During the month of June, one is hard-pressed to miss the avalanche of rainbow marketing flooding our inboxes, social media feeds, and many of our favourite stores. Yet, while we revel in this outpouring of visibility that LGBTQ2+ activists and trailblazers before us likely only dreamed about, we’re also cautious.
We all know that generating Pride-themed logos, products, and company swag does not equate to a business doing the difficult internal work that makes their workplace safe and supportive of sexual and gender diversity. At our most cynical, we worry that these external-facing affirmations of the community create a façade that allows companies to attract people and cultivate a market segment without actually taking an inventory of their policies, personnel, procedures, and partnerships. Does Pride-themed branding really matter when an LGBTQ2+ person can join a company and not find themselves reflected in leadership, in how policies are written, or in the resources and professional development opportunities available to other team members?
As many members of the queer community wisely remind us, Pride is a protest. This is another way of saying that it is not just a time for celebration but also a time to create change and challenge the status quo. Pride is about championing outsiders and recognizing no one should be degraded or disadvantaged for who they are or who they love. Keeping these foundational values of Pride in mind, here are some things that you and your company can do to celebrate Pride during June and year-round:
Pride is not the time to play it safe and toe the line. Instead, it is the time for thoughtful disruption and commotion around how to be more inclusive. Instead of the standard rainbow flag, consider Philadelphia’s ’More Color, More Pride’ flag inclusive of queer people of colour increasingly adopted by leading LGBTQ2+ organizations and thoughtful brands that understand the importance of intersectionality. You should also consider the ‘Progress’ Pride flag created by Daniel Quasar, which integrates symbolism into the traditional rainbow flag that celebrates Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) in addition to the transgender community.
Pride is the time for some thoughtful disruption and commotion around being more inclusive.
Society increasingly expects businesses to be socially responsible and vocalize their values, supporting a sustainable and equitable world. Is your company making its stance clear concerning LGBTQ2+ inclusive legislation domestically and in other international regions of operation? Are you taking advantage of company opportunities to volunteer and donation-match for LGBTQ2+ nonprofits and community organizations? Pride requires us to move beyond symbolism and into tangible action.
We can sometimes fall into the trap of utilizing the entire LGBTQ2+ acronym when really our efforts are disproportionately focused on certain strands of the community. Every character represents an identity, and sometimes we use the acronym when our programming or representation is really only reflective of select queer realities. Pay special attention to how you are centring queer people of colour, trans voices, and bi+ experiences in addition to white gay men and lesbian women. Interrogate whether your discussions, events, and educational offerings touch upon the breadth of struggles in the community, including those faced by intersex people, people on the asexual spectrum, or people who identify with non-Western queer identities such as the North American Indigenous Two-Spirit or South Asian Hijra communities.
Every character represents an identity, and sometimes we use the acronym when our programming or representation is really only reflective of select queer realities.
Now could be the time that you push for your company to embrace an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and Human Resources Information System (HRIS) inclusive of genders outside the binary. This could be when you start to include your pronouns in introductions, email signatures, videoconferencing usernames, and company bios in solidarity with your trans coworkers and commit to correcting your colleagues when they misgender someone. Now could be the perfect moment to push for collecting voluntary self-identification data relating to sexual orientation, gender identity, and transgender status to promote data-informed strategies to advance LGBTQ2+ inclusion at your organization. If you are a member of an LGBTQ2+ employee resource group (ERG), this could be a moment to take stock of who is and isn’t at your meetings and events and think of ways to address those gaps in representation. Finally, urge HR, People, and DEI leaders to forge strategic partnerships to ensure LGBTQ2+ diversity is an integral component of your company’s recruitment pipelines.
Just as advocates at the first Pride protests rallied against prevailing injustices to the LGBTQ2+ community in their time, it is our responsibility to use Pride as an opportunity to address salient issues affecting LGBTQ2+ people in the present. Just like 2020, which brought us the tumultuous beginnings of the global pandemic and international protests against racial injustice through the Black Lives Matter movement, 2021 presents us with numerous opportunities to reignite the revolutionary spirit of pride in service of those who continue to face marginalization in our workplaces and world.
We are only five months into this year and we have witnessed the senseless murder of 6 Asian women in Atlanta, Georgia as well as the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children at a former Canadian residential school site. These developments require awareness and action by the LGBTQ2+ community, whose members are intimately affected by these realities.
What should stick with all of us in the aftermath of this life-extinguishing display of anti-Asian racism is that it took place during escalating violence, misinformation, and hate crimes towards the Asian community. It is often far easier to point out egregious examples of bias, inequity, violence, and exclusion when they feel external to us, yet this tragedy requires that we reflect within ourselves and within our community. During Pride, we cannot ignore our individual and collective opportunities to challenge rising anti-Asian racism including:
With such a horrific reminder of the violence and inhumanity of colonization, we must take seriously the task of decolonizing LGBTQ2+ spaces and Pride. In fact, prior to colonization and the superimposition of Eurocentric and Judeo-Christian values, which sought to stigmatize and erase gender diversity, most North American Indigenous cultures affirmed gender fluidity through their recognition of Two-Spirit identities. Across the world, gender diversity is as timeless as it is universal, only limited by conscious forces to suppress what should be celebrated.
This should remind us that taking part in decolonization and making more space for the revival of Indigenous traditions, cultures, languages, and practices helps us create a world of greater gender inclusion for trans, non-binary and non-conforming experiences. Crucial ways we can help to decolonize Pride and LGBTQ2+ spaces are:
When June comes to an end, never forget that Pride is so much more than rainbows and a party. It’s an opportunity to celebrate and elevate queer lives while tackling the issues affecting the most vulnerable in our community. Let this truth be a guide as you and your company plan Pride initiatives and continue the journey toward an LGBTQ2IA+ inclusive office.