We have now entered the month of June, the month of marketing strategies capitalizing on Queer people in efforts to make us forget we started with a brick through a window and not rainbow popsockets — ooops, I meant LGBTQI Pride Month. As our queer movements continue to grow in strength, countless corporations seek to profit by using messages citing revolution, self-knowing, equality, and boundless love: values that we Queers fight tooth-and-nail to defend every day. This kind of cooptation easily dilutes the purpose of celebrating June, the month that houses the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in our queer liturgical calender, into a palatable rainbow party.
Pride is at risk of being reduced to a false guise of diversity, acceptance, and inclusion that masks complicity in white Christian Supremacy.
The goal of marketing strategies today is to have maximum outputs with the least amount of input. The focus is on efficiency and consistently finding ways to increase profit at the cost of absolutely anything – salary cuts, compromising on the quality, whatever – the list is unfortunately endless. Once corporations determine there is a marginalized community they can create the illusion they support while ultimately just taking their money, that is precisely what they do. As soon as the selling season is over, the rainbows and the solidarity are tossed out the window just in time to prepare for their next exploitation.
No better current example of this corporate trend comes from Walmart, who released tacky “celebration” ice cream flavors to commemorate Pride and Juneteenth. Our communities said HECK NO to Walmart’s capitalizing off Black culture and the legacy of Juneteenth, which is now being pulled from shelves. Walmart’s terrible track record in labor, racist hiring practices, and numerous lawsuits pending for both employee and customer discrimination don’t scream “revolutionary”.
Furthermore, Walmart has donated over $400,000 this year to the GOP, whose platform for their 2022 state elections focuses on eradicating safe spaces for LGBTQI youth in school and sports, and banning education about racial justice at K-12 programs.
It’s giving “ally”, right? Nope. It’s giving white Christian Supremacy in sheep’s clothing. Why is it that Walmart can “say gay” in their stores, but steal the right to “say gay” from teachers in their own classrooms? (Check out this 2021 article from the Guardian on companies that have been celebrating Pride while donating major money to white Christian Supremacist causes.)
These companies want to turn our pride into a gag: rainbow clothes, flags, accessories – everything that essentially reduces our resistance movements to rainbows and not much else.
Rainbow capitalism promotes a false narrative that because we can see LGBTQI people represented in some stores and commercials, that we have reached an important marker of normalization and acceptance. While parts of that might be true, we must also be aware that the choices of these corporations are motivated by profit. Pride merchandising allows them to operate under the guise of being “woke” without actually using their power to create much needed change for our community. It allows them to use the month of June to further this false narrative that LGBTQI people have reached this plateau of mainstream acceptance when we are still not welcomed with “open arms” in most places and still not even existing safely in many places, which should be the bare minimum.
If we are not careful, we will fall down the slippery slope of doing white Christian Supremacy’s work. In becoming complacent with seeing ourselves on billboards, we might stop doing the important work that is the foundation of our Pride. We have not truly arrived at a plateau of equality. We have to push back on the notion that the commercial buying power of our allies is what will change our unjust structures. We need to be building political and social power as the Christian Right ramps up their mobilization against us.
The blood of resistance does continue to flow strongly in our community so there are many who are not idly allowing this to continue. There are groups, such as No Justice No Pride, that have halted Pride parades in major cities in protest of white Christian Supremacy’s exploitation of our people. So what can you do, Soulforcers, to at least reduce the impact of corporatization? If you do choose to buy Pride-related merchandise, do a little research on the company. Check their track record – have donated to LGBTQI organizations directly working with the community? Do their employee policies actually reflect their equality proclamation? If you can’t find any conclusive answers to these questions (which includes actual supported evidence), then spend your money elsewhere, or donate it to Queer causes, and educate others to do the same. Knowledge is our power.
Most importantly, as you prance in parades and twirl your rainbow flags, please do remember that you are completely worthy of a fulfilled life where you can express immense pride in exactly who you are. But also please remember that Pride was brought to you by drag queens and trans women of color throwing bricks. It was brought to you by lesbians and queer women taking care of gay men dying of AIDS due to intentional US government neglect. It was not brought to you by T-Mobile.