Originally published in August 2019.
July is over. June is but a fading memory. And all of the colorful rainbow collections that were created for 2019 Pride have been designated to the clearance section.
While a spendthrift like me loves digging for clearance gold, the sudden lack of rainbows begs the question: how much of our society’s LGBTQ+ support has disappeared with June? Now that there aren’t parades, pride hashtags, and celebrity activism on Instagram, how many people are still voicing their concern for the daily struggles of the LGBTQ+ community? Have companies that donated portions of their Pride profits to causes like The Trevor Project continued to advocate for their new demographic? Or has their new-found concern already found its way to the clearance section?
Businesses that advocate for the LGBTQ+ community start not with rainbow-tinged products, but with ethical business practices supporting all gender identities and taking a stand against anti-discriminatory behavior.
There is no federal law against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity; only 20 states and Washington DC have laws that explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Everyone else has been left to their devices, and the results have not been in favor of the LGBTQ community.
Twenty-five percent of the LGBTQ+ community has reported discrimination at work in the last five years, and 10% have left a job because the work environment was toxic. Fifty percent of transgender people have been harassed at work.
When one considers how frequently racism, transphobia, and homophobia cross paths, the numbers only get worse (40% of Black transgender people live in poverty, compared to the 24% poverty rate of Black people in the US).
When businesses create a work environment that hires, supports, and advocates for all of their employees, greater steps are taken toward long-term positive change for the LGBTQ+ community than a one-time donation or appearance in a parade.
How does this look in action?
In 2016, Target publicly announced their support of the federal Equality Act and encouraged all guests and employees to use the dressing room or restroom that best suited their comfort level. It may appear minor, but such a statement demonstrates inclusivity as their official corporate policy; they are a company that welcomes all team members and they will not ask any team member to put on a mask for the workplace. Access to workplaces that value inclusivity can offer not only reliable income but a source of structural support.
Such a simple statement of support has proven to be too much for other companies to provide.
Both Victoria Secret and Megabus engaged in pride-washing or rainbow-washing. Rainbow-washing is when a company brands products with rainbows for financial gain, with no interest of becoming an ally of substance—such as when Ed Razek (CMO for VS) and Brian Souter (co-founder of Stagecoach, parent company of Megabus) both issued increasingly transphobic and homophobic statements, only to try and cash in on Pride, months later.
Additionally, if a business is engaged in regular dialogue with the LGBTQ+ community and is advocating for them, their business investments and charitable donations should reflect this relationship; money funneled into a harmful cause, due to its financial gain for the company also demonstrates rainbow-washing.
But what to do with this information? What if I need to buy a nice bra, I mean pajamas . . . where do I go? And how do you determine if your . . . pajamas are the right size? Because this underwire seems unnecessarily awkward.
Good news, friend.
The Human Rights Campaign issued their 2019 Corporate Equality Index, rating Fortune-ranked workplaces on how well they fulfill non-discrimination policies, on a scale of 0-100. The full report is free and available online, so it is easy and convenient to check if your usual haunts are doing their part for the LGBTQ+ community. If you are less than satisfied with the answer, there are plenty of other pajama-manufacturers that deserve your business.
Dr. Jessica Paull is a doctor, but cannot help with that rash—please see your regular medical provider. Her degree is in Sociology, with a focus on Inequality, which she uses to analyze pop culture or anything within a ten-foot radius. Jessica’s happy place is filled with coffee, puppies, and vintage dresses. She hopes to leave the world slightly better than she found it.