Daniel Salas-Escabillas (he/him) // Opinions Editor
Before much recently, the idea of celebrating "Pride" was unheard of. In many places being queer was seen as "less than," and although there are still some settings that condemn queer culture, prideis a lot more commonplace now. In the US, we have come to celebrate our lives and journeys around the month of June. In Ann Arbor, MI, we have pride events in August as well. With all this personal expression and planning and the number of events that go on, companies have caught wind of a colorful new market, and they continue to take advantage of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
This celebration has allowed us to be who we are without fear. We are able to find our people and interact with a loving community, but with such high interest in these events there is definitely a market to be had. Companies all over the nation create line ups for the Pride Season. Everything from shirts, flags, and special edition products like the Apple Pride Sport band or Pride Lip Balm from Kush are being sold around this season. It has become a running theme that if you want to sell something during Pride season, slap a rainbow on it and it’ll fly off the shelves. This is such a wide spread tactic that some brands such as Skittles, which has a famous tagline “Taste the Rainbow, '' released a line of limited edition white candies as a way to say that the rainbow belongs to LGBTQ+ culture during this time.
Some companies do in fact provide merchandise and products as a show of support and acceptance of queer culture, but are there some who are just in it for the green and still show no support for Pride and the queer community? As stated previously, many companies will change their logos by slapping a rainbow on them or changing the color of their logos to rainbow during pride season, but not all of them may be entirely in support of queer culture. Through the site known as Progressive shopper, which looks into the money flow and ideals of a company to where their political allegiances may lay, we can see which companies may just be in it for the green and might not care about the rest of the colors of our rainbow. Home Depot is a prime example of a company that seems to go all out during the pride season but have strong ties to republican culture and put their money into anti-LGBTQ+ Individuals and causes. AT&T is another well known brand that changes to a “Pride friendly” logo but has been known to enable anti-LGBTQ+ causes. Even Donald Trump, who has been known for years to legislate against the LGBTQ+ community, has only recently held out a hand to the community as an effort to get our votes. He even plans to hold a “Trump Pride” rally as well as created a special site for LGBTQ+ voters as a show of his “allyship” towards the community. Above all else, it is merchandise, not the ideals of Pride, that is showcased by corporations in June.
There are a number of TV shows and movies that showcase LGBTQ+ characters and actors/actresses, and this is something else that companies take advantage of during Pride season. TV shows and streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu will often change the pictures that represent their content to center on the “queer” character just for the Pride season. In some cases, this is really interesting and allows people to learn more about queer media, as it is a minority in this and many other fields, but in some instances, it seems like a grab for attention. For example, in shows like Supergirl and The Legend of Korra are great shows that really showcase characters with great development and a canon of LGBTQ+ characters. Spotlighting these types of shows brings new meaning to them and allow new viewers to appreciate the entire show. In other cases, there is a single queer character who doesn’t come up until much later in the series or is just briefly explored during the entirety of the show/movie. The companies will showcase this character during Pride month and viewers interested in LGBTQ+ media will leave feeling cheated. Some examples are Carol from “F.R.I.E.N.D.S.,” Mulan from “Once Upon a Time” and Sulu from the “Star Trek Beyond”. This further demonstrates the commercialization of Pride season to benefit corporations. Media strives to extract as much money as possible from queer audiences by increasing the number of views their shows receive, without actually offering nuanced queer representation. The attempt to make money off of one dimensional, stereotypical gay characters (anyone other than cis gay people is usually excluded) reveals that these companies are concerned with profit rather than the ideals behind pride.
So when you plan to celebrate Pride by buying products or watching queer media, be sure you know what you are getting into. Most companies are in support of the LGBTQ+ community and give proceeds of their profits from these products to LGBTQ+ causes. It just takes a little homework to know what you are really supporting when you shop, and it may be better to spend your dollars on causes and small businesses owned by queer folk (especially queer people of color), so we can all have PRIDE in ourselves and in our community for years to come.
Learn about LGBTQ+ companies from the Human Rights Campaign: https://www.hrc.org/resources/corporate-equality-index
Politicians on LGBTQ+ policy from the Human Rights Campaign: http://assets2.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/115thCongressionalScorecard-Report.pdf?_ga=2.148273845.341694841.1560645575-918681499.1560371284