Each year in June, we turn our attention to the LGBTQIA+ community and our month long Pride festivities. However, the pandemic has also cancelled concerts, sporting events, and seasonal celebrations, including Pride marches and festivals. Nothing can ever cancel the queer community’s pride, but COVID-19 has cancelled our parties. Pride Month can and will be a rallying cry for our community. We will find a way to virtually celebrate and we will continue to find strength in adversity. But there is no question that the absence of representation and visual presence that is usually on display each June will be missed.
Queer folks need to see more of them themselves to feel a sense of belonging and solidarity. Representation also normalizes LGBTQIA+ folks and our relationships so that the straight, cisgender crowd can become more educated and better allies. Some companies take advantage of our desperation to see ourselves and rainbow-wash the queer community and use the colors of our flags to sell products in the name of support. Making money off of the back of marginalized groups in superficial ways is gross but common, especially during Pride Month.
Last year, the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots motivated businesses to cash in on Pride. Not so magically, when the calendar flipped to July, the rainbows went away and so did the financial support and visual allyship. This year, there are still ads popping up in my newsfeed for Pride related products, but they are far less than in years past. This isn’t surprising; companies are tightening their budgets, and spending money on marginalized groups likely won’t be in the budget, especially when we—the marginalized groups—don’t have the money to put into their superficial support.
The queer community is more vulnerable to the negative impacts of COVID-19 than the general population and we are experiencing disproportionate rates of risk. Living in unsupportive homes, loss of support networks at schools or LGBTQIA+ Pride centers, increased risk of mental health and substance abuse problems, anti-gay bias, loss of income (many queer folks work in industries shut down by the pandemic), and insecure healthcare have all increased since the country went on lockdown. This Pride Month, we need our allies more than ever and we need you to put your money directly into the community and not into a company selling rainbow sneakers or rainbow masks unless the majority of profits are going to LGBTQIA+ organizations or are produced by queer-owned companies.
Let me make a few suggestions.
Perhaps you don’t have any money to spare. I get it; things are tight for many of us. If you do nothing else, sign the petition started by Ashlee Marie Preston. The influencer and LGBTQ advocate started a movement called #PridePledge and is asking corporations to donate their annual Pride budget to the LGBTQIA+ community members most impacted by the coronavirus. Each year companies spend between $10,000 and $1 million dollars on Pride festivals. This money could be put directly into Pride centers, schools to support LGBTQIA+ education and inclusivity, and other organizations that directly benefit the queer community. We need to hold these companies accountable even when they don’t benefit from the spotlight.
What are some of these organizations that benefit the queer community? I’m glad you asked.
Queer people of color, particularly trans women of color are most susceptible to the dangers of bigotry and now the risks of COVID-19. The National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network offers community and resources to queer and trans POC and provides financial assistance to access mental health support in an often biased and exclusive healthcare system. Donate here.
The Trevor Project is the world’s largest organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ young people under 25. The Trevor Project offers life-saving in person and online, 24-hour mental health services via text messaging, webchat, and hotline. COVID-19 has had a negative impact on the mental health of many; LGBTQIA+ youth are incredibly vulnerable right now. According to their website, call volumes to the Trevor Project have increased since social distancing began. Donate here.
Equality Federation partners with state-based organizations that advocate for LGBTQIA+ people. Equality Federation helps amplify each state’s fight toward equality and safety. They take on anti-LGBTQ bills, transgender bathroom and locker room bans, and school and workplace inclusivity. Equality Federation trains and supports local leadership so that citizens in their home states can fight for themselves and their queer community members. Donate here.
If you are looking to kill two birds with one stone and want to buy something for yourself or a queer friend who can use a pick me up while also supporting the queer community, check out Marc Jacobs line of Enamored Hydrating Lip Gloss which has five new shades for Pride Month: “Pink-Kiki,” purple “Hips Don’t Lilac,” apricot “Wet Your Lips,” rose-mauve “Coming Out” and clear “Dancing Sheen.” The brand will donate $10,000 to two different LGBTQIA+ groups.
Or bypass the lips and go straight for the mouth and eat a snack from KIND. The company is bringing back their KIND PRIDE bar this year and 100% of net sales will be donated to the Ali Forney Center (AFC), a long-standing KIND partner and this year’s NYC Pride March Grand Marshal, to assist in its efforts to protect and empower homeless LGBTQIA+ youth across the country.
IKEA is another company that turns one of their products into money for the queer community. This year’s rainbow tote bag is called STORSTOMMA and 100% of the profits will go directly to LGBTQIA+ charities.
You will see a lot of companies making money off of the backs of LGBTQIA+ folks by peddling Pride gear; the rainbows and glitter are admittedly fabulous and tempting, but I would love to see organizations and individuals giving their money to actual queer folks who are struggling. You might not think these suggestions are sexy and you won’t get to show off a new item of clothing, but putting your money into organizations actively making the lives of queer people better is something you can feel good about.
Before adding something to your shopping cart, make sure you are making a difference.