As social animals, we seek community and belonging. We need it. Research shows that a low sense of belonging is an even greater predictor of depression than loneliness or conflict. Visibility and representation of underrepresented communities help provide this belonging and aid community-building—which also expose us to the diversity of humanity and foster a more accepting society. Seeing marginalized communities such as the LGBTQIA+ community reflected on our screens makes a difference. LGBTQIA+ people have long experienced erasure—everything from exclusion from society, lack of representation in the media, and discrimination in law.
Homosexuality has only been decriminalized in some countries in recent years. Activists, teachers, and human rights organizations have worked tirelessly toward increased acceptance and safety for the LGBTQIA+ community. But the work isn’t over. LGBTQIA+ rights are being rolled back, trans people are being murdered, and harmful rhetoric is present in the media. As queer issues gain traction, and as the community continues to experience opposition, it’s more important than ever that visibility is extended to positive representation.
Businesses can play a huge role in providing this sense of belonging to marginalized individuals through public-facing marketing campaigns – but doing this in a supportive and truly authentic way requires careful consideration. For LGBTQIA+ people, Pride Month is a time to celebrate their community, as well as to acknowledge the progress still needed. In the US, it’s celebrated annually in June to mark the 1969 Stonewall Riots that kicked off the country’s LGBTQIA+ rights movement. This can be a wonderful time for businesses to join the community in celebrating their beauty, diversity, and resilience. However, it shouldn’t be the only time that queer faces and voices are uplifted.
“If brands and organizations want to be sincere and authentic, then highlighting LGBTQIA+ people, topics, and issues needs to happen outside of Pride season,” shares genderqueer lesbian artist Ashton Attzs (they/them), who has collaborated with countless brands, from Adidas and Moleskine to Universal Music, creating magical queer utopias through their artwork. “Businesses need to show up for everyone in our community all year round—not just use Pride month as a tick-box activity.”
We’ve made significant progress in the past 50 years, but there’s still a long way to go. By taking a few simple steps, businesses can help ensure that they’re truly standing in solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community, rather than falling into the trap of tokenization and pinkwashing.
Read on for 7 ways businesses can celebrate and support the queer community authentically while helping to increase brand output, loyalty, and value.