As we say goodbye to the month of June for another year, we also say goodbye to PRIDE month.
Spark Foundry marked the occasion with a global panel discussion about Pride that I was privileged enough to be part of. I shared this panel with some of my brothers and sisters from the Spark network in New York, Chicago and London. On it, we were asked what Pride meant to us.
Surprisingly, that’s not a question I’ve ever been asked before but one I often think about. For some, Pride is a celebration of all things gay. For others, it’s an example of corporate muscling that allows multinational brands with big budgets to inject some money to show their support for the LGBTQI+ community – for one month only. For me, Pride is both these things and more.
Here in Australia, we’re lucky that we get the chance to celebrate Pride twice a year. Firstly, during the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival that happens in February/March and, secondly, in June with the rest of the world. Some may call us greedy. I say f*** that – we need it!
The one thing both festivals have in common is that they started as a riot. They started as a call for equal rights from a community that was degraded and was, and still is in many places, overwhelmingly marginalised.
For me, Pride is a celebration of how far how we have come but it’s also a chance to remember those who have come before us. It’s a chance for those of us lucky enough to live in countries where Pride can be openly celebrated to witness large multinationals show their support openly without fear of significant retribution. It’s a chance to show solidarity with those around the world who still live in fear and who don’t share the same rights as some of us do. It’s a chance to show our support of our trans brothers and sisters who are caught in the middle of an argument about what makes ‘society’ feel comfortable versus what is the right thing for them. It’s a chance to increase awareness to bring down suicide rates amongst that community, and to ensure that the same opportunities are afforded to them regardless of gender identity.
I’m cool with big brands sponsoring our events twice a year. I love withdrawing money from the various GAYTMs that pop up around the city during Mardi Gras and ABSOLUTly love the Mardi Gras themed vodka cocktails that are poured like they are going out of fashion. What I’d love more though is for messages of support to be shown during the other 10 months of the year and for these messages to be intrinsically linked with brand visions and values. For people to see beyond the cocktails and glitter and to support, recognise and celebrate each other the way we do during Pride.
We live in a time now where we can write our own stories. We can choose how and when to be represented and where a gay black man can end his performance at the BET awards openly snogging his male dancer for the world to see – and that needs to be celebrated. That needs to be recognised as a moment in history where we look back and pay our respects to those who have come before us.
Where we are thankful to the trailblazers, the people who put their necks out for us, to the companies who support us all year round, and to those who have always told us that ‘it’ is ok.
The discussion panel was a great way for us to connect and to share our stories of coming out, of meeting our significant others, of watching Madonna over and over again parading herself arm-in-arm with gay men from all different ethnic backgrounds in the 90s, but also to recognise that so much more work still needs to be done.
It was heart-warming to hear that it’s our experiences that unite us as a group. And it was overwhelming the significant recognition from all of us that we cannot take our freedoms for granted.
It was a great way to broadcast that our global company celebrates pride, diversity and inclusion, and that Spark Australia may very well be the gayest place in the world.
And I’m lucky enough to be here for it.