Stonewall is barely behind us. The crypt keeper otherwise known as Mike Pence sits a spitting distance from the highest office in the nation which is currently filled by notable transphobe Donald Trump. In dozens of other countries, homosexuality is punishable by prison or even death. Yet amidst all this, we have Pride.
It is remarkable that parades celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community still go tumbling down the street in a cloud of body paint and glitter despite so much hate. Being able to join in wearing a t-shirt that says “Born This Gay” or “Pride and No Prejudice” should be recognized as the small, but fierce feat it is.
While June is undoubtedly an important month to rock the rainbow with technicolor “Love Wins” and innocuous “HUMAN” shirts, all that merch feels a little bit advantageous. An injection of incremental support at a time when everyone is looking to see who’s an ally. For thirty days in June, companies like American Eagle, Absolut, Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, Disney, Equinox, IKEA, Lush, Macy’s, Megabus (what?), Nike, Rosetta Stone, Sweetgreen, Under Armor, Warby Parker and countless others are quick to roll-out limited-time offers and special editions in support of the LGBTQIA+ community. While that may seem like an exciting list of #allies, it is important to remember that they all revert back to monochrome once the month is over.
Sure, Bud Light’s rainbow-colored aluminum bottles are appreciated, but the truth is corporations, just like cops, haven’t really earned a place at Pride.
Without consistent and substantial support, all the banks, brands…and mouthwash (???) are all fair weather friends that rolled up in time for the month-long block party that is Pride and disappear after. In addition to that not being true allyship or inclusion, these companies are also making more than a quick buck off of the celebration all under the guise of giving back to the Community.
For their new STAY TRUE, STAY YOU collection, H&M is “celebrating love, equality, and togetherness in all its glory!” This means quoting Laverne Cox and donating “10% of the global sales price” from the collection to the United Nations’ Free & Equal campaign. At $10 a tank top, H&M is really going to have to move some product to make that percentage count.
Similarly, Rag & Bone is featuring a BE PROUD, DO GOOD campaign that celebrates “Pride with two limited edition t-shirts inspired by individuality and togetherness and designed by NYC-based artist Jason Naylor.” Each costs $150, of which 20% will benefit The Trevor Project. Rag & Bone is also decorating “Pride windows” at select locations. For those counting at home, that’s $30 and a window.
Urban Outfitters‘s Happy Pride collection features t-shirts, racerbacks, snapbacks, socks, fanny packs, backpacks, bucket hats– everything you’d expect to find in an Urban. According to the UO website, “for every item sold, UO Community Cares has donated $10 to GLSEN, the leading education organization focused on creating LGBTQ-inclusive schools.” That’s $10, which is what it costs to buy a salad in the city, for a $30 t-shirt you have to assemble yourself.
Gap (from exactly May 26th to July 6th) is donating “15% of sales from the Gap + Pride Collection to the United Nations Foundation in support of the UN Free & Equal Campaign for LGBTI equality. Up to $100,000. While supplies last.” Purchasing their Embroidered Denim Shorts, which cost a cool $59.95, means about $9 goes towards LGBTI equality.
But wait, it gets better. Converse “are supporting longstanding local and global LGBTQ+ partners, including It Gets Better Project, OUT MetroWest and Fenway Health.” Their Pride campaign also features members/advocates of the LGBTQIA+, like Navy SEAL Kristin Beck modelings a pair of Chuck 70 Pride High Tops, as well as “statements of hope” posters available for download. It is unclear how much “supporting” translates to in USD.
Pride is a celebration and should not become about money, but selling rainbow swag does beg the question of who really benefits from the proceeds. While it is truly amazing that 10% of a shirt or $9 or whatever the total comes out to is going to the Trevor Project or It Gets Better given what an important service those organizations provide, it is simply not enough.
Advertisements featuring members of the LGBTQIA+ community or their artwork is a step in the right direction. Harry’s advertisements feature Shea Couleé, Richard Haines, and Fran Tirado. They are also selling a Shave With Pride set for $25 that includes “a limited-edition, artist-designed box complete with an iridescent razor” and donating 100% of profits to the Trevor Project. Now that is a number to be proud of.
But I guess not everyone can put their money where their mouth is. So I suggest a compromise. Keep the proceeds, move all your HOMO ESTAS t-shirts and store windows cascading rainbows to November. Because Love Wins, but Hate Votes.