Gradually, the world is becoming more and more accepting of the LGBTQ+ community — well at least the L and the G; we need a bit more work on the other letters, but that’s an issue for another day. But with more and more companies and brands showing their support for the rainbow flag, we need to step back and ask ourselves: why are they really doing this?
Could it be that they genuinely want to show their solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community? Quite possibly. Could it be that they can profit hugely off of selling a product with a rainbow slapped on it? Almost definitely.
Companies like Listerine and M&S have come under fire this year for selling their ‘LGBTQ+’ products: a mouthwash with a rainbow on it and an LGBT sandwich. People are starting to realise that companies are showing their support for the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month to appear ‘woke’ and as soon as Pride is over, they remove all traces that they ever had a rainbow on any of their products. It appears the thing these companies do not understand is that you cannot simply support a group of people for one month and think that’s good enough. You either support them the whole year round, through any hardships they might face; or you don’t support them at all.
Comedian Joe Lycett tweeted Barclays (a big sponsor of London Pride), asking them to ‘demonstrate that your loyalty is universal and raise flags globally this weekend’, pointing out that ‘it’s still illegal to be LGBTQ+ in many countries you trade-in’. And he raises an excellent point, many of us in the Western world now see Pride as a celebration and forget the struggle faced by those in less accepting countries, some which will even punish homosexuality with death. And we must face that even in the Western world homosexuality isn’t completely tolerated yet, with the attack on Melania Geymonat and her partner Chris in May on a London bus reinforcing this idea.
At London Pride this year some of the largest floats were owned by companies like Tesco, Barclays, Amazon and Royal Mail. Yes, these companies do donate money to LGBTQ+ charities but their attempts at support can feel a bit cheap. It feels like they are supporting the LGBTQ+ community for all the wrong reasons. Olly Alexander posted on Instagram that his manager had been receiving multiple requests a day for Olly to promote the band’s ‘Pride Collection’. He said that, ‘it’s hard not to feel this year’s 2019 pride collection […] has felt especially icky’. But also pointed out that ‘representation matters, of course, and rainbow capitalism might be hideous but at least Queer people are getting paid’. And I think he perfectly sums up the position most LGBTQ+ are in right now: I want to show my support for my community but don’t want brands to profit off my sexuality.
Brands need to realise that turning your logo rainbow for one month doesn’t put you in people’s good books. We want to see you actively supporting and helping the LGBTQ+ community in every country you work in, donating money to LGBTQ+ charities, and ultimately using your platform and power to speak for those who can’t. We don’t want your rainbow merchandise, we want your unconditional support.