Pride Month is a few months away, and before your team adds a rainbow filter to your brand logo, consider how your organization can be an effective ally to LGBTQ+ communities this June.
Over the past decade, it’s increasingly common for corporations to engage in a practice called performative allyship — also known as rainbow capitalism or rainbow washing — during Pride Month. Performative allyship is the act of using rainbow colors or Pride-focused language and imagery in marketing materials to indicate support for LGBTQ+ equality while minimally enforcing such progress.
We reached out to Jonathan Hamilt, executive director of Drag Story Hour, a national nonprofit that celebrates reading through the art of drag, for ways to help your company authentically support LGBTQ+ communities this Pride Month.
Here are Jonathan's top tips for corporate allies.
1. Acknowledge your bias — and influence
It’s important to acknowledge that all for-profit entities may have capitalistic motives when making statements about social issues. However, companies also play an integral role in shaping popular culture, which can drive positive systemic change.
“Corporate America has a big voice, whether it is performative or not,” explains Hamilt. “Thanks to companies, we’re seeing faces and stories that we’ve never seen before. At the end of the day, representation matters.”
Your takeaway? Don’t stay silent this June.
2. Walk the equality talk
One of the key hallmarks of performative allyship is when a corporation touts support of LGBTQ+ communities without substantiating such claims. Performative allyship is all walk, no talk.
Show your prospects, customers, and employees that your allyship is both authentic and effective by pairing Pride-focused marketing and branding materials with inclusive internal initiatives such as diverse hiring, competitive compensation practices, and more.
Questions to ask include:
Do you conduct equity surveys regularly to gauge if employees feel they belong?
Are you paying queer workers a living wage?
Do you provide programming to educate employees about microaggressions and the LGBTQ+ experience?
In what ways are you supporting trans employees, disabled employees, or employees that are multi-labeled in and outside of the workplace?
Does your organization follow basic inclusivity practices by providing all-gender restrooms, encouraging employees to indicate their pronouns on internal company communications, and have an equality statement?
These questions are critical to consider to assure corporate communities that your allyship extends beyond performance.
3. Invest in your community
“Regard your company as a community within a community,” Jonathan advises. You’ll make a tangible impact by investing in the organizations, businesses, grassroots movements, and citizens who reside where your company is located.
For example, if you plan to have a Pride celebration in your workplace, hire queer-owned businesses to organize it for you. Rather than throwing money at a national, well-funded nonprofit, consider funding a local, lesser-known organization or social venture that’s providing aid to LGBTQ+ people outside your office door.
Hamilt also encourages businesses to fund the organizations that their employees are passionate about or a part of in order to elevate their company’s inclusivity and belonging. “Find out what your workers are interested in outside of work. Be aware of what’s happening in your community, and strive to join the conversation,” he says.
4. Proudly support anti-LGBTQ+ legislation
A key way corporations can be an effective ally during Pride Month — and throughout the entire year — is to take a vocal stance against anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is currently tracking 336 anti-LGBTQ+ bills in the United States, including 26 bills in at least 14 states that could criminalize the art of drag. To people who enjoy or practice the drag art form, such legislation is both aggressive and exclusionary.
Jonathan advises companies to check in with their employees to acknowledge the legislation, and directly ask their teams how they can feel supported.
Additionally, companies should amplify their opposition to anti-LGBTQ+ bills. Whether it be through denouncing the legislation in public statements, hiring Drag Story Hour for a company-wide event, or donating money to anti-discrimination groups, use your massive reach and voice to nudge social justice forward.
“When you start making space for everybody, that means more voices can have an equitable space to innovate and express creative ideas,” says Jonathan. “And if people feel safe in these spaces, that’s when the magic happens.”
Reach out to learn more about planning Pride Month social impact experiences with Visit.org.