We all know the stereotype of businesses only celebrating Pride during June, hanging rainbow flags around the office and handing out colorful cupcakes. Is this helpful to the LGBTQ+ community? Do these actions make members of the community feel seen and heard, or does it seem like a marketing ploy to ensure they are viewed as LGBTQ+ friendly? If everyone knew the history of pride, they would understand why it is important to celebrate who you are all year round. Pride month is celebrated in June, this commemorates the Stonewall Riots, which took place in June 1969. The riots commenced on June 28th when LGBTQ+ patrons of the NYC Stonewall Inn resisted police attempts to raid their bar. The police duo stormed the bar and ordered to ‘check the sex’ of customers via a physical exam. The LGBTQ+ community endured decades of these raids and cruelty at the hands of police. The Stonewall Riots gave a fresh impulse to the Gay Rights movement around the world, members of the community were encouraged to speak about their lives and the perceptions of LGBTQ+ people and to fight for radical changes. While the majority of the world is more tolerant today, there are still 71 jurisdictions that criminalize consensual, same-sex relationships. There are 11 jurisdictions in which the death penalty is imposed, or threatened, for consensual, same-sex relationships. There are currently 15 jurisdictions that criminalize the gender identity and expression of transgender people, including ‘cross-dressing’ laws. Knowing these facts and statistics, it is imperative that we show support to the LGBTQ+ community all year round, as it is obvious that the fight for equality is not over. Even in countries where LGBTQ+ members have ‘equal rights’ there are still hate crimes occurring. In the UK alone homophobic hate crimes reported by police rose from 11,841 during the period of January-August 2020 to 14,670 in the same time period in 2021. In the same time frame, police reported 2,129 transphobic hate crimes in 2021, this rose from 1,606 in 2020. These soaring statistics are terrifying, LGBTQ+ people should not have to fear for their safety. And yet, casual homophobia is rife in today’s culture. I’m sure we’ve all heard similar arguments around Pride month; “I don’t mind if you’re gay, but don’t make it your whole personality”, “Why should you get a parade and a whole month just because you’re gay, you don’t see anything for straight pride” and so on. This is so damaging to the community and so contradictory. You cannot claim that you support LGBTQ+ rights and in the next breath wish that they would stop expressing themselves. Pride month exists because people fought relentlessly for the right to express themselves, love whom they want and identify their preferred gender. Another huge issue during Pride month is businesses using Pride as a marketing campaign, rather than celebrating their LGBTQ+ employees. Many companies in June launch Pride-themed products, such as McDonald’s with their rainbow French fry containers. The question raised is where does the revenue go during Pride month? And does support from companies have an effect, or is it simply branding? An example of this empty branding is Adidas, who during Pride had a whole section of their website dedicated to rainbow merchandise, to celebrate the month. However, they also sponsored the 2018 World Cup, which was hosted in Russia, a country renowned for its anti- LGBTQ+ legislation, which would be unsafe for athletes and supporters to attend. This empty branding campaign makes us wonder; how many other companies are the same? Unfortunately, as the support for the LGBTQ+ community grows, the financial incentive from corporations does too. This phenomenon has been labelled as ‘rainbow capitalism’. The issue is not with the weak portrayal of support, the issue is the money the companies are generating is more often than not being pumped back into their corporation, rather than being donated to make a difference for LGBTQ+ people. For too many of these businesses, the atmosphere will revert back on July 1st, as if it never happened. So, what can corporations do to help? Whether you’re a member of the community or an ally, there are various ways you can show pride all year round.
• Declare your preferred pronouns; You can now update your LinkedIn profile or email signature with your preferred pronouns. You can declare your pronouns from the onboarding process, making new employees feel comfortable and normalizing asking people what their pronouns are, rather than assuming. This is a small step but can make a difference in the everyday lives of your employees.
• Attend a panel event; During the month of June, there are many panel events and discussions around LGBTQ+ issues and how to be a better ally. By attending these events you can share your knowledge with your employees, making your work environment feel safer for members of the community. Documenting your attendance on LinkedIn can also make new employees, or individuals interested in working for you feel at ease.
• Do not use harmful language in your vocabulary; Pledging to remove hurtful language from your vocabulary is detrimental to being a good ally. When we use the correct terms to discuss gender, sexuality and experience we create a positive atmosphere and encourage other allies to do the same.
• Call out hateful behavior; There will never be equality for all if we turn a blind eye to people being hateful towards the community. If you witness hurtful behavior, call it out. As a business, you should communicate that behavior like so will not be tolerated. If you ignore it, you are part of the problem.
• Donate or volunteer; There are many charities and organizations which help members of the community fight for the rights they deserve. You can donate your time or money to these amazing groups to help make a difference. If you publicly share that you do this, you can encourage others to follow suit.
I can vow that my business shows pride all year round, because you should be proud of who you are and the struggles the community faces to this day, your voices should be heard.