left us with one quote about leadership that really struck me, “Leaders exist at all levels… Leadership is about building relationships, secondly, you will never be a good leader unless you know yourself… Know yourself.”
The conference itself was very well structured, I myself have never attended an event quite like this one, so the day was full of firsts for me as well as a great learning experience. So, through the day you had the choice to choose where to go to listen to LGBT leaders in certain fields such as law, banking, or leaders in issues such as Bi-visibility or International LGBT rights. These talks were five time slots in total, with three different events going on during those times, so you had to pick wisely. So, I will give you a list of sessions I went to, and I will later touch on some of the talks and what they were like. I attended all the general talks that everyone was encouraged to attend, I also attended five breakout sessions which were as follows: LGBTQ+ in Law, LGBTQ+ Mental Health, HR tips for LGBTQ+ Candidates, Practice Areas: What are my Options?, and finally I attended International LGBTQ+ Rights. After all these break out sessions, we all went to the lower floor for some casual drinks, as well as some networking with companies that were part of the event such as Goldman Sachs, Boston Consulting Group, and Linklaters.
I am not going to go into every break out session I went to because if I did that, this post would be extremely long. But if you are interested in learning more about some of the sessions I did not talk about, I will put my contact information below. Now, I will go into detail of two sessions that I went to that I found very intriguing, and I hope to share some facts with you that might help with seeking a career in the future, as well as general knowledge on some LGBTQ+ issues. To start off, one session that I found really helpful, not only to myself and other LGBTQ+ peers but a session that can really help any young professional was the session called “HR tips for LGBT Candidates”. In this session, the overall theme was how to make yourself and your CV stand out amongst a huge pool of candidates while applying for a job. We all got tips from our leaders such as Jackie Kelly, and Kris Vauck. In this session, we discussed as a group some of our hardships that we face when interviewing for a potential internship or even a job, for instance, the delicate balance of being personable yet professional in an interview. Or we discussed how we can ask questions during an interview, or do research beforehand to back up these questions and make them stronger. For instance, we talked about being bold and asking the person you are getting interviewed by the company's stance on LGBTQ+ issues, or any issue that you feel needs to be talked about or represented because that is part of your identity. One very big thing that I took away from that session, is asking the tough questions. Often companies will have an answer on how they promote diversity in their company, but in the event they don’t, you just might change their minds. The generation of young minds, our generation, is bringing these issues up more and more. If a company finds that they are losing potential workforce due to them having no policy or just a footnote of policy on diversity, they will change their views and most likely revamp their diversity sector of the company.
Now I will talk about one of my favorite breakout sessions of the day, and that was “International LGBTQ+ Rights”. Now, ask yourself “Why would Jake be the most interested in this event?!”, I will tell you to refer to my area of studies, which is International studies… emphasis on the concentration on human rights and public health part of the study, because this panel had a lot of great things to say regarding this pressing issue. The speakers were spectacular, and they talked about how important it is to be not only concerned about LGBTQ+ rights domestically, but it is important to be concerned about those in our community that live in other countries as well. One of the amazing speakers at this talk was Rupert Abbot, he is the executive director of GiveOut which is an absolutely astounding charity that is working to give support to organizations around the world fighting for LGBTQ+ rights. Since getting started just last year, they have vastly helped fund organizations around the world in places like India and the Middle East.If you are wondering how you can get involved or even donate to the cause, I will link information below. In addition, we talked a lot about Transgender rights around the world, something that is not as focused on in many ways. There was a poignant discussion on how it feels like we are in a “tug of war” with Trans issues, as well as other issues in the community around the world, due to the fact it feels like we make wins in some places but then the next day, we hear of some horrible new law in some country that seriously harms those in the LGBTQ+ community. We ended with a few talking points that I feel is important to share, the first point is that we all need to be very wary of where we send our money for donations, because sometimes an organization may say they help all those in the community, but that is not the reality if you dig around. So if you are invested in a cause, call and ask questions, specific questions about all the letters in our community, because we all matter, not just a select few. The second biggest point that I found to be very inspiring and prevalent, is to get involved. Join LGBTQ+ groups, or if you are in a place that does not have one, start one up. Be an advocate, stand up for yourself and others not only in your home country, but around the world.
I believe I mentioned this before, but at the end of the event, we had the chance to have some casual drinks with our new friends we made at the conference. We also had the chance to talk to some of the speakers that were talking to us through the day which was a great opportunity. But most importantly, we got the chance to practice our networking skills and look into future careers with some of the companies that were present. I truly had a marvelous time at this event, and really loved that I had the privilege to attend this event. I have to give credit to Pink News, who were the main organizers behind this event. It was an absolute pleasure talking to some of the staff, and of course, a huge thank you to Cai Wilshaw, who is the founder of this event. Without him and Pink News, and all the speakers at this event it would just not be possible. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I see this event as an essential part of fostering change in the world, it starts off small, but together, along with the community's allies, there can be change. As I discussed before, there is this “tug of war” going on, we feel like we move forward but then are pushed back two steps. But we must not let that defeat us. We as a community, as allies to each other, and to our fellow allies that are straight must not let these push backs defeat us or put us down. If the world wants to push us back two steps, we will be sure to take ten huge steps forward, the LGBTQ+ community will never be silent, and we will fight for our rights both domestically and abroad. We can all be the change, we can all be the light in someone's darkness, that is why I am proud to be a member of this community, and I will not rest until all people in the community around the world are brought into the light that some of us get to live in. I hope that through this article it inspires you, whether you be part of the LGBTQ+ community or you are straight, together we can make a better change for everyone.
Want to know more? Email Jake!