Eaton: When Riots get Rainbow-washed

Pride month may be over, but LGBT+ rights in the U.S. are more important than ever.

Eaton%3A+When+Riots+get+Rainbow-washed

Emily Eaton

Pride started as a riot. Nowadays, it’s more of a street fair.

Twin Cities Pride took place this weekend — nearly a month behind the rest of the country — celebrating the LGBTQ community with “BIPOC and LGBTQ+ vendors, food courts, a beer garden and music stages” in Loring Park.

Alongside local vendors, corporations like Amazon, Comcast/Xfinity, FedEx, Sun Country Airlines and U.S. Bank set up booths for the weekend. In a strange turn of events, one of the few corporations I was cool with being at pride was Amazon: in 2012, Jeff Bezos and now ex-wife MacKenzie made one of the largest donations ever to the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage.

Here’s the deal: most corporations couldn’t care less about the LGBTQ community until June rolls around. With the advent of Pride month, there’s an opportunity for businesses to turn a profit on rainbow-colored debit cards, household items and logos that will literally only be rainbow for a singular month. The FBI, with its incredible history of surveilling gay activists in the 1960s and literal ban on LGBTQ employees that was in place until the 1990s, made a cute little pride tweet. Even the NFL tweeted a video that, I kid you not, opened with “Football is gay.” It’s like when kids turn 12 and are fully aware Santa isn’t real but have to keep up the ruse to get their presents. None of these organizations actually care about the LGBTQ community. All they care about is cashing in. If you don’t believe me, just look at Comcast. Despite passing the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index with flying colors, Comcast donated over $2 million dollars to 154 anti-gay politicians in 2019. Cute, right?

I have nothing against making capitalism a little more gay, or at least a little more colorful. Celebrating how far we have come is important. But Pride should not just be a party. LGBTQ people across the world, and in the United States, are not yet out of the woods. In terms of legislative attacks at the state level, 2021 is set up to be one of the worst years for LGBTQ rights, and 27 states do not protect LGBTQ individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In North Dakota, university-funded student groups can reject LGBTQ potential members on the basis of free speech. Tennessee is still arguing about bathrooms. States all over the country don’t teach sex-ed or any form of LGBTQ history.

Visibility is important. Equality is more important. If these organizations actually cared about LGBTQ rights, they’d be doing more than rainbow marketing schemes and meaningless social media posts. Put that money toward supporting politicians and policies that lift up the LGBTQ community. Fund real visibility in the education system and stand up for the children and adults across this country who are stuck in cities and towns that do not love them for who they are. The result will be a more equitable country and a consumer base that recognizes the steps that have been taken.

Next June, I don’t want to walk around Pride thinking about how lucky I am to live in a state that protects and respects the LGBTQ community. I want to celebrate the real progress that was pushed for: freedom of choice, an education system that teaches students real history, the ability to marry and have a cake at that wedding. Then, and only then, will I consider opting for that rainbow debit card.