Pride Month 2021: Understanding LGBTQ+ history and allyship
We all want to belong, don’t we?
It is extremely disheartening to be misunderstood or be forced to be someone you are not.
Unfortunately, this is still the everyday story for many LGBTQ+ people. Even today, in a world that has progressed significantly, homophobia is rife. LGBTQ+ employees often face discrimination at the workplace, with 20% of LGBTQ+ Americans experiencing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
As an ally, you can help change this equation. An ally in this context is a cisgender and heterosexual person who supports gender equality and LGBTQ+ rights by standing firm against homophobia. An ally understands and acknowledges that LGBTQ+ people face discrimination and uses their privilege to counter it.
If you are somebody who wants to start your journey towards allyship but doesn’t know how to, this article will help you. We have put together a brief history of Pride Month and a few actionable tips on how you can practice being an authentic ally.
In this blog, we will answer the following questions:
- What is Pride and why is it important?
- How can you take a firm step towards being an authentic ally?
What is Pride Month?
LGBTQ+ history isn’t generally taught in schools. Hence there are a lot of misconceptions about what ‘Pride’ really is. Many just see its visual representation on the streets during Pride parades – as a myriad of rainbows, unicorns, and glitters. But there is so much more to Pride than meets the eye.
Let’s go back to the drawing board. What is Pride, really?
In the 1950s and 1960s, very few establishments welcomed gay people, setting up an inhibitive environment for people who identified as anyone but a heterosexual. The legal system was also anti-gay.
In the early hours of June 28, 1969, law enforcement officers raided the Stonewall Inn, which was a gay club located in Greenwich, New York City. This led to a series of violent clashes between the police, employees, bar patrons, and gay residents of Greenwich Village. This later came to be known as the Stonewall Riots, the biggest catalyst for the Pride movement. The first Pride march in New York City was held on June 28, 1970, on the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.
All early texts referring to these events have the term ‘Pride’ in them. The word ‘Pride’ was being used to represent a collective sense of self-worth. What initially began as Gay Pride was eventually shortened to Pride. Soon after, it began to be used as a shorthand for the events of LGBTQ+ Pride Month, which is held in June.
Initially, the last Sunday of June was celebrated as ‘Gay Pride Day’ in the United States. Over the years, this grew to encompass a month-long celebration of Pride.
Pride has a long history, and it is more than just being proud of who we are. It’s about resisting and actually fighting for liberation,” says Jordan Reeves, Executive Director, VideoOut, a nonprofit that works with community partners and corporates to share resources and stories that educate the world about the LGBTQ+ community.
In essence, the purpose of Pride Month is to recognize the impact that LGBTQ+ individuals have had on history – at local, national, and international levels. It is a time specially dedicated to celebrating the LGBTQ+ culture, supporting queer rights, and amplifying their voices.
What do the Pride flag colors mean?
The rainbow flag is one of the most well-recognized symbols used by the LGBTQ+ community since the late 1970s. The flag was created by artist Gilbert Baker in 1978 when he was asked by Harvey Milk, San Francisco’s first openly gay elected official, to design a symbol for Pride.
Initially, the flag consisted of eight colors, but it was soon changed to a more practical six: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Each color has its meaning:
- Red is symbolic of life,
- Orange is symbolic of spirit,
- Yellow represents sunshine,
- Green is for nature,
- Blue represents harmony, and
- Purple represents spirit.
As the LGBTQ+ community evolved with time, a more inclusive flag was created. The Progress Pride Flag conceptualized by Daniel Quasar in 2018 does a brilliant job at recognizing people of color and the trans community and truly captures the essence of representation and inclusivity.
How is Pride Month celebrated?
Generally, Pride celebrations include Pride parades, parties, workshops, and concerts among many others. Memorials are also held during this time to honor members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world – both LGBTQ+ individuals and allies.
But last year, the celebrations looked a lot different due to the strict lockdowns and travel restrictions. And this year, while the situation seems to be slightly better, most Pride events continue to be virtual.
If you’re looking forward to being a part of Pride events this year, here are three simple ideas:
- Attend free virtual volunteering sessions with LGBTQ+ nonprofits to spread awareness
- Attend fun Zoom events such as this Pride Workout session in Chicago.
- Have watch party sessions with your friends on classic LGBTQ+ movies
- Donate to a charity doing phenomenal work to ensure equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community.
Why is celebrating Pride so important today?
