The Gleaner

Pride – beyond the rainbow

With June coming to an end, Pride month is almost over. Pride month is devoted to uplifting the voices and stories of LGBTQ2SIA+ people (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirit, intersex, asexual). It’s a celebration, but it’s important to acknowledge the needs of the community – where we are and how far we still have to go in terms of equality for all. Let’s not forget that Pride started as a riot against police brutality, and it continues to be a political statement.

It may be surprising to hear, but Pride month causes a lot of stress for a lot of queer people. On the surface, it seems like there’s never been a better time to be queer. But in reality, a lot of companies who preach Pride on June 1 are actively working against queer people throughout the rest of the year.

“Rainbow-washing” is a term used to describe when companies go all out for Pride in terms of performative behaviour. They launch social media campaigns, sell rainbow-covered merchandise, and announce that they stand with queer folks. But on July 1 the decorations go away, and they’ve made money and earned social brownie points profiting off other people’s identities.

This isn’t to say that every company or business that celebrates Pride is wrong or performative. Your local coffee shop or bookstore with a rainbow flag outside isn’t where the problem lies. The problem is the multi-million-dollar organizations that use Pride for social gain and turn around and donate thousands of dollars to anti-LGBTQ2SIA+ organizations or politicians. For example, Walmart, Amazon, FedEx, and even Google celebrate Pride, but have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to politicians with anti-queer agendas since 2021.

Being queer is not a part-time identity. We don’t stop being queer on July 1. Seeing how many companies and organizations pull out Pride gear is inspiring, in a way; it is a symbol of how far we’ve come that our existence is being acknowledged in a positive way. But, we can’t take performative behaviour as activism. It’s important to continue to push for liberation and equality, beyond the rainbow flags and ad campaigns.

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