So, let‘s say this politician, company, city council or government just did something outrageous in support of queer people.
Perhaps they made a public statement supporting gay marriage, walked in the pride parade, brewed a beer with a rainbow-colored label in support of pride week, chastised a foreign city for cracking down on pride parades or did something huge, like renaming a whole airplane in support of the lgbt+ movement. And that is absolutely awesome, right?
Well, yes and no. Lgbt+ activists in Europe and North-America have noticed a recent trend where governments, cities and companies show their support for queer causes as a way to create a progressive and liberal image. Sometimes the government, city or company in question might otherwise endorse policies which are racist, sexist, militaristic and classist. The support for the queer movement might therefore be a way to divert from the harm they are doing to other marginalized populations. This is often called co-opting or more precisely, pinkwashing.
But how can you know if a company, government or city is truly supportive of the queer movement or if they are only sprucing their image up a bit? It’s tricky because the bar has been set so low. It has usually been enough to declare support for gay marriage or slap a rainbow sticker on a product without anyone questioning how exactly these gestures benefit the queer movement. Even when there is no financial support or decisive policy change behind it. So a company, government or politician might be under the impression that they are supporting sexual minorities while they are perhaps not doing much at all.
“Does a state support lgbt+ organizations, home or abroad, financially while doing nothing about police brutality towards ethnic minorities within their borders?”
But since the lgbt+ movement has become everyone‘s favorite cause, queer people have grown vary and started asking questions about who is the real beneficiary of grand displays of affection like the above mentioned, and what constitutes support.
So here are some things to think about, next time someone paints a public building in rainbow colors or names a street to show support for the queer movement:
Consultation: Did the politician, government or company consult with lgbt+ organizations on what kind of support would be most beneficial for the movement? Did they register for the pride parade straight away or did they check to see if there were better ways of supporting lgbt+ people, for instance by doing volunteer work during the parade? Did they check to see if airfares would be more beneficial than airplane names?
Money: How much money is the company making off a rainbow product or other forms of support? Is it the only one reaping the financial benefits? Or does a percentage (or dare I say, the whole shebang) go to lgbt+ organizations? Is it supporting the queer movement materially in other ways?
Policies: What is the city‘s, state‘s or company‘s track record when it comes to policies affecting lgbt+ people? Do they have equality policies prohibiting discrimination against queer people? Do they seek to create a safe work environment for sexual minorities? Do they have policies that might harm queer people, directly or indirectly?
Other marginalized populations: Given that minorities intersect, what is the city‘s, state‘s or company‘s track record when it comes to other marginalized minorities? Are they using the lgbt+ movement in order to divert from racist, ableist or sexist agendas? Does the city take part in the pride parade while forcing disabled people into group homes, knowing that they are more likely to experience violence in such places? Does a state support lgbt+ organizations, home or abroad, financially while doing nothing about police brutality towards ethnic minorities within their borders? Does a company stick rainbow flags on their products while exploiting workers and/or poor communities?
Note: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various authors and forum participants on www.gayiceland.is do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the editorial staff of www.gayiceland.is or official policies of the editorial staff.
Main photo (originally not pink) by Benson Kua, Flickr.