Cashing in on Pride

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It's Pride month, and as usual the parades will be marked by corporate floats and contingents sporting rainbow flags. Mike Blasenstein wonders if that level of support from business is enough. 

When I came out, being gay was a lot more controversial than it is now, but even back then companies smelled an audience so appreciative of the slightest recognition that we responded with staunch consumer loyalty.

Very often that recognition took the form of a rainbow somewhere in their ads, which the community would immediately notice, with LGBTQ media even running news stories about it. And very often those stories would be followed up by others detailing the public backlash the company faced in return for its courage.

That rainbow meant a lot back then. But as we’ve become more embraced in society, supporting the LGBTQ community has become “safer” for businesses. The only risk for them now is missing out on queer dollars, which they evidently think they can rake in simply by making a rainbow version of their corporate logo, flying a rainbow flag from their corporate buildings, draping corporate parade floats in rainbow bunting and tossing out corporate rainbow swag to the crowd.

But what do they do the rest of the year? Do they support the Equality Act, which would add LGBTQ rights to the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Have they spoken out against the government’s persecution of transgender people? Do they oppose the so-called “religious liberty” laws that allow businesses to turn away LGBTQ customers? Have they even updated their forms to accommodate non-binary genders?


In all fairness, some of these companies actually do engage meaningfully with the community. But for every one of those, there are many others flashing rainbow logos on social media whose only support seems to be turning hashtag-pride into dollar sign-profits.

I wish the rainbow would return to being a symbol of community instead of an icon of commodity. But I’ll try to be proud that we’re no longer a business risk but, rather, another customer segment. Yes, we’re being taken for granted. But at this point in our journey, even that is not to be taken for granted.

With a Perspective, I’m Mike Blasenstein.

Mike Blasenstein is a software engineer in Richmond.