Each year, as May comes to a close, many queers wait anxiously with bated breath. Pride Month is just around the corner. For some, that means donning rainbow glitter on chiseled chests at the many Pride events held in their city. For others, anxiety kicks in, mixed with trepidation, critique and a lot of eye rolling.
As June 1 hits, the spidey senses start to tingle. You can basically feel it in your veins as every giant corporation breathlessly changes their profile pictures on social media to their exact logo – but rainbow. You can almost hear their millennial interns exporting ‘Logo-PrideMonth.jpg’ from Photoshop and gearing up for a month of overt digitised support of the LGBTIQA+ community.
But large-scale organisational support sounds good, right? The fact that giant corporations can show their public allyship of queers with no financial consequence is a sign of how far we’ve come, yes? Well, in some ways.
We’ve gotten to a place in society where the biggest corporations on the planet are showing their support for our community. It’s not only safe to support queers, it’s good for business. And therein lies the problem. Showing support for our lives and our community all too often feels like a sham. Just another calculated corporate move signed off by an all-straight, all-white executive leadership team.
We still have an extremely long way to go in eradicating homophobia, transphobia and queerphobia in our society. Are these organisations taking any actual steps to help us beyond their rainbow logos?
Pride Month is the epitome of rainbow capitalism. It is 30 days of PR stunts run by (presumably) hetero marketing teams tasked with coming up with the next big thing to put their company on the map. It’s three and a half weeks of companies using queer slang on Twitter, posting rainbows and trans flags and making it clear that their bank is indeed the good bank. It’s what one of my favourite TikTokers, Meg Stalter, says, “Hi Gay! Happy Pride Month. We are sashay-ing away with deals.”
Sure, a company’s logo is now rainbow. They’ve even released a special Pride Month edition of their most popular product – it comes with glitter!
But do they have gender neutral bathrooms in their building?
Is education around trans identities and correct use of pronouns built into the induction process for all staff?
Do people of all genders get paid parental leave?
Are all organisational documents free from questions around sex, gender or gendered honorifics?
Has the organisation ever put money toward an LGBTIQA+ charity?
Is the organisation uplifting voices in the queer community?
Would a trans person feel safe in that organisation to report harassment and bullying if it were to occur?
If the answer is no to any of these, then a rainbow logo or a PR stunt with a ‘gayed-up’ version of a product feels at best: jarring and ironic. At worst, it’s prejudicial, shallow and deeply queerphobic.
Am I the first queer person to roll my eyes at Pride Month’s rainbow capitalist hellscape? Absolutely not. This discourse increases every year, as more and more queers are taking issue to the fact that Pride, which began as a riot by black queer and trans folks, is now being used to make rich people even richer.
Even in Australia, the roots of ‘Pride’ – beginning with Sydney’s 78ers – are almost completely lost in today’s polished corporate holiday. Chester Lockhart has been tracking on their Instagram all of the utter corporate tomfoolery they’ve found during Pride Month. Rainbow mayo anyone? (I’m joking, that looks fucking disgusting.) Recently, them found specific organisations with ‘Pride Month’ initiatives that are lining the pockets of anti-LGBTQ politicians.
This June, I’ve found some solace in the many queer TikTokers poking fun at these people and corporations. “Slay that cuu cuu fish down, queen! With Vodafone.” Just flawless.
And let’s listen to all the queer people of colour, Indigenous queer people, disabled queer people, queer sex workers and many trans people who aren’t represented in these commercial Pride celebrations. When their version of queerness doesn’t fit into the sanitised ‘gay pride’ and they’re more likely to face violence and discrimination simply by existing as themselves, Pride Month must feel extra-infuriating.
If your organisation has a Pride Month marketing campaign, that’s all well and good. Go off, make your logo rainbow! But what are you doing for the extended LGBTIQA+ community beyond June? What are you doing for the queer folks inside and outside of your organisation, really?
Pride isn’t rainbow capitalism. Pride is queer liberation, and that's a 365-day-a-year fight.