The Other Corporate Pride Problem – HuffPost
This weekend, my partner and I made our annual pilgrimage to the holiest of all homo high holidays: San Francisco Pride. It’s a lot easier now that we live about 45 minutes from the City – and as a singing member of San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, it’s a trip I make often these days. We parked our chairs at the corner of Sixth and Market and eagerly settled in with snacks to wait for the flurry of fabulousness to reach us.
The first contingent passed the intersection around 11:00. I’m pretty sure it’s still making its way down Market Street right now.
When I first started attending San Francisco Pride in 2007, the parade was a tidy 2 1/2 hours. This year it was still well under way when we finally headed home at 3:30, with no end in sight. According to the folks next to us, in 2015 the parade was over 9 hours long.
How did it grow that much in a decade?
The answer, I believe, lies in the other half of the story of the 2015 parade. As the men beside us relayed, folks turned out in droves to celebrate the Supreme Courts decision granting nation-wide marriage equality; as a result, the Apple contingent alone was several thousand people. Other groups grew similarly until it took a full day to get everyone to proceed a mile down the street.
Watching the parade on Sunday, I was struck by not only the sheer number of contingents, but of how many were enormous groups representing large companies. Practically every tech company had a contingent of at least a thousand happy workers donning rainbow-trimmed tshirts bearing their company name and logo, walking hand-in-hand with their opposite-gender partners and pushing their gender-conforming children in strollers. Healthcare providers, insurers, airlines, and banks all joined in the fun as well, with a handful of enthusiastic people dancing on floats and hundreds more bopping along behind.
With very few homos in sight.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that you can’t always judge a gay by their cover, and I’m sure there were people from the LGBTQ community in these contingents. However, they were the exception, not the rule.
What was missing, as I stared at the sea of employees and their families in tshirts emblazoned with “GLAMazon!” and rainbow-outlined apples, was anything, well…gay.
A woman behind me noticed it, too. “I told my daughter she couldn’t come today because I thought the gay people might be too raunchy,” she told a stranger, “but this is so tame! It’s all just political and conservative. I can certainly bring her next year.” I might have minded less, but since she spent much of the parade complaining about women showing too much skin and cat-calling male firemen, I suspect the parade was never supposed to be about her.
Several weeks ago, the group No Justice No Pride shut down and rerouted the Washington, DC Pride Parade. Among their list of demands that had not been met – or even addressed – by organizers of the event was the removal of corporations from Pride. In particular, they focused on the ways in which particular sponsors engage in practices that harm POC and low-income communities, which therefore hurts queer people. While I support much of their message, when it comes to corporations I feel they don’t go far enough.
It’s not that we should exclude Wells Fargo because of predatory lending policies or Northrup Grumman because they manufacture drones. We should exclude them as parade contingents because they have nothing whatsoever to do with the LGBTQ+ community. Neither does Apple, or Fitbit, or Uber, or eBay, all of which had sizable contingents in this weekend’s parades. Except insofar as they employ gay people, they don’t do anything particularly relevant to the community. They don’t advocate for our rights with Congress or state legislatures. They don’t provide housing for LGBTQ+ youth or elders. They don’t fight against hate crimes. In fact, even in areas where they do have some control – marketing, for example – they do either nothing or the bare minimum when it comes to queer representation. Apple had a single ad featuring a gay couple in 2016, and it got serious attention from gay media outlets because that sort of representation is still rare. These companies include orientation and gender identity/expression in their nondiscrimination agreements, which might be more meaningful if they weren’t all based in California where that’s required by law anyway.
Oh – and they bring thousands of people to march in the Pride parade for no particular reason.