This is possibly the first thing people think of when we talk about queer issues. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there’s a clear and ongoing narrative of Pride being a simple celebration of freedom and diversity. If you take one thing from this article, please let it be that this isn’t the case.
Pride was born out of decades worth of the physical, verbal and psychological abuse of queer people, whether that be by the police, the government or members of the public. It was first and foremost a protest and, to this day, it remains as such.
This abusive treatment of our community finally came to a head-on June 28th 1969 in New York City. The Stonewall Inn, an LGBTQ+ venue, was raided by police in the early hours and the queer patrons there had finally had enough. They fought back when the police used excessive force and became violent and unknowingly started a movement that, to this day, we mark every year during Pride Month.
A key figure in this uprising was Marsha P. Johnson – a black, transgender activist working as a drag queen. She dedicated her life to campaigning for LGBTQ+ issues but met an untimely death in 1992. Her body was found in the Hudson River after a Pride parade and was initially ruled a suicide despite a significant injury to the back of her head. Witnesses had also stated she’d been verbally and physically assaulted beforehand.
Violence towards our community, and especially towards LGBTQ+ people of colour, was rife during this time and still very clearly remains an issue today. Marsha’s death has since been reclassified as ‘undetermined’, but justice has never been truly served for the loss of such an important figure in our fight for freedom and equality.
Honouring the legacy
We all have a responsibility to honour both people and movements that help to shape the world we live in today. While a huge amount of progress has been made, we still continue to fight for basic equalities and freedoms that many people take for granted.
Support from people outside of these groups has always been vital – we can’t and don’t want to do all of this alone. It’s fair to say that both individuals and brands are often hesitant in case they make a misstep, or some seem to dive in feet first and trample on the issue without understanding it fully.
I think the most important piece of advice I would give to brands is that you should never make assumptions or decisions on behalf of a community you aren’t a part of. The issues we face are enormously complex and you will never fully understand them. Supporting a minority group means you ask and you listen and you’re guided by that group.
These are a few tips I’ve always found helpful to share with people to get them going!
- Before you do anything else, reach out to LGBTQ+ staff. This could be through your company inclusion and diversity rep or by speaking to an established LGBTQ+ group within your workplace.
- Be cautious about approaching people directly. Being put on the spot as a representative of your entire community can be stressful! That person may also not be ‘out’ to everyone at work.
- Directly engage with the group in question. This should be as early as possible. A trigger for many minority groups is feeling as though they’re being told to follow the lead of the majority in how things should be.
Once you’ve established your approach in partnership with people from the LGBTQ+ community, you then need to decide what exactly you’ll be doing. This is a key watch out – brands can easily come across as ‘tokenistic’ by promoting their organisation to improve its brand metrics and reputation rather than doing something meaningful.
- Don’t just change your logo to include a rainbow and then post online that it’s Pride Month. It looks lovely and it’s amazing to see across social media, but it doesn’t actually mean anything!
- Agree what the meaningful outcomes are for LGBTQ+ people. These should be evaluated and reported back on just like any other outcomes or metrics. Are you aiming to raise awareness amongst your staff? Are you raising money for an LGBTQ+ charity? Think about how you’re measuring your impact.
- PLEASE don’t create rainbow products to sell and profit from without ensuring that a significant amount goes towards an LGBTQ+ cause. Profiteering off minorities is rife across industry and it’s important to always give back.
There are two brands this year that I felt obliged to mention as really great examples of how you can support Pride and your LGBTQ+ employees and supporters:
Our incredible allies over at ASOS decided to donate 100% of their net profits on their Pride range of clothing in partnership with GLAAD. This is a great example of how brands can both promote themselves as an inclusive organisation, show support for a community and also directly contribute towards a worthy cause.
BI have flooded my LinkedIn recently with their commitment to Pride month! LGBTQ+ employees from across the globe have shared their stories, insights and quotes across a range of issues and it’s amazing to see. I love that they’ve clearly supported queer people in being their most authentic selves on a public platform as well as celebrating diversity and inclusivity overall.