Rainbow Capitalism: Not Queer and Not Helping
By Dani Hackler
Buy our new rainbow socks! Spend your money on us! Look, we support you! Give us your gay money! Buy! BUy! BUY!
As pride comes and goes each year I find myself increasingly disillusioned with the annual barrage of consumer ready goods corporations seem hellbent on rolling out for exactly 30 days a year. Whether it’s a poorly tested candy company choosing an all white theme in order to pay homage to "the true rainbow" or a brand releasing an entire line of queer merch while donating to numerous anti-gay, anti-black, and anti- trans organizations, the message is the same each year: queer is marketable, thus pride has become an empty month of corporate shilling.
I’ll be honest, I stopped going to pride parades as of this year. I feel incapable of enjoying it while looking around at the Target labels and corporate-backed rainbows. I'm confronted with the same depressing question: is this all being queer is? Are we just another marketable demographic? A hollow label that only means rainbow mugs and half-off bondage gear?
God, it's horrific. And look sweeties, this isn’t just some personal existential crisis, but a crisis and fear for the longevity of our community, of our ties together, and ultimately our rights that generations past have worked so hard to defend. What happens if we stop being marketable? If future generations start to give up on labels and start unifying under fewer and fewer sellable banners? Will rainbows go out of fashion? Will queer people? What happens then?
Let’s get one thing out of the way first—queer people are still the bottom of the social hierarchy within racial boundaries (sorry fellow white people, we are confronting our privileges today). That means this system, the system of colonial norms that uphold our capitalist society, was not and will not be built for us. Collectively, queer people have a poverty rate of over 21% whereas straight people sit at a cool 15%. These numbers worsen for trans people and black trans people, respectively sitting at 30% and nearly 40% (Badgett et al.). One in four queer people below the Bible Belt live in poverty; nearly half of them are homeless (MAP). This is our community. What's going on?
Queer people clearly lead fairly different lifestyles than our straight counterparts; we are more likely to live in non-nuclear families, work in non-traditional jobs, be non-white, etc. Each of these factors affects our ability to access employment opportunities and compounds with the discrimination we still face daily to ensure statistics like these remain consistent. Queerphobia is not going anywhere as much as we pretend and hope it is. There are politicians actively supporting electrocuting queer people to traumatize them into being straight, there are massive corporations (ones you likely buy or eat from) who fund the same regimes exterminating us abroad, our government denies us healthcare and an ability to participate in society, and our social spheres are rife with homophobic bosses and intolerant work cultures.
However, we all know queer people have been making marvelous advancements in society. Hell, we even had a half-serious presidential candidate in 2020, Pete Buttigieg. The former South Bend, Indiana mayor is largely representative of a new phenomenon tricking us into a false sense of security: the queer bourgeoisie. Buttigieg is safe, not too out of the norm, cis-passing, white, Christian and most importantly has a net worth of over $200,000 (Allcott). While there's nothing wrong with falling into any one of those categories, it is a very narrow window of what being LGBTQIA+ is and and is largely not representative of us, just as cishet politicians do not represent cishet people in our country. But people like him are representative of the queer bourgeois class who has forgotten their roots and abandoned us to rest in the laps of our corporate overlords. I can't be angry at queer people being naturally successful when our privilege outweighs our disadvantages, we’re just like that. However, I can be angry at the system which encourages them to keep their wealth concentrated within the cishet bourgeois hierarchy and forgets about funding the queer communities which allowed them to get there in the first place.
This system wasn’t built for everyone, but especially not for queer people. We cannot allow ourselves to be killed off through poverty, we cannot allow ourselves to be destroyed by greed, and we must not allow corporations to degrade our community into nothingness. Seriously, do you not believe that we are not two election cycles away from losing everything? I know you felt it under Trump, that feeling that progress could just slip out of our fingers at any moment. That feeling is real. It's true. When we're no longer marketable, the corporations will allow the homophobes to consume us and all but the most vigilant allies will turn their backs on us.
Thus I make a simple request to my queer brothers, sisters, and siblings of Shreveport and small towns everywhere: begin to question the capitalist roots of our oppression. Read things you may not have considered at the outset; socialism is a fairly normal political position outside of the US. Question why it’s so stigmatized here. Begin to get involved in your community, plan events, invite your queer friends over, go do things, and make connections (oh, and get vaccinated). We can build a community which shares resources among ourselves and funds our success. We can build Shreveport to be a shining example of queer people lifting each other up and removing ourselves from dependency upon the corporate chain. Get involved in local farming, look up and create mutual aid networks, volunteer with things like Queerport. For the more financially capable of us: sponsor queer projects, pay for queer art, buy local food and support our farmers, start queer businesses and hire queer people.
We are the only ones who will have each other's backs. However, we also must not forget the greater Shreveport/Bossier City community and we must dedicate ourselves to improving the environment we find ourselves in. I know we can do these things because we are queer and we are strong.
Dani/Danny (uses either spelling haphazardly) [they/them] is a local college student, aspiring linguist, and activist. This is their first of many articles for Queerport, written with the hopes of starting a broader conversation. If you are curious about getting involved in a local mutual aid network or would like to learn more about socialism and its principles, feel free to reach out to Dani @ (318) 734-8064 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.