Has the commercialisation of Pride gone too far?

This year, Dublin Pride was a beautiful celebration of inclusivity and diversity within the LGBTQIA+ community. In between all the glitter and glam, you may have noticed that some companies marched in the parade.

Well, let’s be honest, they were impossible to miss.

Year on year, more and more businesses pay to march in the Dublin Pride parade. A lot of them will even pay for bus floats, which can go up to €5,000.

This is something to be celebrated, right? More companies are supporting their LGBTQIA+ employees and the wider community in general.

On one hand, it’s great to see that so many businesses are getting behind equality. However, one can’t wonder if all this support is vacuous and simply an attempt to exploit a new market.

It’s no secret that, before anything else, companies are out to make money. And if they see an opportunity to tap into a new demographic, they’ll probably take it.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this. Businesses try to capitalise on nearly every market imaginable, so this isn’t anything new or specific to the LGBTQIA+ community.

However, this isn’t the same as marketing to, say, men between 25 to 40 years old. These companies are targeting a community which has both historically, and currently (albeit to a lesser extent) been marginalised by mainstream society.

When these companies slap on a rainbow to one of their products, what are they actually achieving? How are they actually helping?

Are they donating a part of or all of the profits towards an LGBTQIA+ charity? Are they supporting LGBTQIA+ creators?

It’s clear that a lot of these businesses aren’t committed towards LGBTQIA+ rights, as when July 1st rolls around, they suddenly remove all the rainbow merch from the shelves.

If companies want us to believe they actually care about LGBTQIA+ rights, they should be sporting this stuff year-round.

The commercialisation of Pride really hurt Dublin Pride 2018. The parade itself had a late start this year; starting over an hour later than it was supposed to.

While the majority of people waited in the packed, crowded street beside St Stephen’s Green, company buses lay waiting in the cool shade.

Dean O’Reilly, head of DCU’s LGBTA society, said that the commercialisation of this year’s Pride diminished the experience for him, “Many society members dropped out earlier on in the day and I can’t blame them, it was brutal standing there in the sun with no movement. Meanwhile, while all of us were standing there, vehicle upon vehicle passed us.”

These big company party buses bring in a wider question about Pride: should it be a party or a protest?

The first Irish Pride was actually a protest over a gay-bashing trial. A gay man, Declan Flynn, was beaten to death, and none of the five people responsible served any jail time.

The people marching in this first Pride were marching for equality, for an end to discrimination, and for Ireland at large to recognise their humanity.

O’Reilly was adamant that this shouldn’t be forgotten. He pointed out that even during Pride, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia can rear their ugly head, “I had slurs hurled at me as I walked from O’Connell Street to Stephen’s Green. ‘Faggot!’ All I was doing was walking with a rainbow flag in my hand,” he said.

Aside from general societal discrimination, the fight for LGBTQIA+ right isn’t over, and Pride should continue to be used as a platform to bring awareness to this.

The lack of affordable trans healthcare in Ireland, and MSM (men who have sex with men) not being able to donate blood – unless they’ve been celibate for a year – are just two such issues.

Finally, although the commercialisation of Pride has been a topic of discussion for a few years now, it’s received particular attention this year.

On this, O’Reilly said, “I think there’s definitely a conversation to be had about why now when more cis gay men are affected, are we thinking that commercialisation has gone too far but we didn’t do the same through bi-erasure, trans exclusion, and more.”

Our pushback against corporatisation should remain, like all things, inclusive.