It’s June and everything’s coming up rainbows. Literally. You can order rainbow fries, burgers wrapped in rainbow paper, rainbow grilled cheese, rainbow Doritos and Oreos, rainbow shoes and hats and t-shirts and handkerchiefs. Anything you can put on and in your body now comes resplendent with the full spectrum of hues.
There’s rainbow-tinged services as well; many of the apps on my phone have exchanged their intentionally chosen and carefully maintained brand colors for a rainbow during the month of June.
On the surface, this is great. Queer people exist and we love having our existence validated, given not so long ago we could be thrown in jail for holding our partner’s hand. (Montana held out until 2013, just two years before same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide.) So forgive us if we’re a little skeptical and see your pride campaigns as perhaps disingenuous. We don’t all drink Absolut.
The tides are certainly changing, but there’s still a lot of controversy surrounding LGBTQ+ issues. How do you know if showing your company’s support of the gay community is right for you?
You have 100% confidence this is the right thing to do and have absolutely no reservations.
In the flurry of excitement, it seems like hopping on the Pride float is the cool new thing to do. And you’re not wrong. But, it’s also not required. Let me repeat. It’s not required. You don’t even have to go to the parade. No one’s forcing you. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. If you want to sit out, that’s totally fine. No one will notice. If you do choose to run a pride-focused ad or product, please do so with the utmost conviction and authenticity, because if for some reason it backfires, there’s quite a lot at stake for the community you’re trying to support.
You have queer people on staff that can guide the concept and art direction.
This is by no means fool-proof, given there are plenty of campaigns out there I’m sure were conceived by queer directors that should never have seen the light of day. For example, the Chipotle ad equating gender identity and sexual preference with tacos and burritos was at the very least in poor taste.
A general rule of thumb is if you’re doing anything that draws attention to a particular minority group, especially one you are not a part of, it’s best to consider the perspective from someone within the community you’re representing. That way the effort, campaign, product, etc, has a better shot of having the intended effect rather than causing further confusion or ill-will.
You visibly support the LGBTQ+ community in visible, tangible ways throughout the year.
Everyone has an acquaintance they see at functions or holidays who they make perfunctory small talk with, usually ended by “we’ll have to grab a drink some time?” Everyone knows that’s never happening.
Same goes for supporting the queer community. Once a year doesn’t cut it. Do you actively champion legislation or community discussions in favor of queer people? Do your charitable contributions include organizations like The Trevor Project, your local PFLAG, Lambda Legal, or any of the hundreds of local or national organizations that benefit the LGBTQ+ community? If not, talk is cheap. While marriage equality is new, our history and collective memory is not. We know who has stood by us and who’s grabbing for our glitter-covered money. It’s not a good look, honey.
Yes, representation and the freedom with which the LGBTQ+ community is able to live their lives is unprecedented. I can wear what I want and hold my girlfriend’s hand without having to be worried about being tossed in jail, or worse. But there’s still a long way to go. If you’re up for it, we’ll take all the support we can get.