Has Pride Lost Its Message?

We need to remember the true purpose of Pride this month


Mannequins are adorned in pride colors in the windows of the H&M on Powell Street in San Francisco’s Union Square on June 17. Photo Credit: Abraham Navarro/SAC.Media.

Early morning of June 28, 1969, beer bottles were thrown and cries were heard from the queer community as they fought against arrest at the Stonewall Inn. From this night to the first of July, the queer community rioted and marched for their voices to be heard and their rights to be recognized. The Stonewall Riots were a catalyst for the queer community and the following year, June 28, 1970, the first gay Pride parade marched from Stonewall Inn towards Central Park. Onward from then, celebrations all around the world exalted June as Pride Month and stood in solidarity with the queer community. 50 years later, Pride continues, but the fiery activism has shifted to one of partying and excessive rainbow paraphernalia being sold from every store and vendor you pass alongside the parade. The sense of activism at Pride has been subdued and the message and purpose of Pride exploited for profit.

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with escaping the debilitating politics against the queer community and dancing our hearts away (because we deserve it), our fight for equal rights—not dependent on how much money we can provide—should always be on the forefront of our minds.

Los Angeles Pride this year had over 50 sponsors, such as Starbucks, Chipotle, Capitol, MAC, and more enterprises—a majority of them having their own float during the parade that was decked in rainbows and their own brand. Several of the sponsored companies have created products designed specifically for Pride month. Apple released a special edition Apple Watch with rainbows bands in celebration of Pride. The bands alone cost $49 to those already privileged to have the watch. Coca-Cola has products with their logo adorned in rainbow and MAC has Pride glitter kit at value for $98. Some, and hopefully most, of the companies donate a portion of their proceeds to queer organizations and charities. Disney has created a Rainbow Mickey Collection in which 10 percent of its profits is donated to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN. If you purchase any product from the Converse Pride Collection, 100 percent of its proceeds are donated to organizations such as Gets Better and OUT MetroWest. Nevertheless, these companies use Pride to their advantage to make more profit.

To further add on to the profit made from Pride, in order to attend the main event inside of LA Pride, which a majority of the pride goers attend, the cost is $30 for a single day ticket and $50 advance for the full weekend. But that’s not all! You could have had the VIP Backstage Experience for single day at $250 or the full weekend for $450. All this to experience Meghan Trainor, Years & Years, and more performers. With more corporate sponsorships profiting off their own rainbow memorabilia and the inclusion of Grammy award winning performances, LA Pride has turned more into a music festival, or the “gay Coachella,” rather than a community celebrating and advocating for their rights.

Granted, to even have an event of this scale, corporate sponsors are needed. But where do we draw the line when we are forgetting, as a community, that this a space where we also need to come together in remembrance of the reasons we rioted that night at the Stonewall Inn in the first place? That we march in not just celebration of who we are, but also in remembrance of those we have lost during our continuous battle for equal rights? Remember Harvey Milk, Matthew Shepard, the Pulse Nightclub, and the staggering numbers of trans women and trans men that have lost their lives.

Pride is a time for celebration, yes. But don’t let yourself be fooled by this commercialization and think we live in some sort of post-homophobic world—because we don’t.

We aren’t living in a world where we have fully gained equal rights. We still live in a world where countries like Brunei have passed laws to stone queer people to death. We still live in a world where transgender people are denied protection and healthcare rights. We still live in a world where we think Straight Pride and adding an ‘S’ to the LGBT acronym is okay—but it’s not. Being heterosexual isn’t something you need to have a parade for nor celebrate because being straight isn’t a matter of being discriminated against or accepted—being straight isn’t a matter between life or death. So, no, you don’t need to have a big festival to take pride in being straight because you aren’t the marginalized community.

Remember that Pride started out as a protest for our rights to be seen and heard—a protest to end the discrimination against the queer community. Pride parade is an event for the queer community to remember that we aren’t joining together to party, but to come together to symbolize that as a community, we stand with each other and against those trying to deny and invalidate our existence.