On Friday February 19 2021, a rainbow flag will be raised over the Sydney Town Hall as a powerful, visible symbol that the City of Sydney proudly embraces diversity and equality for all. Coinciding with the first day of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, the rainbow flag has flown for two weeks every year in the heart of Sydney’s CBD for the past 12 years.
Rainbow flags will also be flown this year at the Newtown, Petersham, Balmain and Marrickville Town Halls, and over the Ashfield Civic Centre. And for the first time, a rainbow will be painted on Coogee Beach’s promenade. There’s already a rainbow pedestrian crossing at Taylor Square in Darlinghurst.
When it comes to showing support for the LGBT+ community, visible symbols are incredibly important. In 2021, they’re more important than ever.
The global pandemic has irrevocably changed all our lives; we’ve all been affected in some way by the uncertainty, instability and the unknown that COVID-19 has brought upon us. The lockdowns, the isolating and the border closures have had a toll on us.
There have been studies into how LGBT+ people have handled the strain of dealing with the pandemic and the prejudice that still surrounds being LGBT+. Each study found that mental health was impacted.
This is a community where the statistics are already alarming: LGBT+ youth are almost five times more likely to attempt suicide than compared with heterosexual youth and 40% of transgender adults have attempted suicide.
During the pandemic in 2020, a study from the University of Melbourne as reported by the ABC, found that 61% of transgender people experienced clinically significant symptoms of depression. From the UK as reported in the Guardian, the University of College, London and Sussex University studied LGBTQ people’s experience during the pandemic and found that 69% of respondents suffered depressive symptoms; which rose to 95% if the respondent had experienced homophobia or transphobia. And results from a study conducted by the University of California also noted a similar trend.
Kristy Kelly is the Head of Leadership, Belonging and Inclusion for Vodafone Australia.
“It’s essential that we not only talk the talk but also walk the walk. When it comes to diversity and inclusion, it’s imperative that we demonstrate inclusivity in a meaningful, authentic way. Everyone has the right to be welcomed for who they are and everyone should feel supported to be comfortable being themselves at work – signs of inclusivity assist to alleviate people’s concerns over whether they’ll be accepted or not,” said Kristy.
At Vodafone, we use our lanyards as one way to demonstrate that the company is serious about inclusion – our lanyards feature the rainbow flag. This visible symbol of equality is a signal that everyone who steps into the Vodafone office should feel comfortable to be themselves at work. We also regularly post content to workplace, the facebook equivalent for organisations, and our internal screens feature messaging around equality.
Vodafone has sponsored the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras for the past four years with a float in the parade, and has participated in many other state-based pride parades over the past couple of years. We proudly display video montages of Mardi Gras on the screens in the front of our Sydney stores and we update the Vodafone logo on our website to our rainbow equivalent for the festival – so regardless of whether you visit us online or in-store you’ll be presented the tangible image of the rainbow-flag incorporated into our own branding.
Last year, Vodafone rolled out the use of gender pronouns in email signatures and initiated conversations to clarify what each individual would like to be referred to as rather than assuming. By seeing the gender pronoun in the email signature alleviates any confusion and is a tangible symbol sign of inclusivity.
So what can you do to show your active support for the LGBT+ community? You don’t necessarily need to go all out but sometimes a simple gesture can have a massive impact.
Social media is a fantastic platform to demonstrate your support. You can add a photo frame to current profile photo. On facebook, head to the photo frame section and search for Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
If you’re attending any events during the festival, be sure to check in and post photos so that your social media community can follow you.
On the day of the parade, even if you’re not going because of the venue change and other COVID-related restrictions, there’s nothing stopping you from posting a “Happy Mardi Gras” message or even better if you know anyone in the parade itself, send them a personal message wishing them all the best.