‘Love is love’ illuminates the streets and rainbow flags fly high. Parties are everywhere and hey! How ruddy fabulous is it to be… Gay. Times are good right; it took a long time for us to get here!
But how far have we actually come? I don’t know the answer to that question, do you? I asked ChatGPT the question “is it safe to be gay” and it gave me a four-paragraph answer, beginning with, “yes, it is safe to be gay.” Not convinced AI has worked on this occasion.
PRIDE itself has been described as a “minefield” for companies. Which seems like an escalation of last year’s conversation when we (arguably) had a healthier argument around corporate sponsorship and what it really meant to display the LGBTQIA+ community’s flag.
We now have some of the world’s biggest brands visibly under pressure from the far right, with American supermarket, Target, pulling products on sale that were intended to support queer communities from the shelves. What does being “woke” even mean anyway… Is it bad if we are woke?
PRIDE has become a minefield. And that’s not what the organisers ever set out for it to become. Across the world, minority groups are having their rights to live as humans be stripped from them, as some in power pick on different communities to hold on. It’s politicising what it means, and it’s making it harder to be a vocal supporter. When navigating what to do for PRIDE, think back to why it started in the first place, it’s a celebration but also about being valiant, brave and true to yourself.
If you’re wondering what you could do for PRIDE month, then read on, because this might inspire an answer. If you work in communications, then your influence is far greater than many of your colleagues across the organisation with matters like this, because we’re responsible for the narrative.
PRIDE is historical. It’s rooted in the Stonewall Riots of 1969, a pivotal moment in the rights movement. It was a liberation fight-back when police in Manhattan became violent against LQBTQIA+ people.
1. In waving the flag, let’s first remember that it’s symbolic. Of inclusivity, of acceptance and of the community. In understanding the movement and struggles of people then, and now, then you will ensure that any celebratory intentions are routed in allyship and are not performative.
2. Today, there is a group of people within the gay community visibly under attack. Trans people. The Home Office reported last year that hate crimes against transgender people doubled.
3. Prejudice has no meaning in the PRIDE flag, so make sure you believe it. Engage in self-reflection and look at your own biases and privileges to better understand the struggles faced by those in the community. Challenge yourself to educate others, promote understanding, and actively participate in creating safe spaces.
If not already obvious, the fight for rights isn’t over. We have to step up and play our part in advancing inclusivity.
For starters, that means addressing the fact that people within these communities face discrimination – in Britain, in America and all over. And within this make sure to give everyone a platform, recognising intersectional experiences so inclusivity is promoted and understood as a right for all.
In fact, never has this question been more important and if you’re asking it then you’re probably in a good place. Firstly, there’s the fundamental basics, we must ensure there are frameworks in place so that language is inclusive and that the organisation is geared up to support better allyship.
1. Start from within your organisation first, and ensure that senior leadership is advocating for diverse representation and is avoiding tokenism.
How to do this? You must put the people from the community and their story first – you have to tell the experience from their lens. What is the point of flying the flag or selling goods to the community if you do nothing to resonate with them? Polly Shute, one of the founders of Out & Wild Festival events recently posted on LinkedIn, PRIDE is important because someone tonight still believes they’re better off dead than being themselves.
2. Asking the big question: can I/we as an organisation help to defend the rights of others, change national discourse and genuinely and authentically be a voice for marginalised communities to amplify their voices?
Well, we can only do so if we use the power of storytelling to share those of others – especially if we wish to challenge biases and create connections that lead to positive change.
3. There’s a long term investment involved: Supporting PRIDE must become more than waving the flag or putting on an event in June, but a promise to year-round review polices that support the community.
There are hundreds of fantastic organisations out there, and you might want to consider partnerships, outreach programmes or donations – while sense-checking any organisational change with them. Try visiting Just Like Us, Mermaids or Terrence Higgins Trust to name a few.
Enjoy the parties and have some fun, but don’t forget why the movement started and properly consider how you can become a better ally.
Chris Sury, Practice Director, Corporate & Purpose