Pride month is over and companies logos have shed their rainbow skins. Will they slither away only to be seen next June? With Pride sponsors hastily popping colourful balloons and disposable rainbow bunting not lasting past 1 July, it begs us to ask the question: Can companies be our allies?
Gay Spar knows its Gay Spar, Marks and Spencers gave us LGBT sandwiches (Lettuce, Guacamole, Bacon, Tomato) and Taylor Swift told homophobes to “calm down.” Is a month of token gestures not enough for us? What more could we want? Equality?
But in a world dominated by corporate giants having a few on our side couldn’t hurt.
In the US over 200 US companies have formed an Amicus Brief saying that they will support LGBT+ people in suing their employer for discrimination. It seems that companies such as Disney, Facebook and Coca-Cola have an interest in supporting our community not just at Pride.
The brief begins by stating the companies share “a common interest in equality because they know that ending discrimination in the workplace is good for business, employees, and the US economy as a whole.” Equality is good for the economy and equality is good for US profit margins. Although it appears the motivation is purely commercial, becoming a marketable demographic like the rest of society seems to have its perks.
The brief continues: “Amici support the principle that no one should be passed over for a job, paid less, fired, or subjected to harassment or any other form of discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
It can be a chicken and egg moment when we ask – ‘did queer visibility lead to our commercialisation or did our commercialisation lead to visibility’? In reality, it was both. Commercialisation is a double-edged sword that we have to wield cautiously.
I for one, welcome the help of our corporate overlords. Although the motivation for profit means their intention rarely seems authentic, in the case of the Amici Brief it has aided workplace LGBT+ rights and I’ll ride that train as far as I can toward equality town. Although it mightn’t feel genuine or doesn’t feel in the spirit of Pride in a world where companies reign can be seen as a necessary evil, their motivation for profit eases our burden just a little. Companies commercial ambitions can help us but be problematic. When Adidas release Pride merch, then sponsor the World Cup in Russia where laws made the event unsafe for LGBTQ+ fans and athletes, we need to call them out and hold them accountable for their actions. They want that lucrative Pride sponsorship and advertising and they can have it- marches are expensive- but they will be called out for homophobia, transphobia and supporting those who hurt our community.
We all noticed those five-minute advertisements that segmented the Pride parade this year. Between community groups who are a lifeline to our community, we had grocery stores, pharmaceutical companies and tech giants. I guess queer people do eat, take medicine and use the internet but it was all a little weird. But I had no doubt in my mind that ACT UP, BeLonG To and TENI carried the spirit of Stonewall and wore Pride on their sleeves.
Let the big companies fly their rainbow flags, let the Amici Brief pay the legal fees in LGBT+ discrimination cases and let us mind the heart of Pride. Pride might seem a month of disposable allies, celebrity “support” and corporate sponsorship. Let them support us. In a world where they have so much influence, the rainbow flags can only fly so high thanks to our deep foundations.
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