My name is Tom Conway, and I am the queer CEO of Small Business BC, an organization dedicated to supporting small business owners and entrepreneurs of every background. I am especially grateful for this opportunity to share my thoughts about Pride in our community beyond the rainbow flags, parades and partnership memes.
Pride has a rich and tumultuous political history. The uprising is named after a gay bar, called the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s West Village, where patrons and other community members fought back against harassment starting on June 28, 1969. Drag Queen Marsha P. Johnson, the outspoken, gender non-conforming advocate for queer rights was one of the prominent figures during the Stonewall Riots. While LGBTQ2S+ folks have long been fighting for equality, the origin of June as Pride Month stems in part from the riots and the sacrifices made by Marsha and countless others.
Pride can be defined as “consciousness of one’s own dignity.” And while folks rightfully celebrate Pride Month as a time to recognize the progress that has been made since Stonewall, it is just as important to acknowledge how far we still must go as a society. According to Statistics Canada, the country is home to approximately one million people who are LGBTQ2S+, accounting for 4% of the total population aged 15 and older in 2018. And while much has been accomplished since the beginning of the new millennium, including the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2005, and protecting gender expression and identity in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code in 2017, concerns remain, given the spike in hate crimes targeting LGBTQ2+ Canadians. Members of the LGBTQ2S+ community still face inequality and discrimination each and every day.
LGBTQ2S+ folks are appreciative of our allies – those who do not identify as LGBTQ2S+ but take action to support those of us who are. We are grateful for your intentional, positive, and conscious efforts to advance a culture of inclusion.
Eighty-five percent of respondents to a recent annual survey agree – businesses that support LGBTQ2S+ equality are more important than ever, and 80% plan to support those businesses. Which is great news for sales as conservative estimates suggest global LGBTQ2S+ spending hovers at $3.7 trillion USD!
And while companies show their support during Pride Month by rebranding their corporate social media profiles to feature rainbow-colored, well, everything, we are naturally drawn to ask whether these companies are also working to implement real change for the community year-round? Celebrating Pride and showing your support for the LGBTQ2S+ community is about honoring human rights, which is always welcome.