By Eve Nevelos, Editorial Staff (‘24)

Happy Pride Month! June is all about celebrating the triumphs of LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and other) activists, the protection of trans and gay rights, and the sharing of queer stories to promote a more diverse and tolerant society. This month, cities around the world will fly rainbow flags high to remind everyone that queer people are here to stay. 

During June, many brands market LGBTQ+ products to turn a profit without benefiting the community – leaving many queer folks feeling like brands are exploiting their identities. The term “rainbow washing” is defined as a company publicly supporting the LGBTQ+ community or selling LGBTQ+ products while privately working against the community – For example, endorsing anti-LGBTQ+ politicians or being discriminatory towards queer employees.

One student, choosing to remain anonymous, said, “If brands are going to market towards LGBTQ+ consumers without actually having the best interest of the community in mind or even attempting to create or contribute to a greater change its just pandering and frankly manipulative marketing.”

There are plenty of brands who create pride month product lines and do it right – like Dr. Martens. Dr. Martens says that, “​​Pride is more than a single moment in the calendar. […] That’s why we are continuing our year-round partnership with The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQIA+ youth. In this, our 6th year of partnership with The Trevor Project, we are continuing our sponsorship with a $200,000 commitment.” Dr. Martens is profiting off of its LGBTQ+ customers while giving back to the community, showing gratitude and good intentions towards them. In a Forbes interview, Ed Watson, communication specialists and Founder of WeArePrew, highlights that it is the long-term, year-round support organizations give to the LGBTQ+- communities that is key, and not ‘flag-waving for a day’. 

CVS Health has publicly signed Human Rights Campaign’s statement opposing anti-LGBTQ+ laws and changed its profile picture on social media platforms to a rainbow logo. However, it has contributed to politicians who support anti-trans bills and who have received a score of zero on the Human Rights Campaign’s congressional scorecard. 

While shopping for pride products this year, try to buy directly from trans and queer small businesses, in order to support workers’ rights and uplift frequently discriminated against communities, or research corporations’ inclusivity before purchasing their merchandise. An anonymous student commented on this, saying that they worked for a company that promoted itself as LGBTQ+ friendly publicly, but, “[…] During pride month I wanted to wear a pride pin and, instead of being supportive, my manager told me to take it off to avoid customers from seeing it. That’s not okay, because that mentality feeds into the idea that we need to hide because its ‘taboo’ or ‘wrong’ and why would a company that supports the LGBTQ+ community want customers that are homophobic – why would they, even for a minute, validate homophobic people’s side, when the company has said that ‘they support’. They are only supportive when it doesn’t affect their business.”

It can be difficult to be an ethical consumer, but by supporting investigative journalism to hold organizations accountable, purchasing from small queer-owned businesses, and researching accordingly, purchasing pride products can be more than just “rainbow capitalism” – It can be an opportunity to reinforce the value of LGBTQ+ people.