08 Sep 2023
How NOT to be an Ally During Pride
A reflection on Pride season
Allyship noun - Conditional support for the LGBTQIA+ community when financially advantageous, followed by quick abandonment when confronted by those who oppose human rights.
UK Black Pride, an alternative and inclusive pride celebration that takes place in London was held a few weeks ago on 19 August. In contrast to other mainstream pride celebrations, the corporate presence at UK Black Pride is minimal and chosen carefully for the good they are doing for the community.
I am pleased to see careful regulation of corporate participation in a pride event after becoming increasingly aware of the rising number of companies who utilise pride branding whilst also simultaneously being sympathetic to anti-LGBTQIA+ views. Scrutinising and improving allyship is something both Diversifying Group and myself personally take pride in doing, and 2023 saw a lot of very questionable LGBTQIA+ allyship in the corporate world.
In April, Bud Light came under scrutiny for working with Dylan Mulvaney, a trans celebrity. Subsequently, they were one of the first to fall to what has since become a standard template for corporate neutrality on human rights issues in 2023. After years of co-opting rainbow flags in order to sell products, when challenged by those who oppose LGBTQIA+ rights, countless other organisations used the template of performative allyship by releasing a fence-sitting statement, usually along the lines of: ‘We fully support both the LGBT+ community and also individual rights to personal beliefs regarding sexuality and gender.’
You can’t support the LGBTQIA+ community if you also uphold an individual’s right to philosophical beliefs that LGBTQIA+ people shouldn’t or don’t exist. You would have to have your head buried pretty deep in the sand not to see the increased discrimination toward the community, whether that’s policy changes, media coverage, hate crimes, or mortality rates. These figures now increase year on year, in particular, trans people bear the brunt of this. The discourse surrounding LGBTQIA+ identities is at a fever pitch and it is creating social changes that are impacting said lives very negatively. This is not a situation where one can play both sides, neutrality isn’t neutral, it’s giving a platform to those who create this change. Validating their voices reinforces the idea that it’s okay to believe that certain people should not have rights because of who they are, and that people who are having their rights stripped should co-exist in social harmony with these personal philosophies of identity subjugation.
Variances in sex, gender, and sexuality have always existed and will always exist, while social norms for these change throughout the globe and human history. Just because there is a current cultural storm of anti-LGBTQIA+ discrimination it does not mean that playing both sides of this exchange is an acceptable form of allyship. If an organisation truly believes in an equal, diverse, and inclusive world of work then that means taking the hit of not appealing to everyone when people call them out for visibly including the LGBTQIA+ community. If they can’t explicitly state wholehearted support, which includes standing against those who oppose LGBTQIA+ rights, then I would argue that branding with anything pride-related is hypocritical and should be avoided.
Pride is a time for the community to come together. Limiting corporate attendance to allow for more quality assurance and ensuring that organisations attending pride events have the community’s best interest at heart is more important than ever in this social climate. I would love to see more implementation of this across other pride celebrations, giving space to genuine allies rather than to performative ones.
By Almaas Bokhari, Process Team Leader