Pride Month is celebrated each year in June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall uprising in Manhattan when LGBTQ+ patrons of the Stonewall Inn fought back against harassment and brutality by the police. Our history and progress were propelled by the resistance of queer and trans BIPOC activists such as Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Stormé Delarverie, and more. Although, the history of pride began within the community’s resistance, spirit, and power. Fast-forward 50 years later, and the commercialization of Pride has become overwhelmingly apparent—and eons away from true progress.
As the LGBTQ+ movement has progressed and become more mainstream with national celebrations during June, major companies and corporations have latched onto Pride Month to target the consumer base within the LGBTQ+ community. We have seen it everywhere, with corporations changing their logos to the rainbow flag colors, social media campaigns pledging their support, rainbow clothing collections being released, advertising campaigns aimed at LGBTQ+ consumers, corporate pride parade floats flouncing their sponsorship, and even down to the “spirit of pride” being brought to you by Absolut Vodka.
The Harm of Corporate Pride
AT&T donated $56,295 to Mitch McConnell’s 2020 campaign — while he was actively blocking the Equality Act. But what a great Pride Twitter banner 🏳️🌈 pic.twitter.com/qDeBzaGVo2
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) June 6, 2021
It’s an inescapable fact that corporate Pride has taken over a major part of Pride month. This of course is not something that has been overlooked—corporate Pride has had its valid share of criticism and skepticism from the queer community.
But even though we question if companies are just looking for a quick cash-grab and virtue-signaling through rainbow accented clothing, many of us also wonder if the seemingly positive visibility and support would have made a difference in our comfortability with growing up and being out as queer. Growing up closeted and walking into a store to find something like a keychain that showed support for our identities made a lot of us beam with joy. But how much of this corporate and consumer mentality can we take until Pride starts to mean something else entirely?
One thing is clear though: equating commercial visibility with progress and victory for the LGBTQ+ community disregards our history and the violence that still plagues our community presently. The commercialization of Pride only contributes further to the erasure and white-washing of the LGBTQ+ movement. This is especially problematic when the violence towards Black trans women—the very people who started this movement—is a growing epidemic worldwide. What propelled our community into being heard and gaining rights historically was the work put in by queer activists and more specifically BIPOC activists and grassroots movements — not the once-a-year, month-long support from a corporation that falls shorts in their allyship when it truly matters.
Why Dismantling Corporate Pride is Important
Note: video contains some NSFW language.
The deconstruction of corporate Pride is pertinent to our community progressing further towards liberation. Capitalism and visibility as a consumer aren’t the solutions to social issues especially when this support and awareness are hollow. In the words of the great Audre Lorde, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” That sentiment reigns true when dissecting corporate Pride. Many of the corporations that decided to show their support for the queer community during Pride Month by changing their logo to a rainbow or making an Instagram post have proven to be opportunists.
The list of faux-woke companies grows on social media, but how much of this profit and support is actually going towards LGBTQ+ grassroots organizations, activists, and individuals? A report by Popular Information outlined corporations like AT&T, Pfizer, and more that have given $1 million+ to anti-gay politicians while simultaneously pledging their support to the LGBTQ+ community.
How to Avoid Corporate Pride
When thinking of Pride and showing support for the queer community, it’s important to navigate a corporation’s actual intentions and if those are in the community’s best interest. It is unrealistic to say that we haven’t fallen prey to the clutches of corporate Pride at least once. None of us are free of the influence of capitalism, but it’s important that these conversations are had and the right questions are asked. That might seem a bit daunting but it’s important in holding ourselves and our allies accountable.
There’s a lot to celebrate with our progress as a community thus far, but there’s far more work that needs to be done. And that work isn’t done by buying from the Target Pride collection. If you’re looking to sport rainbow-accented gear, donate funds, or even show your allyship, it’s always best to support the LGBTQ+ community directly. Find queer-owned small businesses, donate to local queer non-profits, mutual aid funds, or queer individuals in need directly.
Most importantly, always remember that Pride isn’t Pride without revolution, radicalness, and intense emotion. Whether you’re celebrating, partying, advocating, or rising up, never stop pushing for queer liberation.