Boger and editor Charlie Armstrong talks about Pride month and how it is being "degayed" by large companies attempting to profit off of it.
It would be an understatement for me to say that 2021 is going extremely quickly. We are already halfway through the year, though it feels as though only weeks have passed since I was sat at home watching the new year come in. June has come and brought amazing weather along with it, making everyone feel somewhat better about the delay in easing lockdown. June 2021 is filled with many awareness days and weeks which are celebrated on both national and international scales. According to the awareness days calendar online, June is National Candy Month and the home of English Wine Week, World Wellbeing Week and National Bingo Day. Whilst June is filled with some great national and international days and weeks, they tend to be eclipsed by the fact that June is Pride Month.
Pride began in the 1970s in remembrance of the Stonewall Riots which occurred in the USA 10 years prior. The Stonewall riots began when police raided the stonewall inn, a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. The riots lasted six days and were monumental in the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights. Pride was once a political movement which was used to continue to fight for equality. Nowadays pride month is viewed as being a time to celebrate acceptance and queerness around the world. Pride parades and events happen all over the world, but notable celebrations include New York, Madrid, Sao Paulo, Tel Aviv and Sydney.
When searching top 10 places for pride events in preparation for this article I was shocked to find (or rather not find) London on the lists. London pride was the first pride event to take place outside the USA and is still one of the largest pride events in the world. So why is it not on the list? The problem with pride month and also London pride is that it is now far too commercial. By this I mean that too many companies are taking advantage of pride month and using it to sell more products. Take Marks and Spencer and their creation of the LGBT sandwich containing Lettuce, Guacamole, Bacon and Tomato. I am no sandwich connoisseur but even I noticed that the guac and BLT combination was even more ambitious than the “That’s so sweet life of Hannah Montana” Disney channel crossover episode. In an attempt to up sales M&S actually made a mockery of the LGBTQIA+ community by turning it into a sandwich, offended a fair few people and created a truly hideous car-crash of a sandwich. Rushing to their defence, M&S have pledged to double any donations to their chosen LGBTQIA+ charity for pride month 2021. The charity chosen in akt, which aims to reduce LGBTQIA+ teen homelessness. But is this enough?
Virtue signalling is the act of doing something on purpose to demonstrate one’s goodness and moral correctness. Superficial support of the LGBTQIA+ community is becoming more and more predominant during pride month as we see many apps update their logos to include rainbows. Seeing these app icons does make queer people feel as though they are accepted as even 10 years ago queerness was so taboo that large conglomerates wouldn’t publicly share support for the LGBTQIA+ community. There has so much positive change in open support of the LGBTQIA+ community which should be praised. However, a cynic would argue the “rainbow-washing” from massive companies is a prime example virtue signalling and ego boosting. Social media activism is another example of virtue signalling in todays society. How many friends and followers posted a black square in support of BLM but never actually continued to actively make a change? Countless. How many people attended protests for trending social issues but never practiced what they preached? Numerous. Sadly, CEO’s and social media managers of massive companies are no different. Companies like to slap a rainbow over their logo and pretend they have been an LGBTQIA+ ally forever whilst simultaneously failing to speak up against queer issues or donate to queer charities throughout the rest of year. Without a shadow of a doubt LQBTQIA+ people in England have it better nowadays than they would have 20 years ago, but that doesn’t mean equality has been achieved. Pride month is needed just as much now to celebrate queerness as it was years ago and covering a logo in a rainbow does no good for anyone. In fact in some cases it does the opposite. In 2019 Barclays bank changed their app logo to a rainbow covered eagle for pride month. This caused an extreme uproar from users of the banking app followed by a string of hateful tweets and reviews, making lots of queer people feel worried for their safety in a month which should be celebrating their existence.
Pride is being celebrated worldwide with all ages being introduced to the concept of the LGBTQIA+ community. Recently, Ru Paul’s Drag Race alumni Nina West (Miss Congeniality of Season 11) worked with Nickelodeon to release a campy yet catchy song explaining the meaning of pride to viewers. Teaching young people how to be themselves and displaying queerness to young people is so important. However, many film and book series have been accused of queerbaiting to get more views and purchases from the LGBTQIA+ community. Queerbaiting is hinting at but never depicting or showing queer romances or characters. Notable examples of queerbaiting include Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series and Star Lord in the Gurdian of the Galaxy franchise. Hearing that Disney will be creating a new openly LGBTQIA+ character is enough to make any queer person excited to have some media representation. However, then having said LGBTQIA+ character have no lines or story to back up the statement about their sexual identity is then a sure-fire way to disappoint all the queer people who were so excited to be represented. This has happened countless times and Disney loves to play this game. Characters such as LeFou in the live action Beauty and the Beast and Officer Specter in Onwards are perfect examples of queerbaiting. Whilst this issue isn’t specific to pride month like rainbow-washing, it is still something that queer people think needs changing.
The main message to take from this is that everyone should be celebrating pride, regardless of their sexual preferences and identity. Queerness enriches the lives of so many without people realising. Imagine the world without any queer-oes (famous actors, singers, artists and designers). I wish a happy pride to everyone: allies, open members of the LGBTQIA+ community, those struggling with their identity and those who are yet to express their queerness. Celebrate safely and stay away from any sandwich which dares to combine guac with another staple sandwich filling.
Charlie Armstrong (He/Him)