“Happy Pride.” That’s been the message going around all through social media, and it’s brought a lot of feelings out. The inception of Pride Month began decades ago thanks to activists that practically gave their lives up for the sake of equality. There’s no doubt that much of the queer liberation being celebrated today wouldn’t be possible without the bravery of those who were at the frontline of the Stonewall riots, such as the legendary trans activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.
However, despite the changes we’ve seen since then, the community has continued to endure mistreatment and neglect.
Yet, as immersed in a parallel universe, it feels as though the LGBTQI+ community finally has the upper hand in the United States. Or, at least that’s what large corporations want to make you think of the beloved month of June, also now known as Pride Month.
That reality may be more fictitious than the Cheshire Cat.
But the truth is actually consumed in layers of gray areas, which invites plenty of questions to the table.
On the one hand, it is ever-apparent that the likeness of queer people is being streamlined to benefit the soulless capitalist system we’ve been conditioned to revel in. Whereas, there’s a part of this almost sudden “Pride” recognition that may positively impact some.
Now, before you turn away, hear me out. I think it’s important we unpack the good and the bad of this phenomenon. Believe me, as a queer woman myself, I couldn’t fathom thinking that our community would be used for the gain of others, especially corporations.
But let’s try to be objective about it, shall we?
At first, like many, I was shocked and felt personally disrespected at the portrayal of our community throughout Pride Month everywhere I turned. It felt odd to see the vibrant colors I had waved in my heart yearlong be used as performative activism (I know this isn’t the case for every company, but you get my drift). How could the same paraphernalia I had worn during my high school years (which got me called a dyke for wearing it) be plastered all over the place?
Somehow, it almost seemed like my identity was being robbed of me and a community where folks have struggled in ways I wouldn’t be able to begin to explain.
The LGBTQI+ community is more than rainbow flags and pronouns; it’s more about the meaning behind it that tugs at hearts, at least that’s what it is for me.
Which leads to the question: do these corporations understand the significance of our identity, or are they just dwelling in the buying power of the LGBTQI+ community?
That’s where the discomfort lies, and I’m sure the short answer for many of these corporations is no.
Let’s look at the other side of the coin.
It has been established that corporate America is tailgating behind a community that hasn’t seen complete equality yet. The people of the LGBTQI+ community are still being tormented by the homophobic tendencies of incomprehensible religious fanaticism of the United States. After all, the underbelly of this country doesn’t embody the “love-thy -neighbor” sentiment many claim it does — it represents quite the opposite.
Nevertheless, we must recognize the efforts it must’ve taken many of these corporations to promote Pride Month.
I am not giving them a pass at all (because screw that), but I think it’s great that the younger generation sees their identity being displayed positively throughout the country.
I can only imagine the wonders that would’ve done for the community’s mental health years ago.
Let’s not forget that coming out has always been linked to higher suicide rates, homelessness, and discrimination. These are still very much today’s concerns as well, but the accessibility to resources is higher than ever.
Can you think of the many lives that could’ve been saved if the community had experienced such acceptance and praise years ago?
I know so many people around me would have loved it.
This is why a great part of me gets happy at seeing ill-made Pride merch or the overwhelming messages of “Happy Pride” from large corporations.
We didn’t need validation, but it sure as hell feels great to have so many people exposed to queer concepts.
Queer visibility is a great step in the right direction, but it’s barely brushing the surface.
At this point, corporations and those who refuse to see the humanity in queer folk need to take the next steps in pushing for equality. It should be a requirement for anyone who utters “Happy Pride” advocates for laws that would eradicate discrimination in the LGBTQI+ community. Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that empty words won’t stop queer folk from getting killed. Solidarity and true allyship take work, so everyone needs to get with the program.
There’s no reason why anyone should fear for their life or safety in 2021. So, can we start moving forward again? Or is that too much to ask for?