Phew. Ok, last year I said it was the shallowness of popular queer culture, believe me I’m still critical of that! This year, I guess I’ve got to talk about Rainbow Washing and the ability of queer people to ignore it. It’s kind of hard for me to be critical of it because my instinct is to imagine that it’s not that bad, I mean, at least companies think it’s beneficial to them to pretend to be Quiltbag friendly which has to be a step up from being openly anti-Quiltbag which was not uncommon as I was growing up.
It is a problem but it’s so hard to acknowedge it as one because they’re not throwing us out for kissing, they’re waving our colours not beating us up openly for wearing them. Part of me automatically thinks, hey it’s getting better you can’t criticise moving forwards but then there’s Helen Mirren and #MeToo, she was date raped on a number of occaisions and never reported the incidents because, to quote her, “you couldn’t do that in those days” and the thing is, I got where she was coming from. When she was trying to make it as an actress it was the fact that she was out of the home and able to move in the world that was to be celebrated and if you wanted that freedom the pay off was that if you weren’t careful some men would assault you and if you wanted to keeping the freedom you had to put up with it and try and avoid it in the future. As a result her perception of what rape is, or rather, reading the comments, her perception of when you can complain about rape, is different to mine and likely different to a younger woman than me. In what she says I see the instinct to think – it’s getting better than I remember it, why complain? And then #MeToo comes along and the conversation shifts abruptly because realistically it’s only by making noise and complaining that the problem gets even slightly closer to getting solved.
Rainbow-washing was a step forwards, companies flashing the six-striped rainbow whereas previously they wouldn’t even pay us lip-service was better than we could have expected in the 80s. It’s beyond the imagining of where we could be in the 80s. Well it’s 2021, and it can be better than this. We have to demand they do more than use our colours, especially when they cynically re-use the Pride Rainbow to celebrate the NHS with exactly as much thought as they give to Pride. We’ve got to keep being loud because yeah, in some places we’re moving forwards but other places are slipping back and we need to keep it in people’s heads that we are people with a right to exist and companies need to back up their sodding rainbows with action.
What do I mean by action? Not discriminating against Quiltbag employees for one.
But it’s so easy to get seduced into Pride feeling like we’re home because everyone has our flag, it can’t be allowed to be lip-service, we need to keep fighting even when we feel safe and we can be so bad at doing that.