June is Pride Month, the annual exercise in rainbow-washing, and if you listen very carefully you may even hear gay rights mentioned. You might be familiar with Pride Month from past years. On 31 May, the bank is offering you a fixed rate with a four per cent APRC; on 1 June, it wants you to know that, on the off chance you’re non-binary, your mortgage-lender thinks that’s valid.
The most obvious way for a corporation to signal its commitment to inclusivity is to emblazon its corporate branding with the Pride flag, but this is increasingly fraught with difficulty. Because, you see, the Pride flag is no longer inclusive. It’s a gay symbol, after all, and gay men and lesbians rank just below white people and non-graduates in The Current Ideology’s hierarchy of villainy.
Some brands get around this by using the Progress Pride flag instead and, speaking of banks, HSBC has gone down this route. Alas, progress is a fast-moving thing and while the Progress flag boasts additional stripes in blue, pink and white (trans pride) and brown and black (‘people of colour’), it isn’t as progressive as the Intersex-Inclusive Progress Pride flag, which adds a purple ring on a yellow background. Of course, this in itself is a symbol of oppression because it fails to incorporate the flags for polysexuals (those attracted to many genders) and polygenders (those who are many genders). If HSBC can’t get simple stuff like this right, how am I supposed to trust them with my reward current account?
These vexillological questions are particularly vexing at present because Pride Month coincides with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. This poses a problem for the conscientious progressive because it is very important to spend the next few days complaining about a surfeit of Union Jacks and how their ubiquity is literally the Nuremberg Rallies all over again. These progressives are not keen on the national standard — they are educated, after all — and declaim those weirdos who actually like their country as ‘flag shaggers’. There is not, as far as I’m aware, a pride flag for people who like to shag flags but give it time.
While signalling that investing your identity in the UK flag is cringe, progressives must also signal that investing your identity in the Pride flag is awesome and anyone who objects is cringe. It must be exhausting to be these people. Particularly if any of them happen to live in Nelson, Lancashire, where the town hall is flying not the Union Jack but the Palestinian flag this weekend. We need a definitive guide on flag etiquette. LGBTQ flag: good. Palestinian flag: good. LGBTQ Palestinian flag: I wouldn’t try it in Gaza.
The woke flag-shaggers get very protective of rainbow-washing corporations. It’s a welcome sign of progress, you know. Only a contrarian would object, you bigot. Okay, then. A question: what percentage of companies rebranding in Pride colours this month did so when it was still commercially risky? It’s nice that Exxon Mobil has the Progress Pride flag in its Twitter header, but you know what would’ve been nicer? If the oil giant hadn’t been so slow in introducing robust protections for gay and lesbian employees. Only in 2015, after President Obama made such protections a prerequisite of getting US government contracts, did frequent US government contractor Exxon change its policy.
Hoisting the Pride Flag has as much to do with sincere solidarity as McDonald’s adding salads to its menu has to do with genuine concern about obesity. It is about selling a product under a new brand. Speaking of the Golden Arches, here’s what their Pride Month press release has to say:
‘At McDonald’s, we’re proud to celebrate, support and uplift our LGBTQ+ communities throughout the year. After all, our values hinge on inclusion and integrity, meaning we open our doors to everyone and we do the right thing.’
I suppose all this Pride rebranding just reflects the power of the pronoun pound, but it would better if corporations were honest about their intentions. The performative progressivism is embarrassing, especially since it seems oblivious to the fact that the internet exists. Your LGBTQetc customers can see when you rainbow-up your corporate logos in gay-friendly markets and studiously avoid any mention of Pride in countries where it might lose you customers or get on the wrong side of the government. (Yes, I’m talking about you BMW UK vs BMW Middle East, Starbucks vs Starbucks Indonesia, and LinkedIn vs LinkedIn India.)
One side effect of the gender wars is that the forced marriage of sexuality (lesbian, gay, bisexual) to identity (transgender et al) is finally breaking up. There is no unified ‘LGBT community’ and as this necessary coming apart progresses, it will become more difficult for woke capitalism to appeal to all sides. They had it good for a while there, but corporations are going to get less and less return from pandering with a flag that alienates more people with every gaudy stripe added. I would like to suggest a new strategy: stop reducing your customers and your employees to their sexual orientation or their ‘gender identity’, as though that was the be all and end all and the decisive factor in choosing a coffee, a car or a workplace. Don’t worry about our flag or who we shag. Just sell us your wares and don’t discriminate against us. We ask nothing more.