I NEVER really thought I’d be sad to see the end of corporate Pride, speaking as a queer person who never particularly cared for the commodification of my community.

But watching the current backlash that global corporations are facing for flying the rainbow flag this month,  well… I still don’t care for it at all.

But if Pride – or rather, the liberalised version of Pride that serves more as a vehicle for pinkwashing and public relations over community building and righteous anger – is to take a wayward step, it shouldn’t be at the beck and call of wailing conservatives and dullards with a deadline to hit and clicks to generate.

No, I’d rather it came about as a means of whittling away at the power that corporate interests have in our day to day. I find the commercialisation of a civil rights movement to be crass in the extreme regardless, and the arguments in favour of its demise are many.  Even if the Converse 2019 Pride collection did absolutely slap.

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For a start, Pride at its core was a statement of intent; a declaration of being. It said: I exist. You might not like it, but here I am, and I will not feel shame for doing so.

At its core, Pride is a protest movement that, over the years, has been increasingly driven toward a more assimilationist, more business-friendly, more palatable event at the expense of its more radical roots – though there has been plenty anti-capitalist opposition to the direction of travel for Pride events over  the years.

A protest movement is what we need today. Particularly during a period of increased hostility and regressive policy decisions in regard to the LGBTQ+ community. With people and protest taking a backseat to sponsors, a necessary message is somewhat lost between gated events and flags encouraging queer folk to “come out” for a cheeky Nandos.

Businesses often use Pride events to performatively state their support for our right to love and get down with who we want, and be who we are – though are often less forthcoming when it comes to the kind of institutional changes that would actually benefit the lives of their queer employees.

And that’s before we even get into the rank disgust inspired by arms manufacturers and state oppressors slapping a rainbow on the side of a missile with a message of “hey girl, see, we can’t be all that bad after all”. Now the gays can commit war crimes too. We did it, everyone. Equality achieved.

I don’t believe there is any more Pride in a corporate float than there is in a tacky rainbow shower curtain on sale for precisely one month of the year – but if a faceless conglomerate wants to dip its extremities in the glitter pot and sashay away on social media, the least they could do is stick with it when the going gets tough.

There’s a monologue from Tony Kushner’s Angels in America that I’m almost certain I’ve quoted in a past column, but that remains as relevant now as it did then and as it did back at the moment it was spoken aloud for the first time in Los Angeles circa 1990; a speech on the limits of tolerance and how little it is worth when the proverbial shit hits the fan.

That’s what we have been witnessing the world over this Pride month. I’ve warned many times that the PR-friendly version of Pride could only last as long as it was an easy win, both fiscally and performatively. But facing an increasingly hostile world toward LGBTQ+ people, and against an organised conservative pushback on the rights of minority groups, it has been disappointing but not surprising to see immediate capitulation in some quarters to  the reactionary mob.

Target in the US has pulled pieces from its Pride collection this year after being threatened, while Anheuser-Busch set the ball rolling by throwing trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney under the bus following a hysterical response to the drinks manufacturer choosing to work with a trans woman.

Innocent drinks has also been pressured into deleting tweets related to Pride, while Oxfam caved under pressure to remove a video about LGBTQ+ rights, the irony being that the aim of the social video was a call to action to protect the very institution of Pride itself.

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Even the British Library was attacked for discussing the science behind the Māori wrasse fish being able to change sex – something that, in hands of the gender critical movement, was transformed from  an ichthyological intrigue to culture war fodder.

To think that any brand or branch could have approached Pride this year unaware that they would face more severe anger and unfounded accusations than in previous ones shows an unfortunate lack of awareness of the state of things for queer folk today – and more, their weak capitulation reflects a remarkable lack of both commitment to their alleged values, and lack  of care for those they claimed  to support.

Because in backtracking and legitimising the ignorance of this contemporary moral panic, they create a situation that hurts LGBTQ+ people; a situation they have been more than happy to walk away from after lighting the match.

Corporate Pride was always conditional on LGBTQ+ acceptance being on the path of least resistance. Better they had kept their mouth shut than to have shown how easily anti-LGBTQ+ activists can force the hand of powerful companies into turning away from a community – and left us once again to deal with the fallout.