Once again, June is nearly upon us and in many countries, people are preparing for Pride.
This also applies to us here, at Babbel. And with these preparations, among many others, comes the discussion of whether or not we change our logo.
Now at this point, you may be sneering and thinking “Eugghh, another big company being performative; making money off the backs of LGBTQIA people.” And to be honest, as a queer person, I completely understand that. Over the years, I have lost count of the number of times I have thought and said that. So how on Earth did I find myself in the position I’m in now, leading the discussion of whether we change the logo or not?
To answer that question, we need to rewind a couple of years to the spring of 2020. Up until that point, we’d never changed the logo. We were (and still are) focused on creating an inclusive product that represented all of our learners, and building a work environment where LGBTQIA Babbelonians* could (and still can) openly be themselves at work.
But then the pandemic hit. Life changed for everyone. Everything became virtual. And communities suffered.
The Impact Of COVID On The LGBTQIA Community
For the LGBTQIA community, in a world where our right to simply exist is not a given, at a time when, in fact, we’re forced to watch governments globally deny our existence and claw back the rights that we fought so hard to earn, the effects of this pandemic were and still are huge. This has been true for all of us, but especially so for the least privileged members of our community, such as trans people and even more so, Black trans people and trans people of colour, who have suffered an increasing amount of hate and often live in fear for their lives.
Because of COVID, community spaces, queer bars and businesses, all places that had previously been at the center of our lives, were forced to close. Pride events — the one place where we can be open and be seen not only by those people attending those events, but also by other LGBTQIA people who may not have the freedom to live as their real selves — were either cancelled or moved online. On top of this, many people who, up until that point, had been openly living as LQBTQIA were forced, because of the pandemic, to return to spaces where they had to either choose to hide who they were (if that was even possible) or suffer the consequences. Globally, there was a 20 percent increase of domestic violence during the first lockdown, and for trans women, that risk was heightened even more. Reports are clear on the subject: with one in five attacks on trans women happening at home, trans women are twice as likely to be victims of domestic violence as cis women, with trans women from racialised communities being most at risk.
So what did all of this have to do with Babbel’s logo? Well, the discussion at Babbel was started by queer Babbelonians.
The First Discussion About Changing Our Logo
We saw what was happening because of COVID and understood what the impact of this would be, because for us, this was not new. When you are made to be someone who you really aren’t, when you don’t see yourself represented, when you don’t have anywhere to go to meet people who are like you, when you don’t have any safe spaces in your life, that causes real, long-lasting damage, and it can be deadly.
For a community with a history of enforced invisibility, of having our identities erased, representation and shows of solidarity are vital. And this is what first started the conversation; it was about being visible for, and showing solidarity with those who could not, for whatever reason, be out in their daily lives.
The discussions were not easy. We had our reservations, despite knowing everything I’ve already touched on. We didn’t want what we were doing to be dismissed, seen as cynical. And also, because we needed to be sure that Babbel, as a company, and us Babbelonians, as a workforce, had earned the right to make that change. We talked about it a lot, about what we had done at Babbel previously, our campaign during the Russian World Cup, the work our Didactics team had done on increasing representation in our lessons, the community partnerships we had formed with LGBTQIA organisations here in Berlin, about our own culture internally.
We decided to put the idea forward. It was a tiny act, but we also knew the impact it could have.
Our Message To Learners And Fellow Babbelonians
When we put our proposal forward, it was to say to our learners, wherever they were, “Even if no-one else sees you or acknowledges you, we do. We know you exist, because we are just like you. We are all valid and we have the right to be here. No matter what, we will always be cheering you on.” And it was for our fellow Babbelonians too, to say, “We know things are hard right now, but remember that even if we don’t see you everyday anymore, we are still here for each other.”
The change was agreed upon pretty much immediately, as those of you who have been following us on social media would have seen. Because it was the right thing to do, because it fits our values, because it’s important that those with privilege use it to create change, because it was important.
And it still is. As is having these discussions. Last year, we used the opportunity to update our logo, to move from the traditional rainbow to the Progress Pride flag. To remind everyone that our community must include all LGBTQIA people — not just the ones who have privilege in other areas of their lives.
So will we be changing our logo this year? As I write this now, we are having the final discussions and making the final decision. Because we want to ensure that it has the same impact, that we can continue the conversation we started two years ago and divert attention away from important activist work elsewhere, that we reach the learners and Babbelonians who need to see this right now. In 2022.
Whatever decision we make, the one thing our LGBTQIA learners and Babbelonians alike can be certain of is that our message remains the same no matter what: “Like us, you are valid, we still see you and we are still — and always will be — cheering you on.”
Happy Pride everyone!
* The name for everyone who works at Babbel.