The month of June is especially significant for members and allies of the LGBQT+ community. June is the month same-sex marriage became legalized in the United States allowing millions of Americans to finally be able to live their lives happily, the way they wanted to. A huge milestone that is still celebrated at the annual Pride festival that takes place across the country every June to celebrate gay rights and the LGBGT+ community.
On June 1st, 2009, former President Barack Obama declared the month of June to be Pride Month with the intent to recognize and celebrate members of the LGBQT+ community and acknowledge how far we have come as a society. On June 26th, 2015, Obama announced the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states, a huge victory for the LGBGT+ community that had been fighting for this basic right for decades. With same-sex marriage legal and a whole month dedicated to celebrating the LGBQT+ community, why is there a controversy surrounding the topic of Pride?
For those who have never been to or seen from a distance a Pride festival or parade, they’re pretty hard to miss. Now a re-occurring event every June in most major cities like Washington D.C, Chicago, Los Angelos, Denver, and New York just to name a few big ones, Pride has become a well-known component of American culture. Streets are closed to cars and flooded with rainbow tutus, brightly colored spandex and glitter as far as the eye can see. Most people attending this function are smiling ear to ear, bursting with excitement and joy and just over-all happy to be here.
In the midst of the exuberant outfits, colorful signage and music blasting, you might find a group of people marching for what might seem like a similar cause, but an agenda that actually collides with Pride. The National Equality March for Unity and Pride is a separate march that takes place during Pride month and protests Pride. The Equality March consists of people from different activist groups, one being the No Justice No Pride Group, individuals who believe there is still a lot to be done in terms of LGBQT+ rights before Pride can be fully celebrated. The Equality March aims to bring attention to issues the LGBQT+ community still face but are often overshadowed or forgotten about. While America has come far in terms of LGBQT+ rights, we still have quite a long way to go and copious more LGBQT+ issues that need attention and action.
The Equality March consists of individuals who believe that while the idea of Pride might be great, it has become whitewashed into a street party, giving, straight or non-ally individuals who may not even care or being properly informed about the cause an excuse to dress up in a rainbow leotard and frolic around the streets to take pictures for their social media. Of course not every straight individual shows up to Pride with that exact intention, but the true meaning of Pride has become a lost concept and swallowed alive by the commercialization from big conglomerates, organizations with capitalist interest rather than human rights interest and of course, social media.
One of the most urgent topics the Equality March tackles is the misrepresentation and marginalization of minorities in the LGBGT+ communities. These marchers believe that the LGBQT+ community needs to recognize and pay greater attention to the racial and ethnic minorities, transgender, and disabled folks of the LGBQT+ community because more often than not, they face more discrimination and hardships than white LGBQT+ individuals. Catalina Velasquez is the president and founder of the public relations and diversity consoling group “Consult Catalina” and says, ““it was important to see people often marginalized within the LGBTQ community, such as immigrants, people of color, and transgender people, working as leaders of the march and hopes it will help to change transgender and queer narratives “from victimhood to personhood and from surviving to thriving.”” (Gray). Minorities from the LGBGT+ community are not only underrepresented, but they are at a greater risk for hate crimes and violent acts, making this issue crucial to the public’s attention.
Another looming issue The Equality March hopes to bring attention to is the issue of organizations like banks, liquor companies and clothing companies using Pride as an advertising platform for their business, “They also protest the inclusion in Pride celebrations of corporations like Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Lockheed Martin, which like to appear gay-friendly but fund things like private prisons, which disproportionately include people of color, or the Dakota Access Pipeline, which infringes on Native American land and water. Or, in the case of Lockheed Martin, that manufacture drones that kill marginalized people in foreign countries.”(Keating). Another example would be the New York City Pride Festival that sells cabanas sponsored by Skyy Vodka for a mere $3,000, turning pride into a lavished musical festival experience rather than a human rights cause. Expensive cabanas are one thing, but withholding medicine that can save millions of lives from a community in need is a whole other ball game. The pharmaceutical company Gilead, makers of Truvada are huge sponsors in New York City Pride. Their medication Truvada can help reduce the risk of HIV from sex by 90%. Seems like a pretty ideal medication until consumers learn its $2,110.99 a month without insurance. Since so many Americans are uninsured or have insurance with limited coverage, it’s a significant financial sacrifice to acquire this life-saving drug. The price isn’t the only problem, since, “gay and bisexual black men have a higher HIV rate in the US than in any country in the world” black men are systematically discriminated against, causing the population that needs it the most, to go without it(Santos). Other companies whose agenda don’t align with the LGBGT+’s values such as these will fund big floats and food stations at Pride festivals. The Equality March hopes to expose these large companies for their true colors.
While there are tons of organizations with slanderous intentions hiding behind rainbow flags and empty promises of chartiable donations, it is important to acknowledge the orgainzations that truly support the LGBGT+ community without any string attachted. House Wine, a well known maker of everything wine from rose to chardonay sells their House Wine Limited-Edition Rainbow Bubbles in a rainbow can throughout the summer. For every can bought, House Wine donates $2 to The Human Rights campaign. Brad Meyer, senior vice president of marketing for Precept Wine, parent company of House Wine says, “ “Inclusion and acceptance of all kinds of love are worthy of celebration and we are thrilled to support the HRC and the LGBTQ community with our House Rainbow Cans in this special partnership.”(Precept Wine). Similarly, in 2015 Adidas came out with their “Pride Pack” a line of sneakers that donated a portion of the sales to Portland’s New Avenues for Youth, an Oregon-based advocacy group focused on homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) adolescents and teens. Other companies such as Chobani who launched an advertising campaign in 2013 starring a lesbian couple have been making strides to make their company as well as their advertisements more inclusive, “a Chobani spokeperson told The Huffington Post via email, is in line with the company’s longtime support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. “As part of our founding mission to make better food for more people, inclusiveness is at the heart of Chobani.”(Nichols). Companies like JC Penny and Kohl’s are taking similar initiatives to be more inclusive in their advertising efforts.
Other issues The Equality March advocates for are issues such as police violence, police presence at LGBQT+ functions, gun laws, Native American representation and rights and of course issues surrounding Donald Trump and his administration. While this battle has definitely proved to be uphill, members of The Equality March aren’t discouraged by the struggles and tragedies they have faced as a community. A Florida man who attended The Equality March back in 2017 to show support to those affected by the Pulse nightclub shooting told PBS, “‘We came up with 32 people coming from West Palm Beach, Florida, to support the LGBTQ community and remember Pulse. It really affected us…’” (Gray). Another individual attending the march stated, “‘I’m here because it’s a matter of celebrating and supporting LGBTQIA identity. It’s not about politics or policy or a difference in political opinion. It’s about an administration denying our identity. We will resist completely'”(Gray).
Gray, J. (2017, June 11). At Equality March, thousands rally for LGBTQ rights. Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/lgbtq-rally-national-equality-march
Keating, S. (2017, June 16). Should Pride Be A Party Or A Protest? Retrieved from https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/shannonkeating/should-pride-be-a-party-or-a-protest
Nichols, J. M. (2015, November 27). 21 LGBT-Friendly Products And Companies. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/21-companies-that-have-supported-lgbt-rights_n_5654bdece4b0879a5b0cbf7b?slideshow=true#gallery/55a671abe4b0c5f0322be77a/15
Precept Wine » Celebrate Pride with House Wine Limited-Edition Rainbow Bubbles in Cans Supporting LGBTQ Equality. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.preceptwine.com/blog/celebrate-pride-with-house-wine-limited-edition-rainbow-bubbles-in-cans-supporting-lgbtq-equality/