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How your organization can support Pride without rainbow washing

Across the world, June through September marks LGBTQ+ Pride season—a time you’ll find rainbow flags proudly hung from front windows and Pride parades being celebrated on busy city streets. While awareness has certainly increased, recent issues have surfaced surrounding organizational participation in the events. The queer community has repeatedly voiced concern that attention is being taken away from the core meaning of Pride—to bring education, awareness, and action against the discrimination of LGBTQ+ individuals—in favour of the event becoming nothing more than just another excuse to take a selfie.

The phenomenon recently coined as “rainbow washing” refers to organizations profiting from incorporating rainbow colours into their public image or selling Pride-themed products, without actively contributing to the queer community. Without question, it’s important for organizations to support Pride. But changing a logo to include a rainbow is not enough. To advance the conversation and create positive change for the LGBTQ+ community, action is needed from local businesses and industry leaders.

In the spirit of respectful participation, here are a few ways your organization can participate in Pride while also showing up for the LGBTQ+ community when it’s most important, 365 days of the year:

Ensure promotion is followed by action

Pride hashtags and swag can be an easy way to show support, but there needs to be a purpose behind it. True allyship stems from continuous engagement with the LGBTQ+ community. Reflect on how your organization integrates inclusivity into its mandate every day of the year, not just when it’s time to make an office parade float.

Activate Pride all year long

Rather than a rainbow overload in June, use Pride month as an opportunity to highlight the ways you’re making a difference for the LGBTQ+ community throughout the year. Participating in Pride activities can happen outside of “Pride season”. Here are ways you can celebrate diversity and help those at risk year round:

  • Initiate a diversity and inclusion council inside your office
  • Fund or sponsor a local LGBTQ+ organization or event in your city
  • Use your brand power to give marginalized groups a platform to speak

Consult with your community

When your organization is planning Pride initiatives or events, remember to listen and ask for insights from your LGBTQ+ community. If you have out and open employees willing to contribute, connect early and ensure their ideas are heard. If that opportunity is not possible or is a breach of privacy, consider engaging a local LGBTQ+ organization that could help you find the appropriate ways to support.

Explore outside the parade

There is a lot of discussion around the parade element of Pride. Recently, organizations have been denied participation in what many believe should still be a political march. Instead of a branded float, consider these alternatives:

  • Research events outside of the parade that could use additional funding
  • Encourage employees to participate as individuals

When all is said and done, just remember that Pride isn’t about building brand equity or generating revenue. A true ally puts the needs of the LGBTQ+ community ahead of their own personal or financial gain.

——— Hannah Leonard is a former Coordinator at NATIONAL Public Relations