July 19, 2019
Converse have a new ‘pride’ range out, complete with glitter and rainbows and they state on their website that ‘contributions support long-standing local and global LGBTQ+ partners including the It Gets Better Project’. Great work Converse.
Or is it?
I have so many issues with the way this statement is phrased, and following on from that, what I see as organisations profiting from the ‘pink pound’. But I’ll start with the phrasing. What does ‘contributions’ actually mean? Does that mean that some of the profits go to LGBTQ+ organisations, and if so how much? Who are the other ‘local and global’ partners? If they’re so great, why not name check them too? And what is the ‘long-standing’ relationship you speak of? Converse, if you’re doing great things, be proud of them, don’t keep them in the closest so we have to guess what they are.
Don’t get me wrong. I get it. The shoes are beautiful and who doesn’t love things with glitter and rainbows all over them. But pride month seems to have become a thing from which everyone can profit, except, in my opinion, the LGBTQ+ community. Firstly, where were Converse, and Sainsbury’s, and Barclays, and all of the other organisations turning their social media handles rainbow 20 years ago when we were campaigning for the end of Section 28? Where were you ten years ago when we wanted the same marriage rights? Where were you in my teens when I was being called ‘dyke’ across the street? Don’t get me started on the fact the Home Office (you know, the one sending LGBTQ+ asylum seekers back to countries where it’s illegal to be gay) also turned their social media rainbow…
Of course, supporting and highlighting that it’s 2019 and it’s okay to be LGBTQ+ is great, but it seem, only in June. What about the rest of the year? You know, when I am given the key card to a twin rooms when I have booked a double because the hotel reception staff has decided for whatever reason I can’t share a bed with another woman. Your shoes and social media icons don’t really help me then. Nor do they mean I can book a holiday to certain countries (you know, those ones I mentioned before, where it’s illegal to be gay). Nor do they mean that I’m not at risk of being beaten up in central London. Forgive me if I seem a little bitter, but whilst you get to have your rainbows and sparkles for a month, I have to live with the fact that even in the UK I still do not have equal rights.
This is why the cash becomes important, because it’s with that cash campaign groups can push for changes in the law which make society a better place. And that’s where straight allies get to step in too. It’s not just LGBTQ+ folk who can campaign for change. Donating £75 to an LGBTQ+ charity would do more good than buying the shoes, but if you still really want the shoes (and that’s fine, I get it, I really want them too) maybe do something else to support your LGBTQ+ friends or organisations too. Stand up for them and champion their rights, sign the petition, donate if you have cash. Otherwise I make no apologies for the fact I’m going to sit here feeling like you actually don’t really understand how different it is for me to navigate the world as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and be a bit pissed off at what feels like tokenism.
Which brings me to the issue of London Pride. London Pride has become such a high profile, mass organised event, it seems like this year a large volume of LGBTQ+ couldn’t march. Meanwhile the big corporates had loads of spaces, which I would guess were filled with a large amount of allies. Again, it’s great you want to support us, but think about that for a moment, LGBTQ+ people didn’t get to march, whilst straight folk did. As a group, we are being turned away from our own protest, and that shows to me that something has gone really wrong with our understanding of LGBTQ+ issues. Yes, I want to celebrate my sexuality and have pride as a party, I am not ashamed of who I am. And Yes, I want my non-LGBTQ+ friends to join me in the celebration, but I want to protest too, because there is still work to be done. And in my view the people who get to lead the protest, are the people directly impacted by the issues. There are still LGBTQ+ people ending their lives, and hate crimes, and laws with persecute us for who we love, and whilst that’s happening, our activism is needed more than ever.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am pleased so many of my friends want to embrace the rainbows and glitter. to attend pride, to wear their rainbow shoes, to show their solidarity. I am pleased that organisations want to raise the profile of LGBTQ+ issues, and show they don’t stand for hate. *But* it has to be more than it is, it has to be more than making a quick buck as a result of my sexuality. It’s a year long local and global fight, that requires us to all collectively come together, to champion love over hate, and to do something more than giving cash to corporates.