A year ago, Pride Month 2019 was the largest celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people in history—over twenty million people attended Pride events, including over five million at New York’s Pride Weekend. What a difference a year makes. This year, there won’t be any parades, parties, or large public gatherings. There’s nowhere we can all gather in person to show our support for the LGBTQIA+ community — not safely, at least.
So how do we continue to advocate for human rights in this era of social distancing? We need to be more informed, more involved, and more creative.
Did you know that fifty years ago, it was basically illegal to be gay in the United States? Pride Month began as a result of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, a protest where members of the gay community united to stop police from harassing citizens at gay bars and clubs. The demonstration lasted for days and ultimately led to the formation of the Gay Liberation Front and other civil rights organizations. June was later designated LGBTQIA+ Pride Month to commemorate Stonewall.
It wasn’t until 1987 that American psychiatrists stopped officially classifying homosexuality as a mental illness. Seriously.
Think that’s embarrassing and shameful? Now consider this: today over seventy United Nations member states still criminalize same-sex relations between consenting adults. In twenty-six of those countries, the penalty varies from ten years to life in prison. Wait, it gets even worse: twelve of those countries still consider being gay punishable by death. Yes, the death penalty. For being gay. In 2020.
We’ve clearly still got a lot of work to do as a species. More than ever, strong allies and advocates are needed.
The iconic Rainbow Flag was designed by Gilbert Baker in 1974, at the request of influential politician Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the history of California. When Milk was assassinated four years later, the flag became a worldwide symbol for standing up to oppression.
In 2015, the Museum of Modern Art acquired the flag symbol as part of its design collection. Later that month, the White House was illuminated in the flag’s colors to commemorate the legalization of same-sex marriage.
An emoji version of the flag was released in 2016.
Gilbert Baker died in 2017. To honor his memory, our friends at Fontself created a font named Gilbert that was inspired by his iconic Rainbow Flag design. Download the Gilbert font free here.
It might be a while before we can physically march together again—with actual flags and signs and stuff—but we can still use our digital platforms to raise awareness and show our support for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Check out Elle’s list of virtual experiences that aim to introduce Pride festivities to an entirely new global audience who might otherwise not have access. The Washington Post also lists some other cool virtual events that are bringing communities together through shared online experiences.
A few months ago, we took the TechTown: Pledge and made a real commitment to fostering diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. Since 2013, TechTown has made it their mission to build a Portland tech industry for everyone, adding LGBTQIA+ and other underrepresented groups to the tech workforce. We’re proud to be involved with their outstanding organization, and working with them towards a better future.
Check out my recent Q&A on the TechTown blog here.
How can you embrace diversity and inclusion year-round? Support local LGBTQIA+ businesses, volunteer your time (and funds if you have them) to causes that are making a difference, and keep pushing yourself to better understand support those around you. Social distancing means that our community engagement has changed dramatically, but remember that you are still a part of a community, and it’s your responsibility to ensure that its values thrive.
Want to learn more about Extensis? Check out our Core Values here.