Honoring LGBTQ+ Pride Month Within Your OrganizationBy Barry Kirk, Principal
Pride Month is pretty hard to miss, celebrated every June with large and colorful parades, festivals, and commemorations. Increasingly, it is also an event recognized by major corporations, many of whom include references to Pride in their marketing, their PR, and even temporarily redesigning their company logos to reflect the rainbow colors of Pride. The activities of Pride Month all have one intention: to honor the lives, visibility, and self-affirmation of LGBTQ+ persons everywhere.
But before Pride was a celebration, it had to start as something else. A violent protest.
The Origin of Pride Month
In the summer of 1969, the struggle for gay equality had already been underway for several decades. But progress had been slow. Most gay and lesbian citizens were still living that part of their lives in secret, and risked harassment from the authorities whenever they were open in public. Bars and restaurants faced getting raided and shut down just for having gay employees or serving gay patrons, and gay persons lived under a constant threat of arrest.
But one hot night in June of that year, the queer community in New York City had had enough. When police tried to raid the Stonewall Inn, a non-descript bar located in Greenwich Village that served as a safe haven for the city’s gay, lesbian, and transgender community, they were met with force. Police raids of gay bars were a widespread practice at this time, but on that particular night, the patrons decided to fight back. What started as one person resisting arrest quickly turned into full-blown riot. Hundreds of other patrons and community members joined in, eventually resulting in the police barricading themselves inside the very bar they had attempted to shut down. The riot eventually transformed into a five-day protest, drawing thousands of supporters from surrounding neighborhoods.
For those there that first night, their act of civil disobedience may have seemed like a small thing — just a single moment of rebellion against a long history of oppression. But it turned out to be far more. In making that stand, they triggered an uprising that would eventually galvanize queer people and their supporters across the globe and engaged a new generation in the political fight for gay equality. It also provided the spark for Pride Month.
Is Pride Month Relevant to Your Team?
Today, Pride Month attracts millions of participants to celebrations around the world. Presenting a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ equity and visibility within your own company and team. But what if no one in your span of care publicly identifies as LGBTQ+? Is there any need then to acknowledge or celebrate Pride?
I encourage you to decide that the answer is “Yes!” The reality is that the network of people connected to the movement for LGBTQ+ inclusion and visibility is far greater than we often think. Yes, it applies to people in your direct span of care who openly identify as LGBTQ+, but it also applies to:
- Your straight team member whose closest friend is gay.
- Your peer whose favorite niece is trans.
- Your contractor whose daughter identifies as non-binary.
- Your Gen Z employee who has two moms.
- Your vendor who just celebrated his son’s same-sex wedding.
And, of course, it also applies to any LGBTQ+ members of your team who are not yet open about their identity and are unsure whether your company is a safe space to be their full selves.
Ways to Celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month Within Your Organization
Taking advantage of Pride Month to create a stronger sense of inclusion and equity within your organization is easier than it might seem. In the passionate words of gay rights icon Harvey Milk, “It takes no compromise to give people their rights. It takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no survey to remove repressions.”
Simple but effective activities you can engage your team in include:
- Personal Sharing
Provide space for team members to share about LGBTQ+ persons who have been important in their own lives. Encourage them to share personal photos and stories. You will likely hear team members talk about some of these important friends or family members for the very first time.
Find a space to display images and information on significant gay rights leaders and historical events, and then schedule a time for team members to reflect on what they learned and how it affected their understanding of LGBTQ+ visibility.
- Pride Decorations
Sometimes the simple visibility of allies can be tremendously important to your LGBTQ+ team members. Provide mini pride flags, rainbow stickers or ally signs and encourage team members to display however they chose (on their laptops, cubes, office door, etc.). If your team wants to be even more creative, sponsor a Pride decoration contest for teams to compete in (Can your office really have too many rainbows?).
Whatever activity you choose, you will be taking a crucial step toward creating a more inclusive, caring, and welcoming space for everyone in your organization who is celebrating Pride or whose life has been positively touched by LGBTQ+ persons.
Read our recent article, Honoring Juneteenth Within Your Organization, and learn ways you can continue creating an inclusive organization and recognize holidays that are important to your team members.
About the author:
Barry Kirk, Principal and Customer Experience practice leader at Chapman & Co., is a seasoned business consultant, speaker and workshop leader best known for his work in customer loyalty. Barry has also helped companies and school systems improve the inclusion and equity of LGBT+ persons in their span of care. Barry celebrated Pride Month this year by marrying his long-time partner, Andrew.