It's June, and we are halfway through pride month, and just like clockwork, we see swaths of social media content from many companies that have adorned their online presence with rainbows and slogans such as "Love Is Love" and "Be Yourself". However, as the star of "It’s a sin" and Year & Years frontman Olly Alexander pointed out in 2019, simply re-doing your logo in a rainbow and “donating a portion of proceeds” is not enough. We need to see companies in 2021 doing more pride campaigns that acknowledge the lived experience of queer people over the past year.
The pandemic’s disproportionate impact on LGBTQ+ people has shone a light on the importance of physical and mental health in our community. Overall, queer people are twice as likely to have a mental health condition compared to the heterosexual population, and COVID-19 has put LGBTQ+ youth especially at risk of suicide.
So this year, any attempt at “Rainbow Washing” simply won’t wash! Call it what you will; it all allows people, governments, and corporations that don’t do actual work to support LGBTQ+ communities at any other time during the year to slap a rainbow on top of something in the month of June and call it allyship. 2021 sees the likes of Converse, Dr. Martens, Adidas, Ugg, Disney, Levi’s and Calvin Klein all release collections for Pride.
As the general support for LGBTQ+ rights grows, so does the corporate incentive for brands and companies to position themselves in sync with that growing sentiment. But in that commercialisation lies the disconnect. Brands promoting gay pride and the LGBTQ+ community may not always be consistent in actually supporting our community, but they still capitalise on the help that people want to give. It brings into question what Pride Month means, where it came from, and what we really commemorate when we celebrate it.
Pride month in the Covid-19 era should be highlighting the fact that the past year has been a time when many are being disproportionately affected. We need brands to step up and call out, transphobia in our media, the LGBTQ+ Mental health crisis, the plight of Queer refugees, and promote awareness of intersectionality, so we can better acknowledge and ground the differences among us. Companies need to swap tokenism for authenticity.
- In 2020, 350 transgender people were killed worldwide.
- Being gay is illegal in 71 countries.
- In 11 countries, you can be punished by death.
- 52 per cent of the LGBTQ+ community in England, Scotland and Wales say they experienced depression in the last year, according to a Stonewall/YouGov report.
- In the same study, 72 per cent of Bi women said they had experienced anxiety in the last year.
- One in five LGBTQ+ people had experienced homelessness.
Taking on the above is “Pride in Action” what’s yours?