As we come into June, oftentimes businesses paint themselves in a rainbow to show support for LGBTQ+ people and our communities. This is seen in everything from big, expensive commercials featuring gay couples to local businesses hanging pride flags in their windows for 30 days before participating in pride events or marches.
Pride isn’t a march or a party, though – it is a riot, led by the most marginalized among us, by the black, indigenous and queer people of colour, by the trans women, by those living in poverty, and by those of us with disabilities.
On June 28th, 1969, police raided a bar in New York called Stonewall and patrons, fed up once more, fought back. This was not the first time, and this was not the last time. A year later, marches happened to commemorate the riot. This is why Pride is held in June every year, to commemorate a riot, to mourn those lost in the past year, and to celebrate those still with us.
Having been to numerous Pride events over the years, online and in-person, I often question a business’s role in Pride. Businesses often say they’re at Pride to support their LGBTQ+ customers or employees, but what does your business do year-round to support LGBTQ+ communities? Do you actively seek out LGBTQ+ employees when you hire, recognizing that in a 2011 study of trans Ontarians, only 37% were employed full-time? Do you work to educate yourself and your work culture to be supportive of LGBTQ+ people, recognizing that 40% of discrimination happens in the workplace?
Pride is often viewed as a party and a way to get the word out about businesses, but it is not. It is to uplift Queer people and experiences and the organizations that actively do the work year-round to support them. Putting a rainbow flag in your window does not help LGBTQ+ people, but hiring them will. So, before you participate in Pride events or marches, whether it is this year or years in the future, ask yourself: what is my business doing, throughout the year, to meaningfully address homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, queerphobia, and more in my community and my business?
– Nathan R. G. Barnett (he/him), Whitby Chamber of Commerce Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee Member, Vice President of University Affairs, Trent Durham Student Association