Diversity Thought Leadership

S&T Live Recap: Organizations Can Engage With LGBTQ+ Community Year-Round

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Why does Pride Month feel different this year?

Ben Finzel says the upcoming presidential election has created a sense of dread for people regardless of their political affiliations. At the same time, the pall of the COVID pandemic has yet to clear entirely. These developments have affected the culture in general, he said.

“The other big thing we have to acknowledge is the concerted attack on our community, almost from all sides, legislatively and regulatorily in some states,” said Finzel, president of RENEWPR in Washington, D.C., a communications firm that focuses on energy, environment and equity.

For Pride Month in June of this year, the mood was more subdued, with companies and organizations “not being as welcoming or as embracing of us as maybe they were in years past,” said Finzel, guest of the June 27 episode of  Strategies & Tactics Live, PRSA’s monthly livestream series on LinkedIn.

“It feels like we were overlooked” this year, said Finzel, a member of the executive committee of PRSA’s Counselors Academy. Finzel also addressed the topic in a PRsay post this month titled “Pride Month in a Year of Loathing: Allies Needed.”

John Elsasser, editor-in-chief of PRSA’s Strategies & Tactics and host of S&T Live, asked Finzel how the challenges facing the LGBTQ+ community make Pride more crucial than ever.

S&T Live Ben Finzel

“If we don’t appropriately engage around acknowledging and embracing our community, not just this month but year-round, that poses a real challenge in terms of what happens next,” Finzel said. “If it feels like there’s no public involvement or engagement with our community, [then] it’s that much easier” for legislative, regulatory and physical attacks to continue.

“It is a tough time to be trans in this country,” Finzel said. “It’s a tough time to be an LGBTQ person of color in this country. It’s increasingly tough for women, whether you’re LGBTQ or not.”

He said organizations should go beyond acceptance and become actively involved with the LGBTQ+ community. Finzel suggested that companies advocate for equality and provide resources for employees who are transitioning their genders.

‘Rainbow washing’ and ‘pink hushing’

“You don’t want rainbow washing, you don’t want folks just throwing a rainbow up everywhere and saying, ‘Woo, we’re gay-friendly, yay!’ while they’re doing nothing else,” he said. Meanwhile, “Their policies haven’t changed, regarding equal benefits and access to promotions, for example. They’re still donating to anti-LGBTQ politicians.”

On the other hand, “We also don’t want pink-hushing,” meaning that an organization promises to be gay-friendly but then doesn’t mention its support publicly. He suggested such organizations talk about their friends and families, colleagues and coworkers who are LGBTQ+ “and what they might need to keep going.”

Finzel said individuals can engage with the LGBTQ+ community by marching in Pride parades, hosting drag-queen story hours, putting rainbow flags on their houses or helping to elect LGBTQ-friendly politicians. Such demonstrations of support, he said, have “a huge impact and are really important.”

For organizations, the consequences of not engaging with the LGBTQ+ community are real and lasting, he said.

Watch a replay of the episode here.

Photo credit: methaphum


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