June. One of the few times a year when big corporations put in minimal effort to acknowledge the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community (LGBT+) for a mere 30 days. Then, poof… the rainbow shirts, socks, boxers, are all gone.
The same thing applies to LGBT+ History Month during October, except it’s even less likely for companies to celebrate the queer community. That is sad and frankly unacceptable.
This is all performative activism. Some companies would rather let customers know they are allies by releasing a lazy line of rainbow clothing with the words “Love is love” than advocate for the community in a meaningful manner. In other words, a quick money grab at the expense of a marginalized community.
Creating a rainbow version of a logo isn’t inherently problematic. But it becomes harmful to an already marginalized community when it is not backed up by significant action.
A prominent example of bad Pride merch is Walmart’s “Come to the gay side, we have rainbows” shirt. This harmful, out of touch message minimizes queer identity by making it seem like a choice.
In an attempt to cater to the LGBT+ community, big corporations like Walmart and Target display superfical messages on t-shirts that have no benefit to the community. Stamping a rainbow on select items in your establishment does nothing but fail the LGBT community.
Other companies aren’t doing any better. H&M, for one, donates a portion (only 10%) of proceeds from their “Pride Out Loud” collection to LGBT+ charities.
Adidas is another one of the many brands that has a dedicated line for Pride Month. But Adidas is also one of the major sponsors of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, a country with anti-LGBT+ laws. This is not only a blaring contradiction, but it also makes companys’ attempts to support the queer community even more shallow.
Avoiding performative activism
How to avoid any type of performative activism seems pretty straightforward, but apparently not to some. So, to spell it out:
Educate yourself. Make a legitimate commitment to LGBT+ advocacy. Donate your proceeds to an LGBT+ charity. Look into the companies and events you are supporting.
Another way that may not be so obvious is the process of normalizing queerness instead of stereotyping and ostracizing an entire community.
Corporations must include people that are in the community in the planning of LGBT+ History Month and Pride Month campaigns. It is counterproductive to exclude people from the community that you are trying to target.
Companies should not be supporting the queer community only once or twice a year, but rather all year round. Making a consistent effort to raise awareness and show support takes large corporations one step closer to supporting the LGBT+ community and making it count.