June was chosen for LGBTQ Pride Month to honor the Stonewall riots. But year after year, some members of the LGBTQ community have become increasingly skeptical of companies’ participation in the celebration, feeling as though brands are exploiting the commemoration for commercial gain.
On the one hand, Pride Month is a colorful celebration of how far the LGBTQ community has come. On the other, it’s a march against the intolerant systems insisting LGBTQ people fall in line with the cisgender, heterosexual mainstream.
Businesses that pull their rainbow flags out of the basement for the month to push their products, but don’t stand with the LGBTQ community during the rest of the year or in times of need are forgetting (or ignoring) the day-to-day struggles queer people face, including the estimated 57,000 LGBTQ youth being sent to conversion therapy before they turn 18; the continuously rising numbers of anti-transgender violence; and the staggering amount of LGBTQ teens who take their own lives each year. Not to mention, there are still 30 states that lack the most basic protections in employment, housing, and public accommodations for LGBTQ people. And we haven’t even begun to talk about the climate for LGBTQ people outside of the U.S.
To quote singer Vincint at this year’s LoveLoud music festival: “Gay people don’t stop being gay at the end of June,” and the struggle for equality and acceptance didn’t end when marriage equality passed.
The business community has proven indispensable in moving LGBTQ equality and acceptance forward. With the help of businesses in North Carolina, the state revised its discriminatory HB2 legislation, which limited cities’ and counties’ abilities to pass nondiscrimination ordinances and banned trans people from using public restrooms in government buildings and schools.
If companies are looking for ways to recognize the dignity of LGBTQ people and not just their dollars, here are five brands to look to for inspiration.
AT&TJerod Harris/Getty Images for LOVELOUD Festival
Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons and Grace Vanderwaal attend 2018 LoveLoud Festival Powered By AT&T at Rice-Eccles Stadium on July 28, 2018 in Salt Lake City, U.T.
In June, AT&T made a $1 million contribution to The Trevor Project to help modernize and transform its suicide prevention capabilities. The company also donated $675,000 worth of AT&T products and services as well as technology and connectivity expertise. On top of that, AT&T participated in this year’s LoveLoud music festival by live streaming the July event created by Imagine Dragons’ Dan Reynolds in response to the high LGBTQ youth suicide rate in Utah.
While AT&T showed support this June and July, the brand also has a documented history of supporting LGBTQ customers and employees: In 2006, the company became one of the first U.S. corporations to offer trans-inclusive healthcare benefits. And in 2015, AT&T was a signatory on a “friends of the court” brief at a Supreme Court hearing in support of marriage equality in the U.S.
“AT&T has had a longstanding commitment to the LGBTQ community,” AT&T VP of Advertising and Creative Services Valerie Vargas told NewNowNext. “Our employee base is a mirror of the communities we serve, and we need to care for our employees as we care for our communities, so the company really has engaged, and invested, and been a supporter for a long time.”
American ExpressShane Drummond, courtesy of American Express. Brookfield Place, New York, NY.
American Express has been a leader in advocating for LGBTQ equality for over two decades. It was one of the first Fortune 500 companies to extend benefits and enact tax equalization to all employees with same-sex partners in the U.S. In 2010, the company began covering gender-confirming surgeries for trans employees, as well as related services such as hormone therapy and cosmetic surgery. In 2017, American Express increased benefit offerings to help with the cost of surrogacy or adoption.
“The best thing about all of these benefits [of our PRIDE+ Colleague Network], and many more, is that they are extended to employees around the globe—including in countries that are behind in passing legislature for LGBTQ equality and don’t have nondiscriminatory protections in place,” Laureen Seeger, American Express EVP and General Counsel, told NewNowNext.
M∙A∙C CosmeticsCharley Gallay/Getty Images for MAC Cosmetics
M.A.C Viva Glam Spokesperson Ariana Grande Appearance At M.A.C North Robertson Store In LA on August 22, 2016 in West Hollywood, C.A.
Since its launch in 1994, MAC’s Viva Glam lipstick campaign has benefitted the MAC AIDS Fund for HIV/AIDS awareness and research. Since its inception, the brand has raised over $480 million through the VIVA GLAM campaign. In the last fiscal year? $32.7 million. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has drastically since the early ’90s, with better ways to treat and provide care to give many living with HIV/AIDS longer, healthier lives. As the epidemic has evolved, so has the campaign, which is now also working to address the link between poverty and HIV/AIDS by supporting underserved communities around the world.
“Many vodkas will come in during Pride Month, put a rainbow on the bottle, and then move onto their next campaign,” Melanie Batchelor, Campari America marketing vice president, told Forbes. “For us, it’s about making sure it’s authentic.” Founded in San Francisco, Skyyy has long ties to the LGBTQ community. It supports amfAR and the Stop Aids Project. It was the first spirits company to feature a same-sex female couple in its advertising and was a huge supporter of marriage equality through campaigns in the U.S. and Australia.
Barefoot Wine & Bubbly
In the August issue of Variety, GLAAD and 5050by2020 penned an open letter calling upon Hollywood execs to show a commitment to furthering trans inclusion in film and television noting the staggering rates of bullying, suicide attempts, and hate-motivated violence that the trans community faces.
“At a time when the industry is at a tipping point for empowering diverse voices and audiences are demanding more inclusion, Hollywood needs to prioritize transgender talent and stories,” said GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement. While donating money to good causes is appreciated, representation in media and the opportunity for LGBTQ people to tell their own stories is invaluable. One brand that accomplished this this year is Barefoot. The wine brand premiered a short documentary, “One Stride: Chosen Family,” at Outfest this year.
The doc celebrates the stories of three sets of LGBTQ friends and families to shine a light on how the community supports each other through a “chosen family.” The film features late LGBTQ rights activist Richard “Dick” Leitsch, who led the historic 1966 “Sip-In” at a bar in Manhattan’s West Village to secure the right of gay patrons to be served in bars. It also features trans actress and singer Mj Rodriguez from FX’s Pose.