When you think about 2SLGBTQIA+ rights, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Perhaps it’s rainbows, extravagant pride marches, #LoveIsLove, and even more rainbows. As you may have noticed over the past week, companies have redesigned their logos to have rainbow colors, signaling their support for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. This phenomenon is known as pink capitalism, or rainbow capitalism, which is “the incorporation of the LGBT movement and sexual diversity to capitalism and the market economy, viewed especially in a critical lens as this incorporation pertains to the gay, cisgender, Western, white, and upper-middle-class communities and market. Pink capitalism targets the gay community, which has acquired sufficient purchasing power (referred to in this context as pink money) to generate a market-focused specifically on them. Examples of such targeted inclusion are bars and nightclubs, LGBT tourism, or specialized culture consumption.” This means that the idea of gay or queer pride itself becomes commodified and can be sold as a commodity or item. The monetization of pride is the anthesis of what the struggle for gay rights and liberation was trying to achieve.
Rainbow capitalism seeks to commodify pride and to merge white, rich gays into existing power structures. In turn, this gives the “white supremacist, imperialist patriarchy,” as described by bell hooks, more reach as it has a wider supporting population. Additionally, rainbow capitalism calls for the weaponization of pride itself as a way to condemn least-developing or conflict-ridden and war-torn nations as not being “progressive enough,” when development and societal progression are extremely difficult when under occupation, war, and authoritarian and totalitarian regimes. These same nations under the threats mentioned above are in this situation because of the direct involvement of some Western governments.
Rainbow capitalism perpetuates orientalism by again placing the Global North as the pinnacle of human civilization and development while actively exploiting the Global South. Queer people have always existed, whether in the Global South or the Global North. They all deserve the right to life, liberty, security, and love free from hate, discrimination, and oppression like everyone else.
Rainbow capitalism actively contributes to the erasure of people of color in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in North America and abroad. In the United States, the gay rights movement began with Marsha P. Johnson, a trans woman of color, is another trans woman of color alongside Sylvia Rivera. It shows how the modern-day pride movement has wholly erased the trans women of color that started. Today, the movement started by two trans women of color has reduced to a movement only for rich, western white gay people, leaving those who are trans and people of color like the Mothers of Stonewall outside of the conversation. This phenomenon extends upon 2SLGBTQIA+ people of color, as not only are they subject to alienation in queer social circles, but in terms of being subject to increased persecution and oppression. For example, they may feel disillusioned due to them being queer in their racial or ethnic circles but then again disconnected in 2SLGBTQIA+ circles because they have a distinct racial or ethnic identity. Although, however, there are the notable quality of life concerns associated with being queer and a person of color, “experts point out that even though transgender people and L.G.B.T.Q. Racial minorities were often vanguards for equal rights. These same groups have lagged behind in gains. For example, researchers say that while gay and bisexual men have experienced the same rates of poverty as heterosexual men, same-sex couples of color and transgender people have been three and four times more likely to live in poverty than their white and straight counterparts, citing United States census numbers and other research.” They also faced increased instances of sexual violence.
The first pride was a riot against police brutality, racism and white supremacy, patriarchy, and hetero normativity. It was anti-oppression and anti-exploitation, and specific companies that partner with organizations and people who are actively against gay liberation are not the essence of pride.
“STAR is a very revolutionary group. We believe in picking up the gun, starting a revolution if necessary. Our primary goal is to see gay people liberated and free and have equal rights that other people have in America.”-Marsha P. Johnson.