LGBTQ+ persons are victims of violence at rates two to nine times higher than their heterosexual peers as per the results of a survey published by The American Journal of Public Health.
There are still 69 countries that have laws criminalizing homosexuality, and the queer people in these countries need us to continue fighting for their rights.
The LGBTQ+ community and other allies have been fighting to get equal rights to start families, to get married, adopt children, fight discrimination, hate speech, and simply exist as they are.
Pride is extremely important because it continues to provide LGBTQ+ people with a community, safe space, and a chance to celebrate who they are and who they love without shame. There is still so much work that needs to be done.
And being an authentic ally to the cause is the best way to bring their voices to the surface. In the remainder of the blog, we will take a look at how you can take a step towards being an authentic ally.
Let’s talk LGBTQ+ allyship
LGBTQ+ people are people. To be a good ally, it’s important to understand how the community’s gender identity and sexuality exist in relation to other social issues.
When asked “Who is an ally?” Jordan replies, “Ally is not a label you can give yourself. Ally is a label that someone in the community that you are helping gives to you.”
We can’t agree more, Jordan!
How can you practice being an authentic ally?
Allies are important to any cause. Practicing allyship means actively supporting the rights and safety of members of a community, even if you don’t identify as a part of the community. Being an ally means proactively demonstrating a commitment to promote inclusivity and fair representation.
It’s not about just donating or doing the bare minimum, it’s about educating yourself and committing to the cause you are supporting. Here are some ways you can start your allyship journey:
Start with the basics. Ask questions, do research, and be honest about what you do not know. SafeZone has curated a list of resources that can help you get started on learning all things LGBTQ+. Glaad provides a host of resources on how to be an ally and a friend.
Please note that it is not necessary to have friends and acquaintances from the LGBTQ+ community for you to be an ally. Do your research and don’t expect to be taught by folks from the community
Want bite-sized educational content every week? We are posting a list of iconic LGBTQ+ movies, songs, and books that are a must for Pride Month, on our Facebook group for nonprofits. Feel free to join here.
How many times have you been in situations when a homophobic comment was casually passed and you did not speak up, even if you wanted to? Indifference is much more dangerous than you might think. Here’s why:
- LGBTQ+ youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts.
- 55% of LGBTQ+ students report having experienced homophobic, biphobic, or transphobic bullying.
- Transgender workers often face forms of harassment different from that of LGBT workers. This includes deliberately being referred to by incorrect pronouns and having to tolerate inappropriate questions.
One way to address these issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community is to stand up against homophobic bullies (besides the implementation of stringent laws and policies).
Ask uncomfortable questions to people with privilege
Fewer than 0.3% of Fortune 500 board directors were openly LGBT in 2020. 22% of LGBTQ+ Americans have not been paid equally or promoted at the same rate as their peers. These numbers are a clear indication that It’s important to have difficult conversations about diversity and inclusion at work.
- Does your company have non-discrimination policies for its LGBTQ+ employees?
- What are your company’s inclusion policies?
- What is your company’s public commitment to the community?
You can read this benchmark tool to get a good understanding of corporate policies, practices, and benefits pertaining to LGBTQ+ employees.
This Pride Month, pledge that your words online, or otherwise, are a precursor for your actions, going forward. Donate your time, skills, and resources to diversify your attention, awareness, and learnings. Many LGBTQ+ organizations are doing great work, so you can find many that ignite your passion for the cause!
At Goodera, we’ve enabled corporate volunteers to engage with impactful nonprofits in volunteering virtually for causes they care about. African Rainbow family, Griot Circle, Queer Life Space, and VideoOut are a few such nonprofits.
If you want to engage your team at work through virtual volunteering opportunities for Pride Month, please get in touch with us.
Celebrate Pride Month with Goodera
This Pride Month, we at Goodera are celebrating love and embracing gender identities, expressions, and orientations to continue moving forward with equality.
Volunteer virtually with us to support nonprofits at the forefront of creating a safe, inclusive, and thriving future for the LGBTQ+ community. The events are specifically designed for corporate teams to participate in.
If you’ve never experienced virtual volunteering before, register for our free virtual volunteering events happening on the 11th and 18th of June.
We invite everyone to join us in dialogue and action toward LGBTQ+ inclusion. If your nonprofit is looking for corporate volunteers, please reach out to us.
How important do you think it is to be an authentic ally to inclusion and diversity? Share your thoughts with us on social media using the hashtag #transcend.