As I sat in Costa near Oxford Circus early Saturday morning waiting for my Fashion Husband Ross to arrive so we can celebrate pride, I found myself contemplating the sheer power and force behind Pride and how it’s changed over the years, and I couldn’t help but notice all the brand and company T-Shirts being worn by people that were congregating in the coffee shop to plan their activities for the day – this certainly isn’t the Pride I remember…
There is no denying that the event has become a huge advertising and commercial instrument for brands and companies, and whilst I am so happy that we are finally getting more traction and support from leading brands and industries to support our cause, I can’t help but worry that they are only involving themselves because it is financially beneficial to them, and is that really a relationship we want to engage in? Our buying power is HUGE, the Pink Pound is a term that highlights the sheer weight behind how and where we choose to spend and invest our money, and we would be foolish to believe that brands don’t consider that when deciding to align themselves with us.
It’s very difficult to ascertain a brands agenda when showcasing at Pride unless they are very vocal in their activism throughout the year, but for those who’s support seems to come out of left field, we’ve got to question where they were all those years ago when our fight felt like a lonely place to be and the only people you would encounter at Pride, were members of the LGBTQ+ community themselves.
Reboot Online recently reported that 29% of companies running a Pride Campaign this year have never done so before. This same research highlighted that only 64% of companies running a Pride campaign, are donating to an LGBTQ+ charity – thus solidifying my worries that they are cashing in our cause for their own gain instead of helping support our cause.
That same report showed that whilst 84% of LGBTQ+ people said they felt positive about brands using Pride month to create an LGBTQ+ campaign, a huge 89% said they think at least some brands use these campaigns to sell products rather than support our cause. Furthermore, a staggering 96% said brands should be more supportive of Pride year round – not just during Pride season.
I myself have a very varied view of Pride, as a gay man who grew up at a time (and in places) where being Queer or Gay was not just unacceptable, but it was considered dangerous and scary, so gay clubs and Pride were the only places I really felt free and safe. The community itself at times could be just as judgemental as the outside world, with other gay men telling me I was too fat, too femme, too camp ,or too weird. I often felt like an abused puppy, I so desperately wanted to be loved by the only people I knew who could, so simply accepted the abuse because I had no other option. This has now changed, and our community is more diverse than ever, but within it, we have turned our judgements into sub-divisions or factions and we’ve begun to fragment. I worry that if we don’t start sorting out what’s going on inside our own four walls, then more brands and companies will swoop in and take advantage of our still much needed message of equality and diversity.
We cannot let people take advantage of us. We cannot let our differences create distance between us. We cannot accept being used as a vessel for profitable gain. For almost 40 years, our brothers and sisters have marched to be listened to, to be respected, and to have the same rights as everyone else – and our fight is far from over. Only a few months ago, it was reported that the Sultan of Brunei had passed a bill to allow homosexuals to be stoned to death, and that’s just one example of our rights still being challenged and stripped away from us.
I don’t want this article to leave you on a sour note, as I too enjoy celebrating how far we’ve come and continuing to drive the message of equality and love, but I don’t want us to become blinded by empty promises of support that sit on foundations made of sand. Enjoy the moments of freedom, being given free cups, parties sponsored by alcohol brands, and much more, but don’t lose sight of what we’re there for, to keep that freedom and for it to exist throughout the world for all of us…