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PRIDE ‘22: PROTEST OR PARTY?

Every June Pride month unfolds all around us celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community. In many democratic countries, it has become a national holiday, a time to party and even an excuse to stick a rainbow sticker on a sandwich - far from its origins as a violent protest.

Wherever queer people fall in the Venn diagram of ‘Party or Protest’ (or both), there's a high likelihood that they’re hyper aware of the brand activations and targetted marketing, for better or for worse. In this edition of 52INSIGHTS, The Youth Lab collaborated with Thinker Billy Bunzari to share perspective and throw some glitter on what brands need to know when it comes to Pride month.

WHY WE NEED PRIDE

As June rolls around, the outgoing message turns from change and activism to celebration - all the colours of the rainbows on our streets, our menus, our brand logos and our supermarket shelves. This year we’re recognizing 50 years of London Pride, which is this year’s number one destination to travel to celebrate this Pride. Joy is considered a form of resistance in activism - joy from dancing, singing, talking, just being your best self at Pride parties and marches. Who doesn’t love one-hit wonders returning from obscurity and drag queens come to terms with the horror of day drag as they plan hair and make up looks, outfits and more importantly, heels. In one sense, we are more connected than ever and brought together in this celebration of queerness, but on the other hand, in an increasingly polarised society, youth are experiencing an ever evolving-landscape of unrest and aggression.

Queer people are frustrated and scared with two thirds (64%) of LGBTQIA+ people having experienced anti LGBTQIA+ violence or abuse. The LGBTQIA+ community has felt blow after blow in the past year… From the ‘Dont Say Gay’ bill being passed in Florida (and challenged in this heartwarming video of a highschool student cleverly not saying “gay” but talking about his experience growing up ‘with curly hair’), to the terrifying rise in hate crime in Ireland (the first country in the world to legalise marriage equality by popular vote but does not currently have any hate crime laws in effect). So, Pride for many is a time to recognise the issues faced by queer people, be vocal and protest against the adversities faced by the LQBTQIA+ community globally.

However political we are, it’s not all doom and gloom, there’s a lot of righteous anger but it’s primarily a space to connect, learn from and party with other LGTBQ people. Free Pride Organisers via Dazed

IT’S ABOUT AUTHENTIC REPRESENTATION & ENGAGEMENT

While a 2021 study found that 74% of LQBTQIA+ people are more likely to purchase from a company that outreaches and advertises to the LQBTQIA+ community, thirty one percent of the LGBTQIA+ community feel that marketing portrays them badly. The term pinkwashing is often used as branded parties are announced (even in the metaverse), and Pride messaging appears on menus, public transport, social media feeds, and supermarket shelves, often as a ‘tick the box’ exercise versus a genuine commitment to representing and supporting the LQBTQIA+ community. While queer people have become used to annual Pride campaigns and often enjoy the sponsorship that come with them, the consensus is that positive representation of queer people year round would prove more authentic.

I feel like brands can support the queer community and pride more authentically but not just shining a light on it when its Pride Month. It's all well and good to change your Instagram icon to a rainbow asset in June and then change it in July as if nothing ever happened *insert Meg Staler HI GAY! Video here lol. Pride should be celebrated every day, not just in June.” John Mangru, Fashion Designer and Club Kid, NYC

Brands like Absolut, for example, have championed the queer community since the 1980s when it was regarded extremely bold to do so and have grown to become a much loved brand by not just the LQBTQIA+ community, but by those who also support the community and share the values of inclusivity, diversity and equality.

Absolut has been celebrating pride and supporting the LGBTQ+ community since the 1980s when most brands didn’t acknowledge PRIDE or support LGBTQ+ causes. We’re proud to continue as an ally of the LGBTQIA+LGBTQ+ community – not just during PRIDE but all year round. We have plans to continue our allyship during the rest of 2022 and beyond.” Jane Goldrick, Brand Manager, Absolut.

LISTENING TO THE COMMUNITY’S NEEDS

There is a call for year-round engagement and support from brands and corporations on issues that affect the LGBTQIA+ community. This is how a brand could authentically give queer people a sense of being heard, seen, understood and uplifted. Brands are asked to do something different than just saying one message. We asked our Thinkhouse Love Network via our Instagram if brands have a place in Pride - 66% came back saying it depends on how they are getting involved. A common theme in the feedback was about doing “something genuine and not just posting about pride because it’s the ‘done thing’’.

I’m enjoying what Headspace is doing - they’re stepping away from it as a pure marketing initiative and taking a more educational approach, bringing light to all on the meaning of Pride. I want to ask - do you just speak about it or are you doing it, acting it, showing us, making us a part of your brand, and not just highlighting this month. Everyone's got a rainbow flag - what other initiatives are you doing to do?" Chris, 31, Berlin

According to a 2019 USA Summary report ‘LGBTQ Community Survey’, a staggering 64% of LGBTQIA+ people say businesses don’t do a good job of reaching out to the transgender and gender expansive community. Two out of every five trans people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity. It's important that brands take the time to learn about the communities within the LGBTQ+ community and accurately represent all the colours of the rainbow especially those who are often more marginalised than others.

“I would like to see more people like myself, BIPOC transgender people within the Queer Comunity represented on the world stage when it comes to advertising campaigns and marketing. When you struggle to find somebody who resembles you reflected in the media growing up, it can leaving you feeling isolated and other” - Shelley Torrance, Artist, London.

BRAND TAKEAWAYS

While Pride has been around for a long time, it’s still as important as ever. When it comes down to it it is still about supporting everyone to feel comfortable in their own skin and expression - not only when it comes to who they are, but also who they love.

The past 18 months have been incredibly difficult for LGBTQ+ young people, and the youth workers who support them. Between healthcare crises and general safety crises, LGBTQ+ Youth today still need huge support. All corners of society can step up - to ‘Come In’, so nobody has to come out. In today’s divisive political and cultural climate, it is positive to see so many allies supporting the LGBTQ+ community in a meaningful way and showing their Pride. Flying a rainbow flag for one day is not enough. LGBTQ+ young people who face high levels of self-harm, attempted suicide, and depression need support, safety, and allyship everyday. The policies of brands and organisations are so important in this – create these with the input of LGBTQ+ employees. Regular training for your whole team can help to people working in corporate environments to understand LGBTQ+ issues, have a better understanding of modern forms of discrimination and how we as individuals and companies may be partaking in these despite our own efforts.” Moninne Griffith (she/her), CEO, Belong To

The big message is this isn’t a one-time token occasion. Listen to what the community wants and needs - even a party can be a powerful release. Never be hypocritical by saying one thing and then doing another. Equality is good business.

There’s power in brands participating in Pride Month, and it’s important for their employees and their consumers to see support for the community during Pride Month. But it can’t just be during Pride Month. If a brand doesn’t have a 365-day-a-year plan for LGBTQ inclusion, they really need to prioritize that over prioritizing a one-off Pride campaign.” Rich Ferraro, chief communications officer at GLAAD.

THINKHOUSE’S PRIDE PLAYLIST 2022

Follow this link to listen to our 2022 Pride Playlist, compiled with essential tracks to keep you on your feet all weekend long - in protest or in party.