I need to start with a disclaimer: I am a straight, white, cisgender woman. So, what gives me the right to hold an opinion about Pride month and corporate interaction with it? I can’t claim personal experience, but I can humbly display my allyship. I’ve educated myself more in the last year about internalized racism, voting rights, trans rights, healthcare, climate justice, the refugee crisis, gun violence, the income gap, and food insecurity than I did in the previous 30. My thoughts and opinions are based on research and conversations with affected friends and family.
Most of Pride’s history, June’s month-long celebration of LGBTQ+ communities, couldn’t be as openly accepted and celebrated as it is today. While we should feel proud to live in a country where every brand from beer to computer software can slap a rainbow on their logo and make a “yasss queen” reference on Twitter, we can’t forget that…
The first Pride was a riot.
The Stonewall Riots began on June 28, 1969, when NYC police raided the Greenwich Village gay club, the Stonewall Inn. Then, the raid sparked a riot among patrons and neighbors as police dragged and beat victims. Protests and violence on Christopher Street lasted six days. Though the uprising didn’t start the gay rights movement, it was a force for activism, leading to the creation of the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, and PFLAG.
On the one-year anniversary of the riots in 1970, thousands of people marched from the Stonewall Inn to Central Park. It was then called “Christopher Street Liberation Day,” America’s first gay pride parade.
Today, many brands have lost sight of Pride’s origins by participating in “rainbow washing” — promoting Pride-themed products or marketing without engaging queer causes. Most consumers recognize these attempts as inauthentic almost immediately. While there is valuable consumer response here (big brands who ignore Pride face public backlash and being “canceled”), it’s clear there was little effort and no intention.
Brands (and agencies, too) can step up by:
- Ensuring queer voices get to participate in, and lead, Pride month conversations.
- Taking inclusion one step further by hiring an agency that’s is certified as a member of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
- Commiting to evaluating and updating your Pride strategy each year.
- Ensuring your campaigns are authentic and promote acceptance.
- Making allyship a year-round initiative.
Remember, your company’s LGBTQ+ support may inspire others to join the movement.
One of the most effective ways to show support is through charitable efforts. Here are four brands that have aligned with prominent nonprofits and organizations. They know the real purpose of Pride month is giving back, not selling more rainbow merch.
Ecommerce giant Shopify and The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative have teamed to curate an extensive list of queer-owned brands to provide direct support. The list is available on Shopify’s app and includes 60+ businesses organized by category. The collaboration extends support to queer merchants and showcases small businesses.
The apparel company kicked off its annual celebration with a capsule collection of T-shirts, socks, underwear, and tote bags. Made in collaboration with queer artists Ohni Lisle and Daniel Quasar, the line marks the company’s first move beyond socks. Bombas will donate one item per purchase across three LGBTQ+ charities: Casa Ruby, Mozaic, and the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico.
Their Pride month collaboration with GLAAD features a “Pride Bouquet” with net proceeds going directly to the organization. The online flower service continues to advocate for the equitable treatment and representation of queer communities, participating in Pride for many years. The team rolled the campaign out via its social channels with a video and original poem from Britt Gambino.