50 years on from Stonewall, Access examines Pride’s challenges, ambitions and spirit.
Gay pride or LGBT+ pride is billed as the positive stance against discrimination and violence toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT+) people to promote their self-affirmation, dignity, equality rights, increase their visibility as a social group, build community, and celebrate sexual diversity and gender variance…
Access attended Pride in London for the first time on 6 July, and was overwhelmed by the scale of the event. And, while the event is not without its critics – highlighted by some poignant words from Lyall Hakaraia – its notable that the London event stands in contrast to the backwards views of much of the world, as shown in our chart on p12.
The critics voices have been particularly loud this year, and were perhaps summed up at Cannes Lions by the CEO of Unilever, Alan Jope who said: “Green-washing, purpose-washing, cause-washing, woke-washing. It’s beginning to infect our industry. It’s polluting purpose.”
If brands truly want to earn the right to play, words alone are not enough, argues Amplify’s founder Jonathan Emmins. “They needed to be prepared to back it up with their actions…”
Emmins however, is keen to call out proactive uses of the Pride or LGBT+ monikers. “Starbucks, for example, offer extended healthcare benefits for their transgender workers. Gap and Levi issued a joint statement against the Indiana law which could protect business owners who refuse service to LGBT+ customers. And companies like IKEA, Paypal, Microsoft, and Uber are making commitments in-house, scoring a perfect 100 in the Corporate Equality Index, which measures workplace parity for LGBT+ employees.”
This feature gives voice to Pride’s organisers and critics alike, but also points to alternative LGBT+ events that happily sit and thrive in the event mix.
Pride in action
Dan O Gorman, strategic partnerships director at Pride in London, talks to Access.
What is your role and remit at Pride in London and what are the organisation’s goals?
My remit as strategic partnerships director is to oversee all of our relationships with the brand partners who support Pride in London each year. These partnerships can entail financial support or support with particular services, such as the legal counsel from which we receive support and resources from CMS. In either case, my team and I work closely with each partner to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship with Pride in London, and that the relationship is credible, authentic and truly delivers for all parts of the LGBT+ community.
What sorts of creative challenges has the organisation faced living up to such a momentous year for Pride?
With it being the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, we really have to take stock of how far we’ve come while also marking the vital contributions and sacrifices made by marginalised members of our community, such as trans women of colour. They continue to be underrepresented in marketing and brand campaigns, so it was essential that they were at the forefront of everything we did this year – including our Pride Festival, campaign film, Pride’s Got Talent competition and more.
What were the big organisational and logistical challenges this year?
One of the biggest logistical challenges when it comes to partnerships is making sure that they are credible and authentic in terms of their support for Pride in London. This means getting ongoing assurance from partners that they are continuing to strive to be allies of the LGBT+ community 365 days a year, while also advocating for our message and mission.
Every year we formalise this with our LGBT+ Ethical Policy – a concrete set of standards that all new and existing partners must commit to, covering employee rights and engagement, staff training on LGBT+ issues, and proactively showing support for the community – among other requirements.
There is also a job to be done in terms of educating the wider community on how partners support the organisation, our volunteers and other community/charitable groups. Many brands donate hundreds of hours of employee time, substantial amounts of food and water for our volunteers, provide meeting/networking spaces, and accommodation for groups travelling in to London for Parade day, among other things. Without our partners, Pride in London would simply not be the same – particularly in its biggest and most diverse year ever.
How has Pride changed over the years in terms of format, messaging etc?
Though Pride in London has changed significantly in terms of size and scale since the first UK Gay Pride Rally in 1972, the message remains the same: we must keep fighting for equality for all.
Even in the last month we’ve been reminded that the great strides in equality that some of us enjoy today are not shared by everyone in our community. Couples are being attacked in public, trans people continue to face discrimination and abuse, and LGBT+ people still face injustice globally: it is clear that the fight is not yet won. Our #PrideJubilee theme this year is about recognising that we have much to learn from the queer pioneers who came before us, and that we must take collective responsibility to understand our history.
Tell us about the international reach of Pride, and is there much co-ordination?
Naturally on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising there were expectations that we would be looking to New York, so one of our big challenges was making sure that the #PrideJubilee felt relevant and specific to London as one of the top LGBT+ cities in the world. Just a week after World Pride all eyes are on us as the LGBT+ capital of Europe, and we certainly saw significant international reach through our press coverage from this weekend – with articles in the USA, India, Australia and beyond.