Throughout the month of June, members of the LGBTQ+ community gather to celebrate Pride month, a commemoration of the Stonewall uprising in 1969 and the subsequent overcoming of barriers surrounding sexuality. Pride month has really come into the public eye in the past 50 years, as evidenced by the rise in Pride marches all around the country. Although gay pride has been celebrated for decades, the decision by the United States Supreme Court to legalize gay marriage nationally did not occur until June 26, 2015. Since then, Pride month has become much more than just a celebration — it’s now a capitalist society’s dream. From Target’s “Ew, David” “Schitt’s Creek” T-shirt to Disney’s “Belong, Believe, Be Proud” pins, multi-billion dollar companies continue to profit off of Pride month.
The term “rainbow-washing” has been popularized over the past few years. It means that companies will outwardly “support” the LGBTQ+ community by selling rainbow-themed merchandise during Pride month without actually doing anything meaningful to support the community. Other than Target, which financially supports the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), — an education organization that aims to end discrimination based on identity — it is hard to find big corporations that have taken real action to support the LBGTQ+ community. In fact, many companies have done the complete opposite.
Among the most problematic companies when it comes to recognizing social causes is Walmart. According to an article by Business Insider, Walmart was one of the biggest donors to lawmakers against the 2020 Equality Act, donating $1.2 million to lawmakers opposed to the bill. Though they did split the money evenly between Democrats and Republicans, even then, Walmart knew that they were donating to politicians in the House of Representatives who were opposed to the bill. It is also noted in an MSNBC article that they donated $43,000 to Arkansas lawmakers who helped pass anti-LGBTQ legislation. Walmart now has a full Pride collection, which may lead some to believe that they are changing their ways. I am not convinced.
Big corporations like Walmart operate on billions of dollars and do whatever they can to expand that number. There are hundreds of social causes Walmart could also make collections for, but they cherry-pick the ones that already have a wide acceptance, specifically those seen as a “holiday.” Walmart has also launched a Juneteenth collection, including napkins saying, “It’s the freedom for me,” a popular term coined in African American Vernacular English (AAVE) that was not intended to be used for profit by a multibillion-dollar corporation. Clearly, this “Celebration” collection that Walmart has coined is nothing but a celebration for the increase in money they will be making.
Another company that donated to anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers is Disney. The Disney Store launched its 2022 Pride collection with items sporting rainbow-infused Mickeys and rainbow-covered logos. While the sentiment seems genuine, behind the scenes, Disney’s stance on Pride is more complicated. Disney has previously donated nearly $300,000 to Republican lawmakers that support the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida.
While many Pride collections out there are performative, there are still many left that are genuine in their intent. Companies amongst those actually donating to LGBTQ+ organizations and educating on behalf of the community include Lush, Ben and Jerry’s, Bath & Body Works, The North Face, Morphe and so many more. There are also many local brands that are supporting LGBTQ+ organizations, so be sure to check your local brands’ social media outlets and websites.
Pride month is a time to celebrate overcoming barriers, being yourself and, to put it simply, love. Some companies celebrate for profit and some genuinely care, but regardless, you can always make a difference by checking out organizations like The Trevor Project, GLAAD and everything else listed above. This Pride month, support companies that support love!
Katie Maraldo is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at email@example.com.