10 Jun 2021
This week: Celebrating – not just a month, but a lifetime of – Pride.
June is Pride Month (in the U.S. and UK, that is). So say it loud, say it proud. Also – buckle up, for some majorly prismatic corporate marketing.
• The LGBTQIA+ community is a “prized demographic”, reported Forbes, with a combined buying power of around $3.7 trillion. One in six adult Gen Z-ers don’t identify with being straight, and with their income on track to grow faster than millennials’ – they’ll be the the ones driving the economy in the next decade. Agender keywords used in fashion searches have jumped by 33% since the start of 2021. All those stats just to say… so-called “pink money” is the way of the future.
• Plenty of major retailers are seeing rainbows, with promises to pay it forward to organisations dedicated to equality and crisis intervention, like the Human Rights Campaign and the Trevor Project. Footwear is particularly rife with all the colours of inclusivity. There’s the Dr Martens “1461 for Pride” shoe, the “Alpargata Unity Rainbow” from Toms, or the Nike “Be True” collection. Even the staunchly grey New Balance released a multi-hued “Everybody’s Welcome” range. (We digress: if you’re interested in how colour theory is applied to kicks, check out this long read from The New York Times).
• “Critics say… that companies are profiting off of historically disadvantaged groups. Others counter that brands are amplifying positive messaging around social causes, as well as offering financial support to advocacy groups,” wrote Brian Baskin in The Business of Fashion. Indeed, examples of corporate two-facedness abound. Although the feeds of giants like Amazon and Walmart trumpet support, their donations to politicians who oppose LGBTQIA+ rights are nothing short of opportunistic hypocrisy.
Commodifying a movement = always problematic, but representation ultimately matters. It influences societal shifts, and helps form public opinion.
As writer and strategist Nick Wolny puts it: “The bottom line… is that when you normalize our communities in media and help tell our stories, we notice, and our brand loyalty is real”.
JUST BE A QUEEN
Despite all the rainbow flags, it’s not always sunny. Homophobic hate crimes are on the rise, including in places like the UK and Germany. Being gay is still criminal in 35% of countries around the world. Transgender rights are the target of more discriminatory legislation in the U.S. than ever before.
Visibility is an affirmation, a celebration in itself.
• Spaces can be life-changing, even life-saving. From minute progress to seismic moments, queer history is inextricably linked to space. Since as early as the 17th century, there have been bars for openly gay people. The Gateways opened in 1931 on London’s King’s Road, and was the longest-running lesbian members club until it closed fifty years later. Why do we celebrate Pride this month? June 28 marks the night in 1969 the Stonewall Inn – a gay club and refuge – was raided in NYC.
• The LGBTQIA+ community is also one that’s constantly moving the conversation about full inclusivity forward. 79% of women and non-binary people agree that gay men have more options when it comes to London’s venues. “Soho isn’t the most welcoming if you don’t look a particular way,” said Aisha Shaibu, who is opening an as-yet-unnamed queer bookshop/café and sober space in Shoreditch. Aisha wants to prioritise non-binary, Black and POC people, “because we know… that’s the community that struggles the most in terms of accessing space”.
• When it comes to forging new ground, queer-owned brands and businesses are fearless. Ellie Pennick, founder of Guts Gallery in London, describes herself as a “working-class, queer Northerner with no art background”. Art background or not – Pennick is upending the traditional business model, from paying gallery staff a living wage to the wider mission of championing “underrepresented voices”.
We’re the first to say that shopping can be an act of social activism, but Pride month is about so much more than a commercial opportunity. “Pride was – and still is, despite its corporatization and sanitization – a protest. Inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, our trans and queer ancestors have fought tooth and nail… to have their humanity recognized,” wrote Tre’vell Anderson in Esquire.
No matter where you fall on the spectrum – if you’re a human, you can recognise Pride.
In the wise words of Queen of the Universe, RuPaul: “We’re all born naked, the rest is drag”.
Words by Amy Tai, creative consultant and native New Yorker now based in London.