Rainbow Capitalism (also called Pink Capitalism) sounds much more innocent and positive than it is. It calls into question the authenticity of the support brands lend when the rainbow flags come out for 30 some odd days and then fade away into the background until next year. 

A brief history

Today’s Pride parade is just that, a parade, a celebration. But that’s not how Pride started. Gay Americans experienced palpable animosity sixty or seventy years ago. They were not welcomed into most businesses.

LGBTQ+ people faced persecution, violence, and death throughout most of America. It was not safe for most people to come out to friends and family, nevermind to strangers in public spaces.

There were however a few gay bars. But they were rarely owned by gay people and police raids on these bars were common. The raids continued for years, and along with them, hostility between police and gay people grew.

The Stonewall Riot & Pride

This was particularly true in Greenwich Village by the end of the 1960s. There police concentrated and a raid at Stonewall Inn quickly escalated into a situation the police could not manage.

LGBT men and women protested and rioted for the days that followed. Protests continued outside of the Stonewall Inn for weeks while LGBTQ+ activists fought for places that welcomed gay people into their establishments.

In the aftermath of the riots, two New York-based LGBTQ+ activist organizations were founded, along with three newspapers. Several months later, gay rights organizations were founded nationally and internationally. All of this achieved within a year after Stonewall.

June 28, 1970, marked the one year anniversary of the fateful day that launched the Stonewall riots. It also marked the first gay pride march. Three took place that year, in New York, Los Angelas, and San Fransisco. While no march took place in Chicago, like several other cities, paid tribute on the first anniversary of the riots.

Present day

All those obstacles existed for LGTBQ+ and still, the community was able to create organizations and make lasting change. Imagine what they could do if subsidies existed to support LGBTQ+ owned businesses.

This is why companies exploiting Pride is particularly grotesque. We don’t need faux representation from major corporations. We need authenticity from members of marginalized groups. 

When those financial options don’t exist for these groups, the consequences are deadly. When people cannot provide for themselves in safe ways, they’re forced to put their life at risk. And why? Because we’ve allowed capitalism to run rampant to the detriment of most of society? What are we gaining from capitalism at this point?

Rainbow Capitalism is cultural appropriation. When we take from a culture without understanding or respecting the history involved, we inevitably dehumanize the group that culture belongs to. In this way, Rainbow Capitalism reinforces homophobia and transphobia.

The problem

It sends a clear message that it’s ok to take what you like from a certain culture and continue to refuse to accept the people within it. More specifically because capitalism is involved, it also sends the message that it’s ok to take the money of this group without accepting them.

Where is the LGBTQ+ representation from these companies on any month that it’s June? Where are there LGBTQ+ staff? Corporate leaders? Designers? Managers? Supervisors? Marketers? When these same corporations donate, how to they consistently manage to overlook LGBTQ+ charities?

Using rainbow flags and recoloring products to align with Pride is deliberate. Companies understand the buying power the community has, otherwise, they wouldn’t bother with the annual 30-day rebranding.

The Next Step

It’s estimated that the LGBTQ+ community’s buying power is over 3 trillion globally. What if we took the time to support LGBTQ+ owned businesses? Or at the very least, companies that supported the community?

What would it look like if we learned from Stonewall and the year that followed and invested in the community? What if we stopped financially supporting brands that participate in Rainbow Capitalism?

Do your homework and where ever you can support LGBTQ+ instead of corporations that don’t care about your rights and only serve to perpetuate your oppression.

I’d love to know…

What’s your favorite LGBTQ+ owned company?

What are some ways you can better support trans sex workers?