Each year, throughout the month of June everywhere you look you can see rainbows ranging from display stands, changed brand logos to actual pride products for sale, yet how much of a difference is this doing for the LGBTQIA community?
Despite the term queer baiting only being recognised by the Oxford English dictionary as recently as March 2021, it has been around and in action for many years prior. It has recently grown in usage since the early 2010s as more discussions centring on LGBTQ+ rights take place online. Queer baiting can be understood as a marketing tactic whereby media producers imply queer storylines that do not become actualised. Corporations use queer baiting to sell more products. For example, they could be selling pride products while simultaneously and hypocritically be supporting homophobic and transphobic causes. This is especially prominent during pride month.
Pride month is a celebration of queer people’s identity. It occurs every June to commemorate the Stonewall riots in the US as well as the daily struggles of LGBTQIA people across the world. As it becomes more widely celebrated each year, many companies have started to use this month to promote their work for the community. After all, it is good marketing for them; lesbians and gay people are 72% more likely to buy from a company that is lgbt friendly and it is the same for 34% of high income earners, which, of course means so many more potential customers if a company is known to be lgbt friendly.
While it is undeniably great that these companies show their support for the LGBTQIA community and it has major benefits such as promoting the normalcy of queer people which can be so reassuring for young people to see, some companies hide their homophobic and transphobic activities behind their rainbow coloured products.
An example of such company is Lego. In 2021, trying to attract it’s lgbt customers while appeasing its homophobic customers did not bode well for the company. They sold a rainbow coloured Lego set with a label ‘everyone is awesome’. While it is a good message, it is not one which explicitly acknowledges pride, the reason behind the rainbow coloured Lego set, nor did they donate the proceeds to charity. Moreover, while most of Lego’s sets are for an age range of 5+, this one, although a simple model, was for ages 18+. This can be harmful to lgbt youths as it follows the damaging narrative that children cannot be sure of their identity if they are not cisgendered or heterosexual, which ultimately portrays queer people as different and unnormal. It is Lego saving themselves from the backlash of homophobic customers, but at the cost of making their lgbt customers feel unwelcome.
Big brands are now using pride month as their ‘one good deed of the [year]’ as a tokenised gesture of support to the lgbt community. This support should continue all year round. People are not queer just for a month, it is who we are and it will always be a part of us, year round. The struggles we face do not stop, whether a t-shirt has a rainbow on or not. Brands should use their political and economic power to fight for lgbt human rights in the countries that they sell to.
Customers should expect more from the companies they buy from and I believe this begins with education. In my experience at school, my only education of queer culture was during pride month through email. This isn’t good enough. Children should be taught about LGBTQIA rights throughout the year as part of the curriculum. If children are educated they can know what should be expected from companies in a supportive and inclusive community, so that they can encourage change too.
Pride is not just a month.
– Rachel McEwan
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