We are in the full swing of Pride season in the UK and globally. For those interested or connected, social media feeds are full of rainbow flags, same sex couples kissing and drag queens hugging policewomen. Our social media feeds are also dotted with support from corporates, with the vast majority changing their logos to be rainbow-coloured for July/August.
This has been a topic of discussion among my friends for a few weeks now. Only a few years ago, to change your logo to a rainbow was seen as edgy, and certainly maybe attracting adverse comment from customers and shareholders alike. It was a true sign that these companies would put up with that aggro because equality was the right thing to do. Nowadays, a company is likely to attract adverse comment if it doesn’t do something for Pride.
And, maybe, therein lies the issue. Once changing to a rainbow logo becomes de facto mandatory, it raises the question of whether companies should have to earn the right to display the rainbow logo, by doing something that actually advances LGBTQ causes, either in their businesses or externally.
Taking it one step further, what about the cases of companies that “proudly” display their rainbow credentials, but still don’t crack down on homophobic acts by staff? In a case a month ago, a food delivery man reportedly laughed and pointed when the (male) customer answered the door in demi-drag, with derogatory comments about the customer’s sexuality – all the while wearing a rainbow-festooned delivery backpack. Calls to the company did not result in any action seemingly taken. If no action is taken, then what right does that company have to shout about its LGBTQ-friendly credentials?
Why should isolated cases such as this bother us or, more accurately, bother me? Without disclosing my age (!) I do come from the generation that saw the shift from the pick triangle (as sign of defiance and struggle) to the rainbow flag (for tolerance and inclusion). That change meant something. It meant that we realised that we had ceased to be permanently on the outside, and that we could achieve a measure of increasing equality. It denoted progress.
Around the world we are seeing a roll-back of LGBTQ equality in various countries – as a global LGBTQ citizen, you are now less likely to treated equally that you were 10 years ago. On the one hand, this begs the question of whether we should dust off the pink triangle. On the other hand, why should we be okay with homophobic (or at least disinterested) companies branding themselves with a rainbow in order to be cool? I feel uneasy, and I know I am not the only one.
What can we do in order to “reclaim the rainbow”? The first thing is a polite ask. When you go into a shop/bank/other that has a rainbow symbol, ask what they have done to further LGBTQ causes. If they aren’t sure, suggest that they have a small card pre-printed that they can hand out if asked. It’s easier that having to explain multiple times, and it makes companies focus on whether they are being false. Or ask if they have specific mentions on their website.
Can we as a community go one step further? What about some kind of foundation that offered a rainbow brand mark? Everyone can use a rainbow flag, but the “approved” symbol might go some way towards separating the wheat from the chaff in terms of those companies really giving back and promoting equality throughout the year. Of course, there’s a cost involved in setting up a foundation, and it needs to be independent.
Perhaps some of those companies that are so keen to put up a rainbow flag of convenience should put their money where their mouth is?