With Pride month recently coming to a close, I’ve spent some time reflecting on my experience; not only on the day of the protest, but on the entirety of June. One thing that myself and a trove of my LGBTI+ friends have been talking about is the corporate influence on Pride of late. The arguments are age-old at this point: if we want Pride to be bigger, we need more support. Businesses can lend us this support. On the other hand, Pride is a protest and shouldn’t be watered down.
Below, I’ve penned an open letter to businesses that intend on supporting Pride and that have supported Pride in years previous. There has always been a severe disconnect between the grassroots LGBTI+ community and their wishes for Pride versus the corporate influence and impact. This does not need to be the case. I welcome businesses that want to support Pride as much as I welcome any ally or individual. But, there are some core things that must be understood before you decide to lend your hand to the LGBTI+ community and attempt to capitalise on Pride for commercial gain.
Pride does not start and end in June
Let’s get one thing clear – Pride is not a phenomenon that starts and ends in June. Pride permeates the lives of all LGBTI+ individuals (and allies) for their entire lives. It can be seen when the little gay boy down the street walks out the door with concealer over his acne; it can be seen when the non-binary young person refuses to be gendered by their peers. It’s everywhere. For LGBTI+ people, it is not just a month. It’s a life. It’s a life that has been built out of defiance.
With this in mind, I’d like to know why corporations support of Pride seems to disappear just as quickly as it appears? If you are committed to Pride, committed to supporting the LGBTI+ community, it doesn’t mean hoisting a rainbow flag outside of your window because everyone else is doing it. Think about why you’re supporting Pride.
Our visibility is not a decoration – do not treat it as such.
Pink money is not yours
If you are considering putting out a Pride collection – donate a percentage of your profits to an LGBTI+ charity. All we ask is that if you’re looking to profit off our community’s need for visibility and representation (clothing, flags, makeup and more), give back to the very community you’re getting the money from.
Across the world there are hundreds of organisations that have been set up to help aid LGBTI+ people – especially LGBTI+ youth, homeless LGBTI+ people, the trans community and more. If you’re having trouble finding an organisation to donate to, here’s a quick list:
- BeLonGTo Youth Services
- TENI – Transgender Equality Network Ireland
- Bi+ Ireland
- HIV Ireland
- The Trevor Project
This took me less than 20 seconds to put together. There are many more that could do with some help. Do your research.
Pride is protest
I know Pride Day is a fantastic celebration of LGBTI+ identities and it is an amazing time for partying, dancing and just enjoying being yourself. But, let’s not forget that Pride started as a protest and it will remain a protest as long as LGBTI+ people suffer under systems that have long been in place. Until men-who-have-sex-with-men can donate blood freely, until trans individuals can access healthcare, until forced intersex genital mutilation has ceased, until two lesbian women can freely and absentmindedly walk down the street holding hands, until bi-erasure has stopped, Pride is a protest.
So, when deciding to march in Pride next year, consider what you’re really taking part in. Businesses have the opportunity to make a great impact. Don’t just show up on a float with some glitter and unicorns – join in the protest. Chant for the rights that we still don’t have. Challenge the status quo alongside us.
We have Pride today because of the courage of trans women of colour who decided that enough was enough. Their active protest was not legal, it was not safe, and it wasn’t welcomed by wider society – but, it was needed. It kickstarted the modern LGBTI+ rights movements across the globe. We owe so much to those women – Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and the many other queer people that were involved in the Stonewall riots.
Yes, we’re angry
I completely understand how hostile this letter may come across. I get that it can seem that I’m bursting the bubble. That’s not what I’m trying to do. Pride is one of the most fantastic parts of my life. Pride month is one that I look forward to every year. Pride Day is something that I plan for year-round.
I just want corporations to understand that the spirit of Pride cannot be lost as it grows bigger, as it grows more commercial. The priority during a Pride march should be what we’re walking for. It’s not just showing up to have a fabulous day – it’s that and so much more. Think about exactly why you’ve decided to be a part of Pride. If the answer is that you want to generate profits, just don’t. Please, just don’t.
Not all bad
Not all businesses are guilty of some of the things I have mentioned in this letter. I know that. There are some initiatives that are led by some amazing LGBTI+ persons as they try to make a change within their workplace. There’s also some amazing allies that have been fully committed to LGBTI+ liberation and the betterment of LGBTI+ people’s lives. But, if you are guilty of any of the things I’ve mentioned – if you’re only taking part in Pride for profit, if your support is seasonal, if you refuse to help the very community you say you support – please, please take some of the things I’ve said and work on them.