Pride month has come to a close. The annual month celebrating LGBTQIA+ people across the globe saw its celebration of parades, pride merchandise, and ceremonies honoring trailblazing LGBT activists. At a time when there are hundreds of pieces of anti-transgender legislation across America, and the threat of losing the right to same-sex marriage hangs in the air with the current iteration of the conservative Supreme Court, pride month is more important than ever.
As companies have worked to capitalize on pride month though, it seems they have lost some sense of what LGBT customers want from pride month marketing. Slapping rainbow flags on products and saying Happy Pride isn’t cutting the mustard anymore. While LGBT consumers are happy to see brands seemingly get on board for LBGT causes, marketing often reeks of “rainbow capitalism.” These companies often don’t seem to actually engage with the LGBT community in any meaningful way.
What do LGBT customers actually want from pride marketing? For starters, brands need to put their money where their mouth is. If they are truly invested in LGBT issues, they need to give back to the community. There are tons of LGBT organizations out there that would gladly partner with these fashion companies to raise funds.
The good news is more brands are getting on board and getting it right. Abercrombie & Fitch donated 400,000 dollars to The Trevor Project, the nation’s largest suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth. Adidas partnered with British LGBTQ advocacy group Stonewall UK and Athlete Ally, which works to combat homophobia and transphobia in sports. American and Eagle helped the It Gets Better Project fund 50 10,000 dollar grants, one for each U.S. state, to empower LGBTQ youth.
One issue that many still have with pride marketing though is the lack of diversity. The Pride movement in America was founded on the backs of transgender women of color, who continue to go underrepresented in pride marketing campaigns. At the bare minimum, brands need to acknowledge that Black trans lives matter. Black trans women continue to experience the highest rates of unemployment, homelessness, incarceration, and murder than any of their other LGBT counterparts. They are also far more likely to turn to sex work as a means of survival. While fashion brands are throwing their weight behind major LGBT organizations to put their money where their mouth is, they can also put more emphasis on organizations that support trans women of color including the Marsha P. Johnson Institute and the Okra Project.
While throwing money behind major organizations is also aiding the fight for LGBT organizations, major brands can also stand to highlight more local LGBT organizations who often don’t see the big-dollar donations that national organizations that have donors with big pockets enjoy the privilege of.
Finally, LGBT people would like to see themselves consulted for these ad campaigns. From artistic direction to casting, if brands really want to represent the LGBT community, they need to be hiring and paying LGBT people. While pride marketing has come far from its days of being taboo, there’s still work to be done. Slowly but incrementally, progress is being made.