It’s Rainbow Washing Season!

It’s that time of year again! When the retailers and brands that have ignored the LGBTQ+ community all year long suddenly want our money, and they go after it by flaunting rainbow hoodies for our little dogs, koozies for our canned cocktails, and tee-shirts with splashy queer-friendly messages. Friends, what do we call this annual phenomenon? Rainbow washing. This happens

This year they can shove their rainbow tumblers where the sun don’t shine.

It’s that time of year again! When the retailers and brands that have ignored the LGBTQ+ community all year long suddenly want our money, and they go after it by flaunting rainbow hoodies for our little dogs, koozies for our canned cocktails, and tee-shirts with splashy queer-friendly messages. Friends, what do we call this annual phenomenon? Rainbow washing. This happens when companies “celebrate” Pride Month by selling us merchandise without doing any work–financial or otherwise–to support the LGBTQ+ community. They take our money, but they don’t have our backs.

How do we know this? Because it happens every year. Companies will feature pride merchandise—occasionally even products made by queer brands—and inevitably, there is backlash. Someone tweets that a tuck-friendly bathing suit shouldn’t be available in Target. Gasp! Then a loudmouth conservative catches a whiff of the drama and capitalizes on homophobia and bigotry. The queer community gets targeted with hate, the business gets pressured to pull their pride merchandise, and capitalism wins every time. These retailers rarely double-down on their commitment to the LGBTQ+ community. Instead, they cave to the pressure to align with conservative values and our community suffers.

Latin owned and queer owned clothing brand JZD founders Jen and Vero were thrilled when they were chosen to be featured in the 2023 Target pride collection. But the backlash quickly hit, and they suffered both personally and professionally. They shared the impact on a recent social media post in which they refer to that time as going from “the highest highs to the lowest lows.”

This is just one example, our CEO and co-founder Erica says, of big box stores’ lack of stamina as it relates to a little noise from the cheap seats. JZD is a small business that was featured on Target commercials and expected to provide minimum product inventories. They were left completely in the dark once Target decided to pull the plug. In their post, Jen and Vero describe how they were called “pedophiles” and “groomers,” and they received death threats, because Target gave the message that if people bullied the retailer, then Target would abandon the vendors that they themselves selected.

Ash + Chess, a company run by a queer and trans couple, had a similar experience with the 2023 Target pride backlash. In their own social media post, they describe feeling terrible by Target, the very retailer that had been hyping them up for months. “Target is banking on people forgetting about this,” they say in their post. You can read more about the fallout in a them. article from last year.

So why do they pretend to support us at all? Why do they feature Pride collections and rainbow merchandise? A recent Gallup poll found that 7.6% of American adults identify as LGBTQ+, and new data from the Human Rights Campaign shows that Nearly 30% of Gen Z Adults Identify as LGBTQ+. Retailers want our money. They need our money. So they target us during a time when we are eager to spend our gay dollars to support our community. But their displays are disingenuous. They don’t care about us.

If we learned anything from what happens when a trans person is featured on one single can of Bud Light, it’s that corporations can’t be trusted to support the LGBTQ+ community unless it’s good for their bottom line.

In a 2023 CNN article Daniel Korschun, associate professor of marketing at Drexel University explained that when it comes to supporting the LGBTQ+ community, executives “are becoming much more skittish about taking these stands and making strong statements.

According to a 2022 Pew Research Poll, roughly eight-in-ten U.S. adults say there is at least some discrimination against transgender people in our society. Because trans rights have become such a contentious issue across the country, companies that used to view supporting pride as “low stakes” have become less likely to support the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. “The pendulum is swinging a bit back … toward a more conservative approach, where they’ll be less vocal,” says Korschun. According to a recent NBC News article, Target stores will only sell pride merchandise in select locations this year. The retailer will not have Pride collections in about half of their locations. Additionally, they will only sell pride merchandise for adults.

An argument that Target has made in the past and is now using again is that this decision protects their LGBTQ+ employees, but let’s be clear: Conditional allyship is not support. Pulling queer merchandise from their shelves and essentially pretending that we don’t exist–and ignoring those of us who have children that want to celebrate pride with us–is detrimental to our community. Erasure threatens our safety. This weekend my mom told me that she’s done with Target. Like her, I can’t say I feel good about spending my money in a place that doesn’t value my family. As of today, the ACLU is currently tracking 515 anti-LGBTQ bills in the U.S. We exist, and abandoning us only endangers us.

Last week Target released a statement in which they claimed that they will “continue” to support LGBTQ+ organizations. Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign responded that “Target’s decision is disappointing and alienates LGBTQ+ individuals and allies at the risk of not only their bottom line but also their values.” She wants companies to remember that our community benefits when businesses “express full-hearted support for the community.”

This is why we shop here at Pink Robin. This is why we spend our money with retailers that support queer brands and our LGBTQ+ community. This is why we take care of each other, because corporations don’t care about us. They care about making money. So here we go folks. Pride is almost here. Let’s be deliberate about how we spend. Let’s put our money where our values are. Let’s celebrate Pride 24/7, 365. Because they can’t erase us, and they can’t boycott us. They may need us, but we don’t need them.

Hey there. Laura Leigh here. I’m a wife, writer, mama, small business owner, podcast host, and the Head of Content here at Pink Robin.

I love supporting the queer community and bringing shared experiences to life.

If you have a story to tell, I’m here for it.

lauraleigh@pinkrobinshop.com

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I remember when my wife and I first became moms, I knew that our ability to “pass” was behind us. I was never going to pretend that my wife and family were something other than exactly who they were. It was freeing to know that I had to live my queer life out loud, that I would forever be myself in every space, all the time.

In a 2023 CNN article Daniel Korschun, associate professor of marketing at Drexel University explained that when it comes to supporting the LGBTQ+ community, executives “are becoming much more skittish about taking these stands and making strong statements.

According to a 2022 Pew Research Poll, roughly eight-in-ten U.S. adults say there is at least some discrimination against transgender people in our society. Because trans rights have become such a contentious issue across the country, companies that used to view supporting pride as “low stakes” have become less likely to support the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. “The pendulum is swinging a bit back … toward a more conservative approach, where they’ll be less vocal,” says Korschun. According to a recent NBC News article, Target stores will only sell pride merchandise in select locations this year. The retailer will not have Pride collections in about half of their locations. Additionally, they will only sell pride merchandise for adults.

An argument that Target has made in the past and is now using again is that this decision protects their LGBTQ+ employees, but let’s be clear: Conditional allyship is not support. Pulling queer merchandise from their shelves and essentially pretending that we don’t exist–and ignoring those of us who have children that want to celebrate pride with us–is detrimental to our community. Erasure threatens our safety. This weekend my mom told me that she’s done with Target. Like her, I can’t say I feel good about spending my money in a place that doesn’t value my family. As of today, the ACLU is currently tracking 515 anti-LGBTQ bills in the U.S. We exist, and abandoning us only endangers us.