Here’s Your Annual Reminder: Corporations Have Never Been Queer Allies

Queer Liberation Not Rainbow Capitalism
Source: Esperluette on Flickr

This post was guest authored by Joey Katzenell.

As June approached this year, queer people across the US braced for the typical rainbow-washing we have seen corporate America push at all our local retailers in recent years. However, this year, many queer people were surprised to see so many companies pull back on their outward support of the LGBTQ+ community. Popular brands like Target, Nike, and North Face chose not to release or scale back Pride merchandise this year. In fact, several large corporations have stopped changing their logos to rainbow alternatives and instead decided not to make any public acknowledgement of Pride. 

So why does this corporate walkback feel like a bitter disappointment, despite general consensus in the queer community that corporations are just profiting off of the queer community during Pride month rather than making meaningful shifts year-round to dismantle discrimination and exclusion? It could be because this pullback shows yet again that corporations seem to only care about the queer community as far as it benefits their profits. (The same can and should be said for the BIPOC community, as corporations have also been walking back on their DEI commitments since 2021, the year after the murder of George Floyd in 2020.) This trend marks the highly concerning sentiment that it is no longer profitable to support queer people in the US – that the fire against LGBTQ+ people has grown larger than our purchasing power. 

Here’s the truth:

Companies like McDonald’s and Amazon – that profit off the the genocide in Gaza killing thousands of queer people, make massive campaign contributions to homophobic and transphobic politicians, crack down on worker unions, profit from the prison labor of a disproportionate number BIPOC queer people, and increase homelessness, which also disproportionately affects BIPOC queer people. These large corporations are the same ones paying for Keke Palmer to join the stage of DC’s Capital Pride Festival to celebrate the month. Meanwhile, corporations that sponsor Pride events and/or change their logos to be rainbow are at the same time growing the wealth gap with exorbitant executive pay, unfair wages, anti-ESG campaigns – policies that directly contribute to homelessness, mass incarceration, and climate change.

This year, Pride Month is a reminder that voluntary initiatives will not save us. Corporate executives must be held accountable for their exploitative behavior, and we need to push lawmakers to incentivize corporate decision-making that is aligned with the interests of workers, communities, and the planet. Because at the end of the day,  campaign finance reform, criminal justice reform, restrictions on buying up affordable housing, protecting the right to unionize, and regulating executive pay and stock buybacks, and a progressive tax code directly benefit the queer community made up of working people across the country more than any rainbow logo or product ever could. 

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