While we continue to be vigilant, vaccinations and better protocols are getting LGBTQ+ events and people back together in person and in force. In just the past couple of months we have seen the return of the glaad awards, Family Equality’s “Night at the Pier,” the GLSEN Respect Awards and Ali Forney Center gala, to name a few. So, it’s fair to say that Pride events, marches, rallies and parties will be back in force. How can businesses navigate their presence at Pride events and throughout the month of June and beyond? What we know is this: our queer community is under attack – hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills are being pushed through state legislatures, trans youth and their families are at the center of the storm, the queer community is watching developments in reproductive rights, immigration and battling the direct impact on us as well as the potential for more challenges to the rights we have fought so hard for – from marriage equality to our bodily autonomy. This is, as many activists (myself included) a state of emergency.
And Pride will be a platform and opportunity to elevate and amplify the climate of homo/trans phobia and misinformation and mobilize and energize LGBTQ+ people and our allies. What will the business community do to help? This is where the rubber meets the road, as we are seeing play out with Disney and the “don’t say gay” law passed in Florida.
So what can businesses do? As Todd has written, authenticity is key, To that I would add consistency. We have been under attack for several years now, what are businesses doing year-round? Our fight is not just in June. It has been great to see national companies like NIKE, Lush, Bacardi, Hyundai, GAP, Levi Strauss, NBC-Universal and others commit to not only providing resources but be a visible presence in the work and the fight – through inclusive advertising, public support and pushing back against anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. But there is so much more to do as this literal tidal wave of legislation is upon us and the critical midterm elections loom. And how can local businesses help? As a resident of Montclair, NJ, which is organizing it’s FIRST Pride ever, we are seeing an extraordinary response from local businesses large and small – as high-level sponsors, donating goods and services to our events, providing volunteers or having a booth at the festival or providing in-kind advertising to help us promote this inaugural Pride. And while NJ is not a state where we are under large scale legislative attack, we are seeing local school boards being attacked, even in Montclair, a very progressive haven in a mostly progressive state. This year, all politics are local and so are all Prides. Destination Prides in places like NYC are being incredibly intentional about leveraging the attention they get to amplify and lift up all these issues, sometimes with controversy (see: inclusion of law enforcement, higher scrutiny of corporate sponsors and increased visibility of diverse communities) so open and frank communication is critical. As June looms but the year continues through November and beyond, there are so many ways to join the fight. And make no mistake, lives are very literally at stake and this is the time to step up and be on the right side of history. As a business owner and activist myself, I am on the front lines every day but also donating my time and resources in my own neighborhood, providing PR support to OUT Montclair and sponsoring a rainbow crosswalk a block from our home. Every time I walk over those stripes, I will know I am doing my part in every way I am able. We should all be able to look back in 2023 and say the same.