Allyship and Events: How Are You Supporting the LGBTQIA+ Community?

Drag queen at Pride, dressed in an elaborate pink outfit

The estimated annual purchasing power of the global 2SLGBTQI+ community is $3.9 trillion (per LGBT Capital group). Marketers should keep this in mind when considering their target audiences for products and services, especially when building brand experiences.  The community has also been a victim of hate and discrimination throughout history. So, although the community’s purchasing power is strong, it does take authentic and consistent work to earn their trust and brand loyalty. 

When planning brand experiences, during Pride or otherwise, assessing the most effective ways to be inclusive for all attendees and participants is crucial. This requires considering a variety of factors and making room for additions, adjustments, and accommodations throughout the process.

So why are we still having this conversation?

Unfortunately, the hate and discrimination continue today:

  • Attack on 2SLGBTQI+: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has identified 482 bills introduced throughout the US this year as anti-2SLGBTQI+. Many of which limit gender-affirming care for transgender youth, as well as education of gender and sexuality in schools. Companies such as Kohl’s, Bud Light, and Target have also been branding themselves as “woke” and calling for boycotts.
  • Attack on Drag Queens: Internationally and locally in Canada there have been societal pressures to ban, or limit drag performances in public spaces. Outraged conservatives are protesting outside the most innocent experiences, Drag Story Hour for children. With anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans sentiment on the rise, libraries across Canada and in the US have seen protests at libraries becoming increasingly common.
  • ‘Don’t say gay’ in Florida: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (also on the ballot to represent the Republican Presidential seat) expands “Don’t Say Gay” law and others, banning transition-related care for minors. The Parental Rights in Education bill prohibits sexual orientation and gender identity instruction in prekindergarten through eighth grade, bans trans people from using the public facilities that align with their gender identities, and restricts drag performances in front of minors. Florida and 18 other states also signed a bill that bans transition-related care for minors in the state.
  • The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), who advocates for 2SLGBTQI+ students, said that DeSantis “is trying to turn back the clock on progress and erase 2SLGBTQI+ people from existence.” It is warming to see that 10 States have passed measures protecting trans health care.
  • G7 Summit & Discriminative Leadership: Prime Minister Trudeau called out the Italian government’s stance on 2SLGBTQI+ rights during a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Meloni at the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Hiroshima, Japan. Meloni’s government has limited recognition of same-sex parental rights and aims to criminalise couples who go abroad to have a baby via surrogacy. Surrogate pregnancies are currently illegal in Italy, and although the country legalised same-sex unions in 2016, same-sex couples do not have adoption rights. The Italian PM says that ‘for a child to grow up well, they need a mother and father’ and ‘it’s insulting to hundreds of thousands of families with two same-sex parents.’

In summary, 2SLGBTQI+ discrimination is being perpetuated today at an international, national, and local level. While it may not affect YOU directly, it absolutely impacts all of us. The community needs individual and corporate allies to feel safe and survive amidst the hate.

How companies can show their support

It is important as a company to ensure you are taking proactive steps in your allyship, both during Pride and beyond. If you’re asking yourself where to start, look no further:

  • Provide training for your team: The best way to foster tolerance and understanding begins with education and openness. Your employees may be coming from various levels of understanding when it comes to 2SLGBTQI+ history, vocabulary, and current events. Providing education for all employees, whether in the form of a training session or reading materials, as well as fostering an open and judgement-free environment is an effective starting point.
  • Invite speakers from the community: In making sure 2SLGBTQI+ voices are heard—allow their voices to be heard! Whether it’s a Pride event, a casual Lunch & Learn, or a fireside chat at a company event, invite relevant speakers to engage with your employees. This could be to discuss trans issues, experiences being queer in the workplace, or entirely unrelated to queer issues and just an opportunity to elevate their voice on a specialized topic.
  • Speak up: The best way to ensure your employees, community, and prospective candidates know that your organization will be accepting of them is to be vocal with your support. Consider using your corporate platforms, making posts, adding window stickers of the Pride flag, and including supportive statements on your website and within job descriptions. Especially in this tense social climate, silence is complicity. Don’t be afraid to use your voice and keep the community both inside and outside of your company feeling accepted and supported.

How to create supportive events

When creating a Pride event, it is important to make sure attendees feel safe and comfortable being their true selves from the minute they walk through the door. We see many oversights and missed opportunities at Pride events.  Here are a few tips for success:

  • Create an inclusive necessity: the bathroom: The first step is creating a welcoming environment for people to use the bathrooms. A gender-neutral bathroom allows for everyone to feel comfortable and gives attendees a safe space to use the facilities without the worry of discrimination in the space they feel most comfortable in. Having visible signage indicating “Whichever” on the outside of the washroom creates a welcoming message to attendees so they don’t need to make the decision on their own.
  • Engage queer entertainers (and safely!): One of the most common 2SLGBTQI+ entertainers are the drag artists. Drag is typically when a person dresses up in an exaggerated hyper-feminine or hyper-masculine costume typically from the opposite gender or a mix of the two (Non-Binary Drag). Along with drag, consider queer public speakers, artists, singers, and other entertainers. Be aware that it can be quite daunting to go out in public for many of these performers so creating an accepting space is key.  It is also important to make sure these entertainers feel safe and comfortable traveling to and from your event, so providing safe transportation like an Uber or a taxi is a small touch but very important. Also be aware that there is a lot of hate towards the 2SLGBTQ+ community so having extra security on site is crucial. 
  • Support LGBTQIA+ vendors: When creating an event, for Pride especially, it is important to source from vendors that are either queer-owned or have spoken openly about their support for the community and/or have made generous donations to organizations that help 2SLGBTQI+ people in need. A great example is when Mill Street Brewery did a collaboration with Canada’s Drag Race season 1 star, Lemon. The brewery created a “Lemon Wheat” beer and donated $20,000 from the sales of the beer to Rainbow Railroad, an incredible organization who helps 2SLGBTQI+ refugee’s escape unsafe countries to come to Canada for a better life. $20,000 given to this organization is enough to bring 2 refugees over to Canada. This is a perfect example of a good corporate ally.

With all the joy surrounding Pride events and the celebration of the queer community, it is important for companies to demonstrate allyship in a variety of ways with their brands and marketing events. Please consider the above, have fun, stay safe, remember to drink water, and have a very happy Pride month!

Black and white headshot of Michaela Halpern

Michaela Halpern

Senior Designer, Creative Services

Black and white headshot of Marco Briganti

marco briganti

Senior Coordinator, Conference & Events

Black and white headshot of Jacob Sanchez

Jake Sanchez


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