Ethan Spibey, Founder of InterComms LGBT+ Network writes on the corporate use of the rainbow flag in Pride season.
It’s Pride season, and inevitably, rainbow flags are being plastered as far as the eye can see and seemingly inanimate objects get a colour splash as corporates try to appeal to an ever increasing market. No one could deny that increased visibility is a good thing. I know it would have helped me personally as a kid struggling with my sexuality to see the visual signals of acceptance that the LGBTQ flag embodies. However, we also live in the age of online social media scrutiny, and rightly so. It’s quite simple; if you’re going to take our flag, put your money where your mouth is.
The fact is, kids aren’t bullied in schools just in June or July. The 1 in 3 individuals who are homeless and LGBT+ don’t just need support 2 months of the year and the repugnant rise in transphobic attacks aren’t a summer phenomenon. If you really care about the issues you suddenly seem alive to as a company in June and July, you’d practice your values all year round and through the actions you take, not the words you say.
I don’t see the same companies launching campaigns on National Suicide Prevention Week about the LGBTQ community, despite suicide rates among LGBT youth being significantly higher than among the general population. I don’t see a sandwich around mental health awareness week for our LGBTQ community despite half of LGBT people experiencing depression in 2017. Therein lies the problem and the solution. People don’t care what you say around Pride, they care about what you’re doing to tackle the challenges and issues LGBTQ people face every single day of their lives.
I’ve been asked by many companies and organisations, “But how do we do this authentically? We don’t want to pinkwash!” The answer is again, truly quite simple. Ask yourselves why you’re doing it, not what you’re doing, and work back from there. Why are you using your corporate logo throughout the months of June and July, what are you trying to achieve by doing so and why are you bothered about doing it in the first place? If your answer is an increase in profit, then you rightly deserve the vitriol you’ll receive on social media.
More and more people truly care about what corporates “stand for.” Young people (myself included if 27 is still a “young person”) choose jobs based on company’s values and ethics and consumers change products in the knowledge of what the brand does to live those values it purports to extol.
So take our flag, plaster it across every window, shop and product you can find. But do so knowing that it’s not a free pass, it comes with a responsibility: to stand by the very people you’re looking to appeal to.