Sunday, 3 August 2014

LGBT Shame and marketing.

Sigh. We knew it was coming. Time for me to word-vomit about Pride. Two particular aspects, actually, but both are interlinked.

First, something I've noticed fairly recently. I first noticed it in Belfast, and I put out feelers elsewhere who've confirmed it. Take a look at 'public facing' material; logos, adverts, leaflets, etc.

Here's one from Belfast:

Here's the Liverpool Pride website:

This is the general form that Sunderland's take:

And finally, here's Brighton.

What I've noticed has been more eloquently expressed by others, so I'm stealing their words. What I noticed was the 'sanitisation' of Pride. Very little public-facing material mentions gays, lesbians, transgender people, bisexuals, queers.. anyone. Queer people are being erased from Pride. If Pride is a 'celebration' of such identities, as Manchester's website tells us right at the bottom, then why on Earth are they not taking the front seat? Why has it become [Location] Pride, with any mention of what we're actually 'proud' of being limited to innuendo, iconography (oh, a rainbow!) and tedious soundbites? "Equality" indeed.

One time, Pride wasn't a 'celebration'. It was a protest, reaffirming our inherent value and worth and taking back what rights had been stolen from us. Now, people are content to treat it as a public piss-up, a 'party'. At London, pointing out sponsorship of Pride by a company which sells arms to countries whose anti-gay (because it's always just cis gay men) laws (a byproduct of British imperialism, fyi) have become cause du jour for the clicktivist gays is 'missing the point' and 'spoiling the fun'.

So. Pride has lost its political purpose, and essentially become nothing but a street party and a socially-sanctioned day where, if I'm lucky and in the right place at the specified times, I can kiss my boyfriend without getting bricks lobbed at me. But it's also become a marketing vehicle for Gay Inc.

Gay Inc. is the derisory term applied to the mainstream LGBT organisations (e.g. Stonewall), figureheads (e.g. Ben Cohen) and media that supposedly spearhead our rights and represent our interests, but (I believe) present a socially-acceptable (and thus inherently narrow and limited) version of what queer people are, but I also apply the term to companies (such as Burger King, with its recent hidden-and-had-to-be-asked-for-and-not-a-big-deal-but-apparently-amazing 'rainbow wrapper' on its burgers) that try to market themselves to gay men while not actually working to improve their companies (let alone our lives and societies) in any meaningful way, like BAE and Barclays sponsoring London's Pride.

The use of Pride and - increasingly - wider LGBT rights issues as marketing ploys leads me to my second observation. Simple attendance at Pride is becoming expensive. Manchester Pride charges £22 for the weekend. Newcastle 'officially' didn't charge, but people were harassed and guilted into giving them money. In the UK, an unemployed 16-24 year old (I would argue among those most in need of the solidarity a political Pride can give) gets £57 a week. Someone unable to work due to illness or disability would have to pay 20% of their weekly income to attend.

My second observation was this: poor queers are deliberately excluded. When we discuss how we're being excluded from our own events on the basis of cost, we're told that these events simply couldn't go ahead without charging. When we propose a system of 'pay what you can', we're told it's unfair on people who pay more, and will be 'abused' by people trying to get in for free. It's not unfair that we're excluded form our own community; it's unfair that we're asking to be included.

Look at this magazine's definition of gay men: "a community known for its disposable income, its love of the finer things in life and its loyalty to those brands that show allegiance". Look at how the most memorable activity of Stonewall in the UK is basically celebrities advertising its petulant merch. Our media actively defines gay inherently "rich" and thus denies that poor gays can be a thing, and our "celebrations" deny our access.

As I see it, poor LGBT people are being actively erased in the name of Gay Inc's profits; after all, why should a company sponsor your event if they can't expect excellent advertising to a "community known for its disposable income"? The erasure of queerness from the face of Pride events plays into this: it's much easier to get a company to give you money to get their name on a non-specific poster talking about "diversity" and "celebration" than it would be on one specifically talking about queer people; queers aren't profitable enough to risk alienating straight people.

LGBT identity is being narrowly defined by the organisations that claim to represent us, and all in the name of profit. And it's fucking bollocks. 

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