The Ethos of Pride Month Must Not be Forgotten
By Curtis Harding
It’s Pride month across the country, which means it’s time to break out the rainbow flags, celebrate all things LGBTQ, and party like it’s going out of style. Right? Maybe — but there’s far more to Pride month just than that.
When I first moved to the New York area, it took me years before I celebrated Pride month. I was fully out by then, but it just didn’t seem worth it. My boyfriend at the time had lived here his whole life. He decried the sanitized corporatization of Pride month and railed against seeing more bank floats than drag queens. He yearned for the wild celebrations from before LGBTQ folks became good for business.
He was, you see, grumbling about the corporate takeover of Pride month. It’s long been a favorite pastime among LGBTQ folks, but this year, we finally seem to be fed up with it.
We’ve all likely seen the term “rainbow washing” take off as folks call out companies who, for one month and only one month a year, declare themselves our allies and insert themselves into our Pride month celebrations. I’ve even noticed how a Forbes article from 2019 calling out corporations that donate heavily to anti-gay politicians, even as they slap a rainbow on their logo for the month of June, is suddenly being quoted and shared. That behavior is just not good enough anymore.
Last year, George Floyd’s murder just before Pride month galvanized people around the globe to fight for change. We spent June declaring that Black Lives Matter and the systemic brutality and oppression that we’d ignored for too long would not stand. It’s something we never should have forgotten, but sadly, many of us did.
Last Pride month, the phrase “The first Pride was a riot” (referring to the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York) caught on as non-BIPOC LGBTQ folks seemed to finally understand on a large scale that the fight for rights, safety, and dignity is one that all marginalized people share. The LGBTQ community is as beautifully diverse as humanity, and there’s far more to it than just the experiences of cis white gay men.
Couple those realizations with the parade and party-cancelling pandemic, and what we were left with was a 2020 Pride month stripped back to its roots. While it’s long been a celebration of our identities in a world that’s tried to suppress them, at its core, Pride’s always been a protest. A protest to assert our dignity. A protest to lift up the oppressed. A protest to fight against the powerful.
So it makes sense that we now seem to fully realize that the powerful includes corporations who say they’re our friends but give money to those who fight against us. And it includes companies who say they support us, but do nothing but put a rainbow on their web page once a year. If you want to declare yourself an ally, you need to fight for us, support us, support our businesses, and help lift all of us up all of the time. That is how you celebrate Pride.
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