LGBTQ + community reflects on rainbow capitalism a month after pride celebrations

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As the clock struck midnight, countless rainbow-themed storefronts, advertisements and merchandise quickly disappeared on July 1. Despite an entire month commemorating the struggles and pride of the LGBTQ + community, discrimination and stereotypes continue from public servants and businesses alike. Many queer individuals criticize companies that monetize Queer Aesthetics and Pride Month, also known as rainbow capitalism.

Pride Month began in 1970 as a series of marches commemorating the Stonewall Riots, when gay guests at New York’s Stonewall Inn battled harassment and violence from police. Pride marches that followed around the world helped advance LGBTQ + activism.

“This is one of the few opportunities for queer people [to] to gather, celebrate and exist without fear of persecution, ”Adam Rhodes, president of the Chicago LGBTQ + Journalists Association, wrote in an email to The DePaulia. “It is also extremely important to recognize the Stonewall riots and the still recent history of queer liberation in this country, which Pride commemorates each year.”

According to the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School, gay people are almost four times more likely endure violence than those with heterosexual and cisgender identities. However, the statistics don’t stop there. Black trans women and gender nonconforming people of color are at even higher risk of encountering gender-based violence. According to Human rights campaign, so far, at least 31 transgender or gender nonconforming people have been killed by violent means in 2021, the majority of whom were black and Latin transgender women.

As Gay Pride and Fighting Rights Month becomes more mainstream, businesses are leveraging the month of celebration to appeal to the LGBTQ + community – a lucrative pool of consumers LGBTQ + shoppers doing 10% more groceries and spending 7% more than non-LGBTQ + households.

“We’re losing our agency and ownership of Pride a bit, I think,” Rhodes wrote. “I think when people see pride as a space for everyone – cops, businesses and cishets included – then we lose the spirit of pride as a space for gay people to celebrate us.”

According to Rhodes, corporate influence on pride isn’t all bad news as it helps raise awareness, but it poses issues like tokenization.

“On the one hand, I think [corporate involvement] has certainly increased awareness and awareness of queer issues, but often these influences dampen the reality of being queer far from the truth that this is an ongoing struggle to be free and equal in this country, ” Rhodes wrote.

“These influences also ignore the fact that many of these [businesses] do little to support gay workers outside of pride tokenization, ”they added. “So even though the influences are good for the company, it’s just not enough for me. “

Riley Reed, LGBTQ + Senator from DePaul’s Student Government Association, agrees with Rhodes and wonders if real efforts are being made by business.

“It makes me very uncomfortable as an activist and queer person,” Reed wrote in an email to The DePaulia. “It seems authoritarian and performative. Businesses don’t even bother to care about people and they use the queer community to profit, there is no real effort to help.

Gay activists like Reed believe the people benefiting from these corporate campaigns are not what Pride Month was supposed to celebrate.

“They try to do [being queer] more broadly acceptable, but personally – and I know other activists think so – it’s just an effort to flatter straight people, few queer people actually like corporate involvement in Pride, ”wrote Reed. “It’s just another way to take advantage of a community that businesses have been doing for years.”

Pride is not only for the proud and proud queer population, but also celebrates the locked up members of the community. Reed believes that on a superficial level, these campaigns can help locked up individuals have the courage to publicly embrace their sexuality; however, corporate campaigns can also have negative repercussions.

“I think on the other hand, it’s really flashy and turns a lot of queer people away, and could even be overwhelming for people in the closet,” Reed said. “When I was locked in the early years of my life, personally, it didn’t mean much to me that companies did anything – activist groups and the people in my life who accepted that mattered more. for me.

While many companies claim to support the queer community, their political involvement and financial investments indicate otherwise. AT&T, FedEx, General Electric, Pfizer, UPS, and Verizon, for example, claimed to support LGBTQ + equality, but gave significant financial contributions to members of Congress who are openly homophobic.

