June, otherwise known as Pride Month, is officially over. In its wake, storefronts everywhere have stripped themselves of rainbow flags, clearance sections in department stores have become bogged down with LGBT+ themed merchandise, and corporate logos that had previously honored the pride flag on social media have reverted to their original, less colorful states. With corporate America quickly moving on to the next marketing scheme, it is easy to forget how many companies celebrated Pride Month this June, and how the LGBT+ community had mixed feelings about this attention from corporations. Many asked the question: is it ethical and appropriate for corporations to celebrate Pride Month?
The question should not be whether
or not corporations ought to celebrate pride, but how they can do it
respectfully. When companies celebrate Pride Month in a way that respects and
uplifts the LGBT community, they show their LGBT+ employees they are seen and
valued, and that they help to continue shifting our social landscape to one
that accepts everyone. Money talks, and when dozens of corporations change
their logos to rainbow, it’s hard not to take notice. The message is clear:
corporate America at large stands in solidarity with the LGBT+ community. At
least, for a month.
But not all corporate celebration of LGBT+ pride is created equal. For some companies, Pride is less of an opportunity to honor the LGBT+ community and more of an opportunity to sell rainbow-themed merchandise to turn a quick profit. This is where corporations celebrating Pride can quickly become an issue. Companies carelessly celebrating Pride can exploit the LGBT+ community instead of uplifting it.
Furthermore, when corporations fail to give back to the LGBT+ community while participating in Pride celebrations, they can also harm small LGBT+ owned businesses and independent LGBT+ artists who need community support to survive. While many LGBT+ people and their allies want to support LGBT+ businesses and content creators, it can be hard to do so. Their products are generally more expensive than that of corporate retailers, and they’re often only available online or at events such as Pride. The unfortunate reality is that for many people, it is more convenient and cost effective to walk into Target and buy a shirt covered in rainbows for Pride Month than it is to shop online for Pride merchandise made by an LGBT+ artist.
This is not to say that large corporations should not sell merchandise for Pride because they might take sales away from LGBT+ companies and content creators. Supporting LGBT+ businesses and artists is an issue in and of itself that would not instantly be solved if large corporations suddenly stopped selling Pride merchandise every June. In an ideal celebration of Pride, corporations and LGBT+ content creators could coexist with ease.
Instead, more corporations who sell Pride merchandise need to put their money where their mouth is. For corporations, it is one thing to support something verbally, and another thing to support it financially. Companies that donate to LGBT+ charities and sponsor Pride events do more for the LGBT+ community than companies who change their Twitter logo to rainbow. Additionally, it is important for companies that celebrate Pride to actually support their LGBT+ employees. A company that publicly expresses support only to enact homophobic and transphobic policies is not an ally and has no place celebrating Pride.
Lastly, corporations who celebrate Pride would do well to understand that while Pride Month only happens once a year, the LGBT+ community exists all year round. Rainbow flags don’t need to be pulled from storefronts come July 1. Advertisements that showcase LGBT+ people and families can be aired any time of year. The more a brand celebrates Pride consistently, the more it will truly earn respect from the community it is celebrating.
Pride is not a marketing scheme. It is not a party. It is a celebration of how far the LGBT+ community has come, and a way to recognize how much there truly is left to do to create a truly equal world for all of our LGBT+ siblings. Everyone who understands this, even corporations, are welcome.