Why you need to support queer artists and organisations
Over recent years, I’ve noticed fast-fashion brands, such as H&M, Topshop/Topman and Zara, becoming increasingly involved in Pride. Last 'Pride season', I visited all the big clothing chains on Oxford Street to see what they had to offer. All of them had a clear window display and a prominent section in-store dedicated to Pride, which was essentially colourful clothing with rainbows and simple inclusive phrases such as ‘unity’ or ‘love is love’.
It’s brilliant and incredibly important to see large companies and corporations show support towards minorities as part of a campaign. By being involved in Pride, it sends the much-needed message, not just to people within the community but to everyone, that the rights, representation and respect towards queer (LGBT+) people matter just as much as everyone else’s - everyone else being cis-gendered, heterosexual people (straight people who identify with the gender they were born). In our political climate, where activism is becoming more popular and normalised, and people are grouping more easily based on their views thanks to social media, it’s a good idea for businesses to support and show solidarity with minorities.
It can, however, be a tricky area to touch on as a business. Promoting your company as queer-inclusive and selling clothing covered in rainbows and positive phrases at Pride is not enough. There needs to be a clear level of authenticity that is truly empowering and supporting the wider community. This needs to be continuous, not just when it's seasonal - i.e. only during 'Pride season'. Otherwise, to me, it just sends a message that Pride is a boxed-up trend to be opened again at a certain time of year, like Halloween or Christmas. The truth is, queer people experience hardship on a daily basis and deserve to be considered and taken seriously year-round.
Personally, I can only appreciate brands pushing activist-oriented campaigns and products if I can clearly see them using their power beyond the product and their business. I think it’s great to see companies doing campaigns that amplify the voices of minorities, but I would like to know some money is going directly into charities or organisations within the community that really know how to make the change and that need the funding. The best way companies can learn to make more mindful and inclusive decisions is to hire people within minorities in positions of power - not just a face in campaigns or on retail shop floors.
As a consumer, it’s so important to buy products from companies that share similar values to you. I really believe that you “vote with your dollar”. In a capitalist society, money fuels the world and it tells companies what we want. As a very conscious consumer, I always like to have a good idea of the agendas of large organisations and try to avoid ones that seem to cause issues. By coming together as mindful consumers, we are able to influence the decisions that companies make.
When you purchase an activist-oriented product from an individual, small business or charity/organisation, you are fuelling raw creativity and genuinely allowing a voice to people within the community - the products can only be more real and personal. At large companies where decisions are navigated from the minds of wealthy leaders and investors, how can you be sure that their intentions and desires are really going to match yours and the wider community?
My Queer T-Shirts share true, unfiltered messages from an individual within the queer community who isn’t doing this to reach profit margins or impress investors. I would always trust the voices from within a minority more than from a company on a stock exchange! *shudders*
Growing up, I had such a lack of exposure to queerness and, looking back, feel it was so hidden from me in our society. I started the Queer T-Shirts project because I realised the power I have in communicating important messages on my body to the general public. I think there's a stronger need for the public to be exposed to queer issues than just a brand logo! And I particularly want to show fellow young queer people across the spectrum that there are people out there like me who support them - because I know what it’s like to feel alone in my queer identity while young.
You can read more about The Queer T-Shirts Project and check out the zine here. T-shirts, pins and badges are available for sale here.
Photo credit (top): Pride UK