According to Valérie Vargas, AT & T’s senior vice president for advertising, the company has a “genuine understanding of the [queer] community “and has a” vested interest in their success. “

“… We believe the LGBTQ community has become more loyal to our brand,” added Vargas.

AT&T contributed $ 2,755,000 to 193 anti-gay politicians from 2017 to 2018. AT&T is one of many companies that prides itself on being inclusive of the LGBTQ + community, while supporting politicians who undermine those same values.

Like AT&T, Pfizer has responded to criticism of their financial donations to anti-gay politicians despite their declared alliance with LGBTQ + values.

Sharon Castillo, senior director of media relations at Pfizer, said that “the decision to contribute to these elected officials was made on the basis of their support for the biopharmaceutical industry and for policies that protect incentives for innovation and patient access to drugs and vaccines. Our support does not in any way translate into approval of their position on a social issue. “

Such justifications have done little to dampen criticism from queer people. Activist Ann Northrop critical the roles of certain companies in pride celebrations.

“They are there to market what they perceive to be an affluent gay community,” Northrop said. “And then they turn around the next day and spend all their money buying right-wing Republican politicians, which they need to pass all the regulations they care about.”

“And these Republican politicians are denying us all of our rights, putting some truly vocal anti-gay judges on the federal benches… So why are we entrusting the pride parade to these people?” Northrop added.

Ron Culp, a public relations consultant and instructor at DePaul University, said for-profit advertising may not be the only focus of these campaigns, but rather a recruiting tactic.

“Many companies actually create Pride-themed public relations and advertising campaigns as a recruiting and retention tool, not just for selling products, ”Culp wrote in an email to The DePaulia. “This is particularly the case with technology, financial and consumer companies that face significant recruitment and retention challenges.”

Despite these recruitment and retention efforts, in recent years, 22 percent of LGBTQ + Americans reported unequal wages or promotions compared to their heterosexual and / or cisgender peers. Discrimination in the workplace does not stop at pay but dives into the culture of the workplace as 53 percent of LGBTQ + workers said they heard jokes about gay people at work and 10 percent gay workers quit their jobs because the workplace culture did not accept them. On top of that, 59 percent of non-gay employees say it is unprofessional to discuss sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace. With this in mind, the best campaigns, according to Culp, are those with authenticity, like Microsoft’s campaign.

Culp said that in addition to employee relations, brand loyalty also plays a role in the strategy behind these campaigns.

“Brand loyalty is essential for any business or brand that has a competitor – in other words, almost all of them,” Culp wrote. “Marketing data confirms that consumers are significantly more loyal to brands that support their beliefs and values. Companies seen as genuine and living their values ​​gain loyal customers who keep coming back to buy their products.

Chick-fil-A is an example of LGBTQ + relationships impacting brand loyalty. Chick-fil-A is famous for its chicken sandwiches, but no matter how good they are, some gay individuals and allies refuse to support the establishment because of the business. donate and support anti-LGBTQ + organizations.

Chick-fil-A a reduce donations to these controversial organizations, but activists say that is not enough.

According to Drew Anderson, Director of Campaigns and Rapid Response for GLAAD, “Investors, employees and customers of Chick-fil-A can salute [Chick-fil-A’s claims for improvement] with cautious optimism, but it must be remembered that similar press statements have previously proven to be empty. ”

In addition to refraining from financially supporting anti-LGBTQ organizations, Chick-fil-A still lacks policies to ensure safe workplaces for LGBTQ employees and should unequivocally denounce the anti-LGBTQ reputation that represents their brand, ”Anderson added.

LGBTQ + members are finding ways to actively resist capitalism and celebrate what it means to be queer in an authentic way.

“I attended the Queer Liberation March the first year it was held in New York City and it was the best pride, the one that has felt the most genuine in years,” Rhodes wrote. “It’s important to push back on the corporatization of pride and find other ways to celebrate pride. [than] these business-oriented celebrations.


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