how you can support the lgbt community by buying levi's and converse
This Pride Month, numerous brands are working to increase visibility and support for LGBT organizations.
Montages of rainbow-colored parades and parties are usually what pop into people's heads when they think about Pride Month. But over the years, a new (often contentious) way of displaying LGBT pride has grown increasingly popular: buying things.
Each year, more and more brands are releasing Pride products. This year, Gucci created a psychedelic platform shoe, each color of the LGBT rainbow represented by an inch-thick layer of sole. (Perhaps the 4-inch-tall sneaker is meant to literally elevate its LGBT wearers into confidence?) Levi's released denim shorts embroidered with patches that read, "Remember Our Names" — the message behind the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. Converse has a host of pride products, proceeds going to the It Gets Better project and the Miley Cyrus-led Happy Hippie Foundation. And Opening Ceremony has designed tongue-in-cheeks T-shirts that reference the many tribes within the queer male community. There's a Smokey Bear shirt for the "Bears" and a cute otter version for the "Otters." (Nothing for us twinks, unfortunately.)
Started in 1970, to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of the year before, Pride Month has blossomed in tandem with the advancement of LGBT rights in the Western world. On June 2, 2000, President Bill Clinton officially declared June as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month. In 2016, President Obama expanded that dedication to the more inclusive title of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. This year, the celebration of equality has a renewed urgency. As President Trump continues to threaten the rights and protections of the LGBT community, it has become even more vital to combat hate with love.
On the surface, it may look like brands are simply co-opting Pride for good press. But many brands marketing LGBT-specific products are donating a portion of the profits from their rainbow-tastic pieces to LGBT causes. For example, Everlane has partnered with Rowan Blanchard, Hari Nef, Miles McMillan, and Lee Bullitt for its 100% Human Collection. For each purchase of the minimalist T-shirts, Everlane will donate 100% of its sales to the Human Rights Campaign. Meanwhile, Urban Outfitters is donating all profits from its Pride collection to GLSN, which works to champion LGBT issues in public schools. At the same time, the company is working to increase bisexual visibility by having Taylor Bennett as the face of its collection. Bennett, the brother of Chance the Rapper and an emerging emcee himself, came out as bisexual on Twitter in January to much praise and acceptance.
But not everyone is a fan of the commodification of queer culture. The phenomenon has earned the name "Pink Capitalism," a term that questions the morality of targeting the queer community's purchasing power. (Statistically, queer males and females spend more, and save less, than their straight counterparts.)
On the flip side, it's important to note that a number of companies are not just interested in getting the queer community's "pink dollars." Outwardly LGBT-friendly brands are frequently supportive of their LGBT employees. In 1987, at a time when AIDS hysteria and discrimination were at fever pitch, Levi's provided its employees with coverage of ATZ, a pill that attacks the HIV virus. And Target, which openly came out in support of gay marriage in 2014 and sells an array of pride products like pins that say an individual's preferred gender pronouns, scored a perfect 100 on the Human Rights 2014 Corporate Equality Index. The report examines LGBT concerns like non-discrimination policies, health benefits for domestic partners, and diversity training.
Companies taking part in social justice is tricky business (see Pepsi's controversial recent ad). Ultimately the responsibility falls upon us as consumers to discern whether a company is helping to elevate the LGBT community or simply looking to make a profit. Calling out insincerity and being picky about where our "pink dollars" are spent will show companies that the work does not stop at wearing our pride on our sleeves. Championing LGBT causes and organizations are equally, if not more, important. But it can't be denied: with the world looking so gray right now, we could all use more rainbows.
Text André-Naquian Wheeler
Photo via Instagram