From the moment they were first introduced, there has been something irresistible and exhilarating about the rainbow hashtags that Instagram offers for Pride Month.
The first time they appeared, I was over the moon, using them unnecessarily in every place I could. Even now, I am thrilled about them, and have often wished they were a year-round thing.
Yes, Facebook donates to Trump and is basically the right-wing’s social network—but is that really important if a rainbow ring appears around your stories every time you use an LGBTQ+ sticker?
Facebook, of course, isn’t the only company cashing in on Pride Month and claiming to stand with the LGBTQ+ public, while funding conservative organizations at the same time.
‘Pinkwashing’ is a term used for when companies, countries and politicians publicly support the LGBTQ+ community, while simultaneously harming it.
It is a term that is becoming increasingly common in today’s day and age, with more and more companies “going rainbow” every June, and then continuing to assist and finance anti-LGBTQ organizations for the rest of the year.
Corporations in India, though previously less vocal, have now begun to follow suit— but is this gesture just as empty?
Is this allyship, or just good business?
The emptiness of going rainbow, with a changed logo and a happy note about being gay, is blatantly obvious if it isn’t backed by tangible steps to create change.
Multinationals like Apple, Adidas, Levi’s and IKEA have been long-standing supporters of the queer community, with substantial donations to LGBTQ+ charities, in addition to impactful campaigns.
In India, campaigns from companies such as Fastrack, Vicks, Brooke Bond and Times of India were some of the first mainstream ones that started conversations and attempted to spark change.
On the other hand, corporations like YouTube have been criticized for censoring and being unsupportive of their queer creators, while using the same creators’ identities as bait the minute Pride Month sets in.
Victoria’s Secret, FedEx and Chick-fil-A are just some of the other corporations that have been discriminatory in the past— but the list, if searched for, is endless.
Donald Trump’s merch, in fact, has had a collection of rainbow ‘Make America Great Again’ caps, which is the equivalent of KFC advocating for the rights of chickens.
The famous LA-based festival Coachella donates to several anti-LGBTQ+ organizations, while inviting queer artists to perform every year.
In this case, what should be done? Should the musicians perform there as a way of making the queer community more visible and make thousands feel more accepted? Or should they decline because of where Coachella’s loyalties lie, and in turn, lose the opportunity to represent the LGBTQ+ community at a festival so huge, that so many young people are bound to be at?
This question is one that is difficult to answer.
While it is important to be constructive and supportive of the queer community behind-the-scenes, it is undeniable that representation is also just as essential.
Seeing the open celebration of queerness and queer identities is bound to impact those who are questioning their own gender or sexuality, and are stuck in a loop of internalized fear and hatred.
While it can be frustrating to see rainbows everywhere in June, and the lack of support from the same places all year-round, the fact that there’s a Pride flag there to begin with, is not something to take for granted.
It has taken decades of activism for the LGBTQ+ community to be included in the list of things that you need to be supportive of, in order to be a good person or organisation.
Allyship comes in different forms, and the most we can do is do our research, study the history of these corporations, and hold accountable those that only go rainbow for the sake of taking advantage of the LGBTQ+ community.
At the end of the day, it is important for the LGBTQ+ community and its true allies to remember that Pride isn’t just a celebration.
Pride is political— it is about remembering those who fought for us, and honouring them by continuing to fight for those who need it now. It is about freedom, and being able to live our truth.
Institutions worldwide may have turned Pride into a corporate-sponsored holiday, but it would be shameful to forget why this month exists and how it came about, especially in the wake of recent events, and the reminder that discrimination against marginalized communities is just as prevalent all over the world, even today.
Pride Month is, thus, a revolution—a rebellion in itself. The need for a celebration of identity is, of course, indisputable—it has taken years of work for our community to be loved, accepted and seen as normal. It takes years for individuals of the community to love themselves, and it can sometimes be hard to feel angry as you finally gain the acceptance you have always dreamt of.
But it is important to remember that this acceptance is not universal. There are still people all over the world struggling to just exist because of their identity. And as long as they are vulnerable, so are we.
In the midst of all the rainbow hashtags, colourful shoes, dresses and logos, it is vital that the real message of Pride is never diluted.