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This Pride season, throw away our corporations.
COMMENTARY: This Pride season has gone too far with corporations making money off us, then rejecting us. Let's send these performative allies' money back.
It’ll be another few months before Phoenix celebrates pride in an official capacity, since our festival is planned for October this year. That doesn’t mean that we won’t be faced with a problem that has been growing for years: rainbow capitalism.
You know what I’m talking about: Ugly rainbow swag from Salesforce; Lame tweets and hashtags from your favorite corporate clothing brand; And even the dreaded corporate pride floats from the world’s largest banks.
On one hand, corporate sponsorship of Pride month is a way to signal financial and cultural support for queer customers. However, many of these companies' actions do not reflect the values that their Pride campaigns promote.
In these past few months, these companies have already revealed themselves as performative allies (meaning when confronted about their support, they backpedal). There are companies who have already canceled Pride marketing ads or merchandise in an attempt to assuage evangelical religious groups, or culture-war-mongering politicians. Companies such as Target removed some Pride merchandise from their shelves, while Bud Light apologized and essentially pulled a “blame-the-intern” excuse for using trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney as a brand ambassador.
These kinds of Pride advertisements don’t help us. They only stand in the way of the true purpose of Pride, which at its core is to hold the powerful accountable in the daily civil rights battles of everyone in our community. From trans youth to elderly same-sex couples, we are all in this battle together, and we need to be sure that we call out those who only seek to profiteer off it.
In a time where LGBTQ+ rights are at risk now, more than they have been since the 90’s, we need to demand that companies either stick to their messaging, or get out of our spaces.
For example, Intel, a company who employs around 12,000 Arizonans and is currently building two new microchip plants in the west Valley, started off last Pride month with a tweet expressing their support for the LGBTQ+ community—it was a collage of queer Intel employees with different colored backgrounds.
How ironic that Intel is the same company that—just a few years back—donated money to politicians who opposed marriage equality, such as North Carolina senator Richard Burr.
But Intel is not alone in resorting to cheap, temporary, performative gestures to placate the LGBTQ+ community instead of implementing real systemic changes that would support us.
Last year, General Electric—which partners with Arizona Public Service to generate energy—celebrated Pride Month and illuminated a sign in Schenectady, New York, in rainbow colors.
This is interesting, considering General Electric is the same company that provides equipment and technology for Saudi Arabian oil refineries.
Under the rule of the Saudi royal family, homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia and is punishable by life imprisonment, flogging, and even death.
General Electric has indirectly supported the Saudi regime's harsh and violent persecution of the queer community by providing equipment for the construction and operation of oil refineries.
Though not related to their record of human rights abuses against LGBTQ+ people, Kris Mayes, the first openly lesbian Attorney General of Arizona, recently took her own steps to distance the state from the Saudi regime. She called on the state Department of Water Resources to revoke water drilling contracts to Fondomonte, a Saudi-owned company, which uses our water resources to grow alfalfa for horses in Saudi Arabia.
Real actions like this—even though they may seem unrelated—benefit the queer community much more than performative gestures that do little more than attempt to bolster a company’s reputation.
Hiding attacks on the queer community behind rainbow branding and tweets about inclusivity is common practice for many companies.
But what about somewhere a bit closer to home? Well, the Arizona Diamondbacks have tweeted in support of the queer community and turned their logos to rainbows for pride month.
The baseball team was even a sponsor for Pride last year.
But records show that Ken Kendrick, managing general partner for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and his wife, Randy, have donated money not only to U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, who has equated drag queens to pedophiles and espoused trans people as “groomers.”
The two Diamondbacks members also donated to U.S. House Rep. Andy Biggs, a virulently anti-gay lawmaker who opposed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act because it made provisions for same-sex couples. He called Obergefell v. Hodges, which created a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, an “affront to millions of Americans,” and served as an advisor to United Families International, a group that opposes marriage equality.
These companies are taking queerness, and turning it into a cheap marketing gimmick.
So what should we demand of companies? First off, put your business where your marketing is: Cut ties with all those who infringe upon the rights of queer people, including anti-gay politicians and governments that criminalize homosexuality in any way. By giving money and doing business with people or lawmakers that are well-reported to deny or abuse human rights, you are implicitly and explicitly supporting queer suffering.
Another way for companies to support the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month and still sell Pride-branded products is to donate a portion of the proceeds to charities that serve the community, such as the Trevor Project.
Creating products that cater to the queer community is very profitable. As of 2021, the LGBTQ+ community in America alone had a spending power of around $1.4 trillion. What if a portion of profits made during pride month went to queer-focused groups?
Instead of merely profiting from a historically oppressed community, companies can use Pride branding to channel funds towards groups that serve the gay community. By pledging a certain percentage of the profits from each rainbow t-shirt or "Love Wins'' candle to an LGBTQ+ charity, companies could have a genuine impact while still earning a profit.
As a consumer, you can support the LGBTQ+ community by looking past the rainbow facade and deciding whether or not to support companies based on their actual actions toward the queer community. One helpful resource in making this decision is the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index. This index gives companies a percent rating based on how they support queer employees and the larger community. The dollars in your pockets have power, so use them to show companies that you care about more than a rainbow logo.
This Pride Month, I implore companies to eliminate the branded hypocrisy that is rainbow capitalism. However, this does not mean they should not take tangible action to support the queer community.
I have no issue with rainbow t-shirts as long as the company selling them does not associate with anti-gay organizations and takes genuine steps to support the community from which it is profiting.
To all the CEOs and executives out there: use this Pride Month as an opportunity to make a positive difference for the LGBTQ+ community. I'm confident that the positive publicity will help you sell some more ugly rainbow t-shirts.
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