Advocacy groups add a shade of resistance to Pride celebrations

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The tone has changed dramatically since last year for LGBT rights groups, which are now as focused on opposing the Trump administration's policies as celebrating progress and community.

June has long been a month for LGBT Americans to celebrate progress and community. However, this year, Pride campaigns and parades are taking on a decidedly different tone: resistance.

Since President Donald Trump’s inauguration, many equality movements are refocusing their communications on protesting the White House’s policies, opposing measures such as decisions by the Departments of Justice and Education to repeal protections for transgender students. The Obama-era protections allowed transgender students to use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity rather than their biological gender. Trump also signed an executive order this month expanding religious liberty protections that LGBT groups said may increase discrimination against the community.

"No doubt right now the mood has changed," said Brian Ellner, GM of corporate and public affairs at Edelman and an LGBTQ activist. "After six years of tremendous progress that were generally marked by joyous celebration during pride month, the mood has changed as the reality at the federal level has changed."

National Pride campaigns from LGBT advocacy groups such as GLAAD and Human Rights Campaign are combining messages of unity and protest. GLAAD’s push is focusing on its Together movement launched earlier this year, represented by the ampersand sign, says Rich Ferraro, chief communications officer at the organization.

"What it represents is standing together with marginalized communities," he explains. "Pride this year is taking on a tone of resistance and at the same time a tone of unity. It’s not just LGBTQ people speaking out, but also standing with other marginalized communities."

Ferraro contends the social justice community has become more unified since Trump announced his candidacy for president in 2015. The trend escalated in January with the Women’s March, which represented not only women’s issues, but those of LGBT, minority groups, and the environmental movement. LGBT organizations are trying to strike a similar tone this June.

"The election results have made the LGBT community have to take a look at the intersections across communities," said Cathy Renna, principal at LGBT-focused comms agency Target Cue. "There’s the Women’s March, the anti-Muslim ban march, the March for Science. The thing that's different about our community is we’re part of all those communities. That is what is driving a lot of the concern and the desire for Pride to be both protest and celebration."

Human Rights Campaign is running a season-long push called the Summer of Action, encouraging LGBT individuals and allies to "fight back against attacks that undermine the LGBTQ community," it said in a statement.

The group is planning 250 events over the summer with the theme "Unite. Resist. Enlist." that will include voter registration, advocacy training, and outreach at Pride parades and festivals. One goal of the Summer of Action events is to build local grassroots support, which Renna says several LGBT groups are focusing on after realizing there’s little chance for progress at the national level.

"There are thousands of events scheduled for Pride," Renna says. "It’s great we're going to have a national march in Washington, but it’s in the middle of a gigantic local Pride weekend. We’re trying to bring the community together to support your local Pride."

Another evolution for corporate pride campaigns
Pride month is also an opportunity for brands to show support for the LGBT community. Ellner notes companies that back the movement can also win over the 64% of Americans who support marriage equality, according to Gallup. Major brands such as Target, American Express, Google, Oreo, and Nike have run Pride campaigns in the past.

"One trend I’ve noticed is companies and brands have advanced beyond slapping a rainbow on a t-shirt and saying, ‘Happy Pride month,’" Ferraro says. "Corporations and brands are more active. There's a big opportunity for them to have an impact on the LGBTQ community and all marginalized communities that are feeling disenfranchised and looking for brands they support to follow suit."

Nike on Friday released the 2017 edition of its BETRUE collection, with sneakers featuring the Rainbow Flag colors on the sole of running shoes and the swoosh of other footwear, as well as rainbow-colored socks and t-shirts. The company has donated $2.5 million in financial and in-kind support to LGBT causes since 2012, according to its website.

Ellner contends that as the political climate becomes more divisive, consumers are expecting brands to speak up about the issues of the day, including those facing the LGBT community.

"The corporate evolution on LGBTQ equality has clearly reached a tipping point," Ellner says. "Risks to corporations are higher if they remain silent on the issue. My sense is we're going to see more and more images of LGBTQ Americans on the ad side and more and more corporations stepping up and speaking up in support."