The scene at the World Pride Parade in New York.

Although many of the Pride parades are canceled due to COVID-19, the powerful LGBTQ community keeps pushing ahead, according to a study from global strategy and management consulting firm Kearney.

“Unstoppable for 50 years: LGBTQ+ Pride marches forward,” a report released today, recognizing the 50th anniversary of the original New York City Christopher Street Liberation Day march, notes that this year’s Pride Month comes during an intersection of two major events — that of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that of a pattern of violence against Black people, the latter of which recently came to a head over several murders by police offers, resulting in protests nationwide. While the LGBTQ community can’t celebrate Pride with a parade due to COVID-19, they are coming out to support Black Lives Matter.

For its study, Kearney surveyed 250 members of the LGBTQ community to understand how they intend to celebrate Pride Month this year in light of the fact that their most visible public expression is suddenly unavailable.

“Even with COVID-19, nearly nine out of 10 LGBTQ+ individuals intend on celebrating Pride this year — underlining the solidarity of the community and commitment to celebrate its history and diverse identity,” said Corey Chafin, principal in Kearney’s Consumer practice and lead author of the report. “Though celebrating will look different than in years past, 83 percent of our LGBTQ+ panel told us they will be connecting with other members of the community; 65 percent will be displaying Pride-themed merchandise, and 50 percent  will participate in LGBTQ+ advocacy,” he said. Specifically, the study found that 33 percent will be donating to LGBTQ causes, 19 percent through political advocacy and 19 percent by volunteering with LGBTQ organizations.

As for how companies should engage with the LGBTQ community, advocacy and display are the two main drivers. Some 65 percent  of LGBTQ individuals said they would like to see them sponsor Pride through advocacy. Of that, 25 percent favored donating to LGBTQ causes, 15 percent want businesses to start a COVID-19 support fund for LGBTQ individuals, 14 percent suggested sponsoring virtual Pride events, and 11 percent want to see LGBTQ individuals celebrated in corporate advertising. Some 35 percent most want companies to sponsor Pride through display, including media celebrating Pride Month (24 percent) and releasing Pride-themed products for purchase (11 percent).

When asked how they intend to celebrate Pride Month this year, LGBTQ individuals living in the largest 20 U.S. cities versus less populated areas are 1.7 times  more likely to decorate their homes, 1.6 times more likely to celebrate via advocating and 1.3 times more likely to attend virtual organized events. And, in response to what words most describe what Pride Month meant to them as LGBTQ individuals,  “freedom” came up 69 times, “love,” 61 times, “acceptance,” 51 times, and pride, 50 times. Other words they mentioned frequently included happy, amazing, celebration, equality, and individual.

Kearney found out that one of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is that the “check-off-the-box,” superficial responses aren’t readily available and to many in the community, those easy outs never rang true in the first place. The LGBTQ community has advanced farther and faster than comparable human and civil rights organizations in large part by never confusing triumphing in a few battles with winning true, unfiltered equality, Chafin said. The three-faceted approach — connecting, displaying and advocating — offers a path for corporate America to engage with the LGBTQ community on a deeper and more tangible level.

“Writing a sponsorship check for a local parade isn’t an option this year. Companies should focus on genuine, authentic efforts in support of LGBTQ+ advocacy,” said Chafin.

He told WWD, “What LBGTQ consumers expect from companies, particularly this year, is greater emphasis on advocacy, and financial support is one of the best ways to do it. It’s not just writing a check and you’re done. What are you doing the other 11 months of the year, and how are you supporting your employees, trans-health benefits, and what are these infrastructural type things you can do to be living those values and celebrating Pride? This population of consumers will see right through anything that feels inauthentic, and it takes quite a bit of time to build trust with this consumer group.”

“Twelve months a year is quite important. Certainly during June there’s an expectation for increased support,” added Chafin.

“The bottom line is that companies need to think beyond the bottom line,” he said. “Authentic responses require actual actions inside and outside the corporate headquarters — good recruitment, retention and promotion of LGBTQ+ employees, not only rainbow flags in the break room during June; engaging with the community 12 months a year, and most importantly recognizing members of the LGTBQ+ community as unique individuals who, combined, have enormous economic and social power.”

Asked which companies he thinks are doing the Pride effort well, Chafin said, “From the consumer companies, Target is always a good example. It’s not just what they do during Pride Month, but it’s about what they do the 11 other months of the year as well.” For example, he said, a few years ago, they eliminated the boys and girls sections of the toy department, and made it one department. “It’s things like that what they do, so during Pride Month, people see there’s authentic intent behind it,” he said. He cited another good example as Nike.

However, he feels that certain companies which come up with capsules for one month only could be considered inauthentic, “It’s very clear-cut what companies mean what they say, and which ones do not,” said Chafin. He said when companies mean what they say it can work well, such as Target, Levi’s and Nike. He said companies that are lower down on the ranking and come up with Pride apparel, it’s seen as an attempt to drive an uptick in sales.

Chafin believes that Pride should combine with Black Lives Matter events. “Absolutely, if you look across the country, a lot of the Pride marches are Black Lives Matter/Pride marches,” said Chafin. He noted that the history of LGBTQ is rooted in racial injustice. In the Stonewall riots, a Black trans woman threw the first brick. There’s a lot of connectivity and common cause between those two communities, he said.  He quoted Micah Bazant, a trans visual artist, who said, “No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.”


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