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Pride 2023: Rainbow Washing is Not Enough

As we all know, June is pride month. Often seen as a vibrant celebration of love and perseverance – pride is no new concept. Pride is, first and foremost, a protest. It is a declaration that the rights and freedoms of 2SLGBTQIA+ persons are not optional, and identity is not up for discussion.

2SLGBTQIA+ persons have been the unwilling subjects of targeted attacks for time immemorial; victories have been hard fought and won at a considerable cost. Progress, though glacial, seemed to be on the incline. But, over the last couple of years, there has been a sharp rise in anti-trans, and anti-2SLGBTQIA+ discourse – with 2023 having a decidedly queer panic in the air.

Hordes of angry protesters camp out in front of cafés that dare to host drag brunches. Schoolboards ban books. Hate-motivated violence toward trans, gender diverse, and queer folks is surging. This behaviour is legitimized by elected officials who espouse this rhetoric on the global stage. Most recently, all eyes have been South-of-the-border where anti-trans legislation is being passed at breakneck speed. But it is reductive to label this an “American” problem; in Canada, we have more than our fair share of hostile groups who would see 2SLGBTQIA+ folks face a similar fate.

For those joining the "celebration" of Pride from the perspective of allyship, there is a conversation to be had about whether the title of ally has been earned.

That brings us back to June. 'Tis the season for rainbow washing, or rather, it usually would be. Yet, it seems that this year many corporations are being uncharacteristically quiet and side-stepping their typical month-long performance of allyship. Where cheery ROYGBV billboards for department stores once stood (buy our track pants, we support you!), a subtle or silent “endorsement” of pride now stands in its place – they publish a toned-down Instagram post or a disclaimer on their website. Many companies are backtracking on their previous public stances. Assuring their queer patrons that they “stand with them”, while providing no evidence of the sort.

So, what gives? Are we, as a society, slowly giving way to the increasingly violent and destructive rhetoric that is being shared across media? Are we remaining neutral to appease a growingly temperamental and misinformed audience?

It goes without saying, that here at ParriagGroup, we are not in the business of protecting hate. Anyone who has worked with us knows we are committed to having the necessary conversations, even when they’re the hard conversations. And our commitment to radical allyship extends well beyond the month of June. We are committed to Diversity, Accessibility, Equity, Inclusion, and Respect (DAEIR), as well as anti-oppressive and anti-racist practices.

Here’s a quick reminder of our anti-oppression commitments for those not in the know. ParriagGroup is committed to: Understanding oppression; Examining privilege; Amplifying voices; Reducing barriers; Cultivating inclusion; Providing care; Developing diversity; and Accepting criticism. And let’s get one thing clear. These core principles don’t simply apply to how we work, they also detail what we expect from our working partnerships.

This pride month we encourage you to join us in making your allyship known and to recognize that this is a critical moment to show up for your queer, trans, and gender-diverse neighbours. We encourage you (and ourselves) to examine and deconstruct harmful views. And for those being targeted most personally by these swaths of attacks, we see you. We won’t stop fighting with you. You deserve safety. You deserve freedom. You deserve pride.

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