After years in which annual LGBTQ Pride events have promoted a festive, celebratory atmosphere, it can be difficult to recall that the pride movement is rooted in street protests against police brutality. However, the past is always present. The energy of Black Lives Matter activism has sparked a renewal of the original LGBTQ protest spirit. That creates new challenges - and opportunities - for corporations seeking to establish an inclusive brand as a Pride Month supporter.
The birth of the modern LGBTQ equality movement has been credited to Marsha P. Johnson and other Black transgender women who were instrumental in the pushback against police violence in the late 20th century, most famously during the 1969 police raid of the Stonewall bar in New York City.
Despite the legalization of gay marriage and other significant milestones of progress, the twin narratives of transgender rights and race-based law enforcement have continued to play out in many forms, including “walking while trans” laws that have been deployed to target transgender women of color.
The fragility of gains in equal rights for both LGBTQ persons and Blacks in America was underscored by the tenure of former President and accused insurrectionist Donald Trump, who wrapped his political identity around erasing the identity of transgender persons and coddling white supremacists.
The confluence of the LGBTQ rights movement and Black Lives Matter came into full force after the murder of George Floyd by an on-duty police officer almost one year ago on May 25, just days before the launch of 2020 Pride Month festivities.
The annual celebration was already muted by the COVID-19 outbreak, and the murder of George Floyd set the stage for a re-examination of the relationships between LGBTQ activists and law enforcement.
Against this backdrop, last weekend NYC Pride announced that it has banned the New York City Police Department from participating in its Pride Month events.
“NYC Pride seeks to create safer spaces for the LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC communities at a time when violence against marginalized groups, specifically BIPOC and trans communities, has continued to escalate,” NYC Pride explained. “The sense of safety that law enforcement is meant to provide can instead be threatening, and at times dangerous, to those in our community who are most often targeted with excessive force and/or without reason.”
“NYC Pride is unwilling to contribute in any way to creating an atmosphere of fear or harm for members of the community. The steps being taken by the organization challenge law enforcement to acknowledge their harm and to correct course moving forward, in hopes of making an impactful change,” the organization added.
The ban will be in effect for at least four years, pending a review in 2025 by the NYC Price Executive Board and its Community Relations and Diversity, Accessibility, and Inclusion committees.
Corporate sponsors that have been burnishing their social responsibility cred during Pride Month would do well to engage with NYC Pride, listen, and learn as the organization re-examines its relationship with law enforcement, the Black Lives Matter movement and all people of color.
As described by NYC Pride co-chair André Thomas, the decision to ban police participation followed “many months of conversation and discussion with key stakeholders in the community.” In particular, Thomas noted the contributions of the Anti-Violence Project and the National Black Justice Coalition, as well as Anita Dolce Vita of the digital magazine DapperQ and the non-binary writer, model and advocate Devin Norelle.
Corporate sponsors can also take a cue from NYC’s Pride renewed focus on community partnerships, as part of its strategy for motivating police reform.
“NYC Pride is also taking steps to increase the quality and quantity of partnerships with community-based organizations,” the organization explained, adding that “The dedicated QPOC contingent of the NYC Pride March will be prominently featured this year and in future years thereafter. NYC Pride will also commit to increasing Black-led, Black-centered partnerships and establishing long-term vendor relationships with minority-owned businesses in an effort to uplift queer and BIPOC-centered organizations.”
One way in which business leaders can help support NYC Pride’s new focus is by pushing back against the recent series of vicious attacks on transgender children under the guise of state-based legislation on school sports. At least one such law has passed in Arkansas, and other bills that health care options for transgender children are under consideration in at least 14 other states. That should be a wake-up call for any business that professes to support LGBTQ rights and Black Lives Matter.
Editor's note: Be sure to subscribe to our Brands Taking Stands newsletter, which comes out every Wednesday.
In that regard, it appears that T-Mobile has set a high bar for itself and other corporations to meet.
As the presenting sponsor, T-Mobile is featured on the 2021 NYC Pride web page, which highlights transgender people of color in this year’s theme, “The Fight Continues.”
“With the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing, issues of police brutality, the alarming murder rate for trans POC, economic hardship, climate disasters, violent efforts to disenfranchise voters, our rights as a community being questioned at the level of the Supreme Court, and more, we are in the midst of many different fights,” NYC Pride explained.
“We’re fighting for ourselves, fighting for the BIPOC and trans members of our community, and fighting for future generations,” added Thomas.
In addition to T-Mobile, a laundry list of leading corporate sponsors has lined up in support of NYC Pride’s plans for Pride Month 2021.
In view of NYC Pride’s emphasis on voter suppression as a crucial issue for LGBTQ rights, now would be a good time for some of these companies to re-examine their policies on corporate support for state and federal legislators, as well.
Image credit: Tatiana Rodriguez/Unsplash
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.