At VC, we celebrate Pride 365.25 days per year. We believe that true allies need to support the fight for LGBTQ2S+ rights year-round, with intention and with consideration of impact.
Here are our reflections on this year's Pride month – the good, the bad, and the ugly; what we, as a community, can do to be allies all year long; and especially why this matters.
Pride 2021 - The Good
Every year, we increase our Pride-related communications and introduce new apparel designs for June, and 2021 was no different.
We focus on Pride specifically during June, as people are open to hearing, sharing, and thinking about it.
Kellan Gibboney, the original Pronouns Collection co-creator, shared their reflections on pronoun use and how it relates to Pride in the workplace.
VC team member Jess Richard shared her reflections on being gay in life, work, and in the ultimate community in her piece Être fière (to be proud).
Our partners at Elevate Ultimate shared how their organization encompasses Pride in how they operate.
Four Elevate coaches also shared their reflections on Pronouns, and why they are important in building an inclusive environment when they are coaching.
Amplifying LGBTQ2S+ Voices & Stories
This year's beneficiary organization* is the absolutely amazing Get REAL.
The Get REAL Movement works to support youth across Canada.
As older mentors to hundreds of students each year, we began noticing that we were having success talking to our first years about derogatory (homophobic, transphobic, racist, etc) language, and creating a safe space for marginalized students who were looking to express themselves safely.
Throughout the month, Get REAL shared stories of community members, champions and allies, as well as educational information and perspectives. You can follow Get REAL at @getrealmovement.
Get REAL also shared an incident that highlights part of "the bad" we witnessed during Pride month.
Performative Allyship - The Bad
On June 2nd, Get REAL shared a troubling post. Skittles, a brand with annual sales in excess of 185 million dollars, had launched a campaign that was very similar in concept and execution to Get REAL's 2019 LGBTQr Codes campaign.
You can follow on Instagram to see how Skittles did NOT handle this well, even after being called out on it.
While this may be an extreme case of "Pride-washing" (often known as "rainbow-washing"), it illustrates the main problem with performative allyship: it perpetuates the marginalization of already marginalized communities.
What is "Rainbow-Washing"?
- Social media logos are updated to include rainbow colouring during Pride month, but shows no (or very little) support of LGBTQ2S+ communities otherwise.
- A company produces and sells Pride apparel, but is not owned, governed by, or employs members of the LGBTQ2S+ community.
- A company produces Pride-related goods without the (paid/compensated) input from LGBTQ2S+ community members, and/or without supporting a related non-profit.
Can individuals be guilty of "rainbow-washing"?
Of course. Often with the best intentions, individuals will make Pride-positive statements or gestures (like changing their profile picture to a rainbow). The question to ask is "are you doing anything to have an actual positive impact?"
- Are you supporting/donating to existing LGBTQ2S+ organizations working to support the community, and save youth lives?
- Are you educating yourself on the roots of the systemic oppression and the current issues faced by LGBTQ2S+ community members? Are you talking to your kids, family members, and friends about what you're learning?
- Are you supporting companies and/or political parties who are investing in candidates who believe in conversion therapy or attacks on Trans youth?
- Have you researched any part of this post you hadn't heard of or knew enough about to have a conversation?
When it comes to performative allyship, one main question to ask yourself is: is the action I am doing having a positive impact, or is it just making us look/feel good? If not, it is likely perpetuating the acceptance of non-impactful actions that actually further perpetuate the oppression.
It's never too late to reflect, learn, and starting acting. Join us!
If you are still hesitant to take action after learning about performative allyship, we have an even worse story to share.
This was a hard Pride month at times. As our company has grown and our social media content reaches a wider audience, we learned that haters will find us. Not once, or twice, but multiple times this month, we were forced to moderate comments and ban users for spewing hate on our Pride-positive posts.
In general, the majority of comments were of the "burn in hell" nature.
If you think that this doesn't happen in our community, you're wrong. When we released our Pronouns collection back in February, we were told to "Get F*ck*d". If you'd like to read our response, you can view our post on Standing Up.
We have to work as a community to end this hate for people simply being who they are.
Believe it or not, we have hope. We receive more messages of support than we do of hate. Although it's sometimes hard to prioritize the ones that matter over those that hurt, with our community behind us, committed to doing the actual work of allyship, we can rise above and change the landscape of sport (and life!) for the youth today and for the next generation.
Joins us, 365.25 days each year.
If you'd like to make a difference right now, please consider supporting the Get REAL Movement.
You can also shop our Pride collection, which is available year-round, and check out the full collection of Pride-related posts.
*What does it mean to be our "beneficiary organization"? VC donates 15% of all VC Pride-related sales throughout the month of June (including our Pride and Pronouns collection). This year, 136 folks joined us by picking up a piece of our Pride or Pronouns gear!
In addition to our cash donation to Get REAL, we continue to support community members and organizations with cash, apparel, and promotional support.