LGBTQ+ Pride goes beyond the rainbow

We need authentic LGBTQ+ support and celebration 365 days, thoughts from a designer.

What is rainbow washing? Well, rainbow washing or Pinkwashing is a trend where brands use rainbow symbolism and its colors to indicate their alliance with Pride and the LGBTQ+ community without committing to policies, practices, and actions that benefit LGBTQ+. In other words, companies who do not walk the walk but enjoy reaping the benefits associated with consumerism and Pride. One of the most common things we see are brands rainbow washing a logo, which is the quickest way to align themselves with Pride. The LGBTQ+ community deserves more than a rainbow logo on a t-shirt; they deserve action. 

As a designer and someone who identifies as a part of the LGBTQ+ community, I sometimes find it difficult to conceptualize Pride. So I set out to outline for myself in design and for companies to understand how they can go beyond rainbow washing and celebrate Pride with integrity while commemorating LGBTQ+ all 365 days of the year.

Evaluate what your company is already doing and build on it

Walk the walk

Make sure to take initiatives to support your LGBTQ+ Employees. Every company has a unique identity. Consider drawing inspiration from that when you support uplighting LGBTQ+ employees. Treat them as valued individuals like these thirty-one companies are doing to take initiative beyond June. IKEA stood out to me for its wholly inclusive and supportive approach in celebrating International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia to stand up for human rights.

Beyond the rainbow

Far too many times have I seen a rainbow slapped on a t-shirt, and the same “Love is Love” message regurgitated. Can’t we do better than redesigning existing products with a rainbow overlay? I’m not suggesting we remove the rainbow as it’s an essential symbol of hope. But challenge yourself and your company to think outside the box.

Put thought into what message you’re trying to relay. Lego’s “Everyone is Awesome” uses the traditional Pride rainbow colors. What stands out isn’t the rainbow but its powerful message behind the concept. Its fun and quirky design resonated with me. It allows the LGBTQ+ community to feel represented and seen: everyone belongs. It shows that things are progressing. This allows us as a community to know there is a place for everybody, no matter who they are. Our CEO, Ethan McCarty, noted in a white paper that you can lose employees by not really trying.

Amplify LGBTQ+ voices

Consider how your platforms can help spotlight LGBTQ+ voices and promote diversity. Skittles partnered up with Blair Imani to shine a light on local LGBTQ+ artists to express original murals and celebrate Pride. Lego cast spotlights on diversity and inclusion in their workplace as employees talk self-expression with Everyone is Awesome interviews. What will your company do?

Every penny helps

The LGBTQ+ is one of the most impacted communities by homelessness, mental health and has one of the highest suicide rates among youths. If you’re a local to the New York area, consider donating to The Center and The Transgender Resource Group. For those outside the New York area, The Trevor Project and The Human Rights Campaign work towards providing valuable resources for the LGBTQ+ community. Does your company offer donation matching? That’s doubling down on your impact!

Rainbow washing means LGBTQ+ 365

Your employees don’t identify as LGBTQ+ only in June. Pride celebration and allyship are not limited to one month out of the year. Consider promoting LGBTQ+ on September 10th to raise awareness for World Suicide Prevention Day or on November 20th in honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Self-Educate: go beyond rainbow washing

Don’t rely on your LGBTQ+ peers to educate you. Learn more about why Black Trans Lives Matter and how transgender mental health is under attack. Then take a pledge with actionable guidelines and a long-term commitment to being more inclusive. Need inspiration? Adobe leads an overarching initiative, “Adobe For All,” that includes all of their ERGs and promotes an inclusive culture company-wide. AdobeProud, an Employee Network is for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer colleagues and allies, participated in worldwide Pride events such as marches, panels, networking events, fundraising, and recruitment activities such as at the Lesbians Who Tech Conference.

At the end of the day, we’re all human, and companies need to acknowledge and support their people. As we continue to celebrate Pride this month, take a moment to truly embrace your LGBTQ+ peers. Create a safe space and a positive experience for everyone as we strive to improve and change our work culture. Then keep it up for the other 335 days in the year.