We start seeing rainbows everywhere during June – companies decking their products and branding out with rainbows, shouting that they support the LGBTQ community.
There are pluses and minuses of this phenomenon.
On the plus side, visible support of queer lives is rad. The more rainbows are out there, the more isolated queer and questioning teens see that the whole world doesn’t hate them. Plus, many of the companies that have rainbow branding during pride are also genuinely safe places to work for queer and trans folks – they allow folks to put their names of choice (and not just legal names) on name-tags, they have trainings with HR staff, they allow benefits for same-gender couples, or get good insurance that covers things like medical transitioning.
The downside is that a lot of it is just branding, and in no way reflects the values of the companies.
YouTube, for example, tweeted support of transgender service members on a trans pride flag, but continues to demonetize videos with the words “transgender” or “trans” in the title, meaning that trans media creators are unable to earn money on their channels. Companies like Adidas release rainbow-splashed sneakers, while earning a shocking low Human Rights Campaign score in how they treat their employees (which isn’t directly LGBTQ focused, but I’ll bet their insurance plans don’t cover medical transitions) [EDIT: actually, the score ALSO relates to how they treat their employees re: being LGBTQ]
It is worth remembering that some companies whose social media presence has suddenly spouted rainbows may have a queer employee manning the social media accounts, finally stoked to be able to express some Pride in a professional way. But that doesn’t stop me from being skeptical when a bank or a vodka company starts covering their product in rainbows. Do they want me, or do they want my money?
To be fair, it is a little bit of a risk to visibly support the LGBTQ community – Target continues to be strongly in support of queer and trans customers (with an explicit bathroom-gender policy allowing trans folks to use the restroom that best fits their identity) and queer and trans employees (managers get LGBTQ sensitivity training, and employees are permitted to use names and pronouns that don’t match legal paperwork), and has an excellent Pride merchandise section (I got my puppy a rainbow bone tag!). In response, numerous large conservative groups have boycotted Target, and financial reports indicate that there was at least a temporary effect on their profits from the boycott.
Companies whose priorities are just profits need to balance how they think conservative groups will respond versus how the think queer and left-leaning groups will respond – where will they get or lose more money? Most of the brands vomiting rainbows are doing it because they made the financial decision to cater to the LGBTQ community.
But you know what? I’m pretty excited to be catered to.