At work last night, one of the other employees asked me how I felt about some of the signs she saw at Boston’s Pride parade this weekend. I stopped going to Pride a few years ago because I have difficulty with crowds, so I didn’t even know this was an issue. Some people seem to have a problem with corporations being involved in our community events.
Coming up with my opinion was easy. Those people don’t know anything about our people’s history and need to put their signs in the recycle bin–and stop pi##ing me off. We not only invited companies in, there was a time when we begged them.
We were dying. Everyone was dying. Our friends were all wasting away in hospital beds and nobody cared. The president ignored us. He wouldn’t even say the name of the disease in public. Other groups helped us as much as they could–NAACP, NOW, etc. But it all had to be behind the scenes. They couldn’t (for the integrity of their own missions) be publicly associated with the mass death. I don’t hold that against them at all and appreciate everything they did… but we needed public attention.
That’s when we turned to capitalism. This was back before the internet and before all transactions were electronic or plastic. We had cash. Every bill we had got stamped with a pink triangle (at the time, our main symbol) and the words “gay money,” “queer money,” “lesbian money.” We had to show businesses that a vast, untapped core of potentially loyal DINKs (double income, no kids) were not only going to waste, but wasting away. So, like the Whos only Horton could hear, we tried yet another way to raise our voices.
It worked. First, it was the alcohol companies. Bud Light started pouring money into our community, then Absolut.
The first time I saw a lesbian couple in a Subaru commercial, I cried. Companies were paying attention and putting us in front of a deaf and blind nation.
As a side note… it’s always the lesbians first. They aren’t as threatening and don’t invoke the same violent reactions from straight people as we do. I’ve come to terms with that and appreciate them for being the bridge.
Now, law enforcement, banks, airlines, politicians, and tons of other industries and sectors of the population march in solidarity with us every year. It’s a miracle, not a travesty. As long as they have no say in our message, I appreciate them all so much.
My point is, we begged companies to pay attention, and they did. We can’t bitch about it now. I realize the younger generation doesn’t know what we went through–and for the love of the gods, I hope they never do–but they need to have some idea of their community’s history before they form their opinions and make a public stand like that.