Your (Pride) flag decal won’t get you into heaven.

Corporations flying the Pride Flag without taking meaningful action is nothing more than an empty gesture.

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.

This map shows in darker red colors states now proposing or passing anti-Trans legislation.

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.

Five Intersections – LGBTQ Pride Month and Black Lives Matter

Added in 2024 – one great way to support the Black community is to patronize Black-owned businesses.  Here is an article that lists over 150 Black-owned businesses. 

Every year since the Stonewall Rebellion in Greenwich Village, New York City in late June, 1969, June has been traditionally observed initially as Gay Pride Month, and now LGBTQ Pride Month. But this year, all in person June celebrations and parades have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now everything has been overshadowed (and rightfully so) by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police. His murder combined with the additional recent unaddressed murders of Breonna Taylor (Louisville, Kentucky) and Ahmaud Arbery (South Georgia) has now led to ongoing mass demonstrations around the world against racism and police brutality.

So I do feel it is important for the LGBTQ+ communities to pause and recognize the intersections between racism and “The Black Lives” matter movement with LGBTQ Pride and ongoing battle for LGBTQ equality. Here are 5 intersections:

1) Built upon the base. Though June is LGBTQ Pride Month, we all must place the highest priority on the most recent events around the murder of George Floyd, and the need for community and national engagement with the never-ending work that must continue around addressing systemic racism (see my earlier blog on personal and systemic racism). LGBTQ+ people and allies must be involved and take action around racism, recognizing that much of LGBTQ+ equity progress has been built upon the foundations of racial equity work. Let us never forget and be always grateful of the path Black Americans and racial justice activists paved for LGBTQ+ equity.

Bayard Rustin was the main organizer of Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1963 March on Washington on leading gay rights advocate in the 1970s and 1980s.

2) Intersectionality. Everyone is comprised of a complex mix of their own unique diversity attributes, and we really cannot simply separate one attribute of our diversity and consider it in isolation of our full selves. We have to consider our own race, gender, abilities, etc. as we consider our queer identities.

3) Oppression and issues. Many of the same issues impacting communities of color also impact LGBTQ communities. These include issues of healthcare discrepancies, issues around education, economic development and employment, etc.

4) The importance of allies. Racism is an issue that the white majority must own and take strong action to fix. The issues around racism cannot be laid at the feet of black people to fix; it is the white majority in power that built and controls the mechanisms that perpetrate systemic racism. In the same way, the LGBTQ community must rely and value the work of our straight and cisgender allies who advocate for our equality. Furthermore, many Black organizations, like the NAACP, have been strong allies to the LGBTQ community and include our issues prominently in their work. Link to archive of the NAACP’s LGBTQ equality work.

5) Commons foes. Communities of color and LGBTQ communities must realize that we do face commons foes; whether it be well-intentioned people who may not know how to engage us in the best way, or mean-spirited bigots who want to hold on to their power and oppress others. Marginalized communities must unite to engage and build allies while building larger coalitions to fight discrimination and oppression.

May we all work together to build a stronger nation and stronger world where we all leverage our diversity for the common good of all.

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Blog author Stan Kimer is a diversity consultant and trainer who handles all areas of workplace diversity and with a deep expertise in LGBT diversity strategy and training,  Unconscious Bias and Employee Resource Groups.  Please explore the rest of my website and never hesitate to contact me for your diversity speaking or training needs, or pass my name onto your HR department.  [email protected]