Photo: Rame Abdulkader.
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Companies need to support the LGBTQ+ community well past the parade

This past weekend, Ottawa held its annual pride parade, and it was bigger and better than any one before, thanks to its youth committees, volunteers, and of course, sponsors.

Big names like TD, Winners, Nordstrom, Loblaws, and Shopify proudly supported the event, with pride flags blowing through their shop windows. Even Uber had rainbow coloured lines to show your route during the weeks leading up to it. And as always, various political parties had a presence at the parade, showing their support for… well what exactly?  

Much like Bell’s “Let’s Talk” campaign for mental health awareness, the commercialization of pride feels empty and insincere. At least Bell actually donates money towards the cause they’re raising awareness for; Companies who only support pride when it’s popular aren’t usually even doing that. Yes, they sponsored the parade, and some of the events, and they’ve got a big logo on the Pride website that shows that they care, but how is this shown every other day?

Companies consistently take advantage of what’s “in,” whether its body positivity, mental health, or gay rights, and at the end of the day, they are the only ones who profit. The LGBTQ+ community, as with other minority groups, deserve more than a weekend to celebrate their right to exist in the world.

Symbolic support isn’t enough. According to an article in Vox, some of the key sponsors of New York’s pride parade had policies inconsistent with the message they were supposedly supporting—that of equal rights. The article gives the examples of Adidas, who sold “pride packs” on its website, but also sponsored the World Cup in Russia, which has infamous anti-LGBTQ+ laws, as well as H&M who sold a “pride out loud” collection while they have manufacturing plants in China, a nation with similar anti-LGBTQ+ laws.

An example more close to home was shared with me by a friend who went to PPL nightclub in Ottawa.

According to him, while the club had a gay pride event in the last week, it regularly divides the cover fee to enter the club into lines for men and women. A lot of clubs do this, where women enter free before a certain time, but PPL’s management was directing the lines and telling people where they should be lining up. Clearly this is exclusionary to gender fluid, transgender, and nonbinary people, among others in the LGBTQ+ community.

Companies already profit off of every other part of our identities. If they’re going to profit off of the LGBTQ+ movement, the least they could do is not tell people how to self-identify.

The community needs corporations to put their money where their pride flags aren’t visible. Let’s see companies partnering with local organizations that support LGBTQ+ rights in a tangible way. Let’s see their internal policies reflect their outspoken support. Until then, all the rainbow t-shirts in the world couldn’t convince me that they care.