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Standing Proud

June is Pride Month in the United States. And as of 2022, LGBT History Month, celebrated in October, is also honored in Australia, Canada, Cuba, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy and the United Kingdom. Though always important, this year’s festivities perhaps carry added weight, given the numerous anti-LGBTQ+ legislative bans that have passed or been proposed in the last year, many affecting transgender Americans. Here’s how both brands and individuals are getting involved. 

Safe Spaces
Recent research from Pantene uncovered a heartbreaking truth: 53 percent of LGBTQ+ members feel the need to disguise their true identities at work. That’s why the haircare brand used this year’s Pride Month as a chance to advocate for safe workplaces and freedom of expression. In the third installment of their “Hair Has No Gender” campaign, Pantene released a film showcasing workers from different global industries discussing their painful professional experiences—before revealing the strength and hope that comes with being seen. The video ran on social and digital platforms in the US, UK, Canada, Spain, Greece, Italy, Belgium and Germany, and was released in conjunction with educational info on how companies can help create inclusive environments. “Many LGBTQIA+ workers feel they cannot be themselves at the workplace,” said Heléne Graffner, P&G communications director. “We know that hair is part of that equation, and that being able to wear the hair you want makes you feel more powerful and productive. Through this campaign we want to encourage employers to join in the work to create better workplaces for all, as we know the positive effects that will have.”

From work to play, PepsiCo’s Bubly sparkling water showcases the importance of supporting safe spaces—bars, restaurants and other venues where LGBTQ+ individuals can escape discrimination and find refuge among people who comprise one’s chosen family. The brand’s film, “Coming Home,” shows a solo newcomer entering a club and feeling out of place before being welcomed by the regulars. Additional Bubly efforts include a partnership with Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative (SIGBI), the nonprofit group born in response to the 1969 Stonewall Riots of gay bars and clubs in New York City—a time when safe spaces didn’t yet exist. 

Famous Faces
Look for Elton John at Pride events happening around Europe this summer—though the musical icon and longtime LGBTQ+ rights activist won’t be performing. Instead, he’ll appear as a QR code, thanks to a new Ogilvy campaign. Working with outdoor media group Clear Channel, the ad agency is displaying a code formed in the shape of the musician’s well-known face along various Pride routes. When passersby scan the code, they’re taken to a donation page for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The campaign kicked off in Utrecht, Netherlands, before heading to Rome, Italy. From there, it will tour additional European cities. “As the global pandemic continues to exacerbate inequalities, it’s more important than ever that we spread the Foundation’s mission to reject discrimination in all its forms so that LGBTQ+ human rights are respected everywhere in the world,” said Anne Aslett, CEO of Elton John AIDS Foundation. “The farther we can spread this message to reach people of all backgrounds and beliefs via these high-trafficked billboards and turning their support to pounds, the closer we are to achieving a more accepting and inclusive world.”

A slightly different—and far saucier—campaign in the U.S. saw celebrities join forces with Weedmaps, a tech company that helps consumers find cannabis dispensaries around the country, and Cann, a THC-infused seltzer, to create a musical video called “Taste So Good.” It opens on Olympian skier Gus Kenworthy and Kornbread, the first of several RuPaul’s Drag Race season 14 contestants featured in the film, as a couple lamenting the unpleasant hangover effects of alcohol and wishing for a substance substitute. Enter actress Sarah Michelle Gellar, who delivers a can of Cann that launches viewers into a rainbow-colored musical spectacle featuring Kesha, Patricia Arquette and several additional Drag Race performers in a campy celebration of good times and LGBTQ+ rights. Directed by queer filmmaker Jake Wilson, the spot features an inclusive cast of performers representing diverse sexual and gender-identity spectrums. “The LGBTQ+ community has been at the forefront of many significant moments in history that have brought the cannabis industry to where it is today,” said Juanjo Feijoo, CMO of Weedmaps. “We’re excited to rally behind bold and impactful LGBTQ+ voices and advocates in an effort to further support and provide opportunity to this important community.”

Metaverse Places
This year’s Pride events are different for yet another reason: Along with taking place in real life, many are also occurring in the metaverse. Enter NYX Professional Makeup, which is hosting its own virtual parade on a popular gaming platform called The Sandbox, as part of their “Paint Your Own Story” campaign. To emphasize the fact that makeup is genderless and embraced by various ethnicities and sexual orientations, the brand created digital avatars inspired by its vast array of makeup colors and representative of 36 different skin shades. What’s more, the avatars double as NFTs, with 100 percent of sales profits benefitting the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

Microsoft is likewise raising awareness about what it means to be LGBTQ+ in 2022 by reaching out to those employees in over 120 countries, then hosting a “Pride Has No Borders” virtual experience to share LGBTQ history plus one-on-one interactions with groups like International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA World) and OutRight Action International, so all participants can learn more about battling oppressive legislation around the world. The tech giant’s online hub, called “Microsoft Unlocked,” is another place to experience stories about pride and protest from countries like Thailand, India, Ireland and Kazakhstan. “In a time when some try to confine or legislate against LGBTQIA+ communities, Microsoft’s LGBTQIA+ employees proudly say that empathy, peace, equity and queer joy are universal,” said CMO Chris Caposella.

According to a recent Gallup poll, the number of Americans who openly identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or something other than heterosexual has reached a high of 7.1 percent, double the amount recorded in 2012 when Gallup first measured this figure. Despite that, LGBTQ rights continue to come under fire both in the US and around the world, with states like Florida recently passing the “Don’t Say Gay” bill that prohibits teachers from talking about gender identity or sexual orientation in grade schools. This June, many brands are proudly standing with the LGBTQ+ community by taking an introspective look at their business culture and implementing policies that take action on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.