Total Engagement Consulting’s second LGBTQ Pride Month blog has been provided by my new associate Deanna Jones. Link to our first Pride Month blog, “LGBTQ+ Pride Month Blog 2023 – Fighting the Increasing Hate.”
Some of you recognize the title of this song (with a little editing) as a John Prine masterpiece. Link to John Prine’s song on Youtube. We lost John a few years ago due to covid but I am reminded of this sentiment recently with the amount of rainbow washing that is really starting to kick into gear for Pride Month. According to the Urban dictionary, rainbow washing is when a business uses the rainbow Pride colors on advertising, apparel, accessories, and yes, flag decals to indicate progressive support for LGBTQ equality. Mostly it is performative in nature and does nothing to provide tangible results for the community.
We see a lot of this rainbow washing today. While Trans-rights have been trampled throughout our country, major corporations have been mostly silent. In 2016 our state (NC) faced a large corporate backlash and lost billions after passing a so-called “bathroom bill” (HB2) that banned transgender people from using bathrooms aligning with their gender identity. In 2023 we have seen a large influx of anti-trans bills that attempt to eliminate medical care for young people and in some cases, adult medical care. Bathroom bans are getting passed, parental rights are being taken away and this time, nearly every corporation has been very quiet.
Corporations, with their immense influence and resources, have the power to make a substantial impact on social and political issues. Why are corporations remaining silent on anti-trans bills? One reason is their perception that they will face retaliation for speaking out. Governor DeSantis went after Disney when the company came out against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida (see my earlier blog.) The Governor is proud of this fact stating directly to the Disney Corporation, “It’s not going to work out well for you” and “I’m going to punch back”. This puerile threat has been carried out swiftly by the Governor. He has tried to tax them more, remove their autonomy and even suggested building a prison next to the park.
In this current hate filled environment created by the right-wing agenda in conservative governments, corporations are facing backlash from a small minority of anti LGBTQ customers. These allegedly aggrieved customers seek to puff themselves up and claim they represent the majority with their outsized reactions which they most certainly do not. Witness some of the inflammatory videos posted by anti-LGBTQ forces on the right.
The corporations that tried to be inclusive such Anheuser-Busch and Target have faced this backlash and appear to immediately be cowed and afraid of these repercussions from the select few consumers who react violently. This is a huge miscalculation for them. Their cowed responses have done nothing but alienate larger groups of consumers, especially younger and more diverse populations. According to a 2021 Gallup poll, 20% of people in Generation Z identify as gay, transgender, or bisexual. This is in comparison to 3% of the Baby Boomers.
A report released last December from GLAAD and the Edelman Trust Institute found that if a brand publicly supports and demonstrates a commitment to expand and protect LGBTQ rights, Americans are twice as likely to buy and use the brand. Millennials and Generation Z are 5.5 more likely to want to work at a company that supports and demonstrates a commitment to protecting LGBTQ+ rights. I believe we are clearly at the beginning of a monumental shift in attitudes and advocacy for the LGBTQ+ population. Over 20% of Generation Z identifies with the community. Where will your company be when these employees and consumers have the largest share of purchasing dollars? Does your company now wave a Pride Flag while simultaneously acquiescing to the anti LGBTQ mob? I certainly hope not.