July 2, 2014 | by Mark Lee
The business of a broadening pride in equality
corporate, gay news, Washington Blade

Enterprise takes as much pride in standing with us as we do in joining with one another and a supportive community. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Gay Pride celebrations across the country this summer have offered a unique reflection of an astounding moment in time. Now part internal community celebration and a simultaneous measure of external engagement and broader public affirmation, these annual events have increasingly become more party and less protest.

In D.C., some have casually predicted that the local Capital Pride festivities will soon involve attendance by as many non-gay area residents as the high-profile Halloween-themed “High-Heel Race” now does each October on 17th Street in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. Others wonder whether gay participation in Pride events will begin to diminish in coming years, especially in localities like the District where the LGBT community enjoys a full complement of civil equality and commonplace community embrace.

The annual Pride Parade on Saturday that kicks off the early June weekend in the nation’s capital each year has gradually become at least as well-attended as the next-day downtown Festival and a broadly shared community-wide event. More than ever before, this year an entire city and metropolitan area took notice of the dual events amid a wave of unprecedented local media coverage, community news features and special publication and broadcast profiles.

Businesses large and small, and national and local, are the major event sponsors and primary financial underwriters.

Dorothy, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.

The accelerating nationwide acceptance of lesbians and gays alongside political approval of same-sex relationships and marriage equality has heightened the focus of the larger community. With distinct national majorities now in full support of gay rights and approving of our relationships and right to marry should we so choose, locally it seemed an entire city wanted to share in a commemoration of that development. It was essentially “gay weekend” for everyone, unlike any previous iteration.

Of course, all of this might be merely a temporary phenomenon, perhaps a collective exhale that local and national culture has progressed to dominant status with normative acceptance of gays and lesbians within a framework of equal treatment under the law as the new societal standard. The larger citizenry’s involvement in marking this advance may end up mirroring our own declining and potentially growing disinterest in this tradition of memorialized revelry.

For the time being at least, broad civic engagement and corporate sponsorship of these annual Stonewall-saluting events will remain substantial and business engagement is likely to grow even more prominent. As notable as the increasing corporate participation and brand affiliation with Pride events has become, it represents an overall explosion in general marketing to the gay community year-round. While prior national outreach to gays and lesbians was largely limited to alcohol and other specific product categories with already-established consumer and venue relationships, commercial communication now involves an enlarged spectrum of commerce.

Especially significant, no longer is this association narrow in breadth of exposure or limited to being “dog-whistle” in nature. It is direct and non-ambiguous, as well as pervasive, utilizing images as authentic as our lives today. Conveyed with the nonchalance it should be, corporate outreach is now an ordinary marketplace activity.

Companies have caught on that the benefits of reaching out to a wide range of diverse market segments without hesitation or hidden from others includes the gay community. Businesses understand the value of target-specific communication, whether a national or local product or service. Nowadays it also reaps benefit within other demographics by signifying a contemporary cultural affinity critical to creating a positive brand image reflective of modern mores.

Cultural codification through corporate encouragement rivals even the impact of legislation, as it empowers the community change in attitude that paves the way for it.

Corporate America and local businesses alike are strong allies for equality. Enterprise takes as much pride in standing with us as we do in joining with one another and a supportive community.

That’s important to business and is the part of winning that should make us proud.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

1 Comment
  • The LGBT community in D.C. enjoys a full complement of civil equality and commonplace community acceptance?

    50% transgender unemployment in D.C. . . . Hate crime. . . . Homeless trans people being thrown out of homeless shelters or forced to stay with the wrong gender. . . . Widespread lack of compliance with civil rights law meant to assure safe bathroom access, like labeling single stall restrooms as unisex.

    Maybe there is a full complement of civil equality and commonplace community acceptance for the LGB community. But not the LGBT community. The LGBT community contains a T that experiences much different treatment.

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