Do your research before shelling out to shops with a rainbow flag, say members of Vancouver's LGBTQ community

·3 min read
Spectators wave rainbow flags while attending the Vancouver Pride Parade in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday Aug. 4, 2013. The emblem is often used to market products which is known as rainbow capitalism or rainbow-washing. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press - image credit)
Spectators wave rainbow flags while attending the Vancouver Pride Parade in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday Aug. 4, 2013. The emblem is often used to market products which is known as rainbow capitalism or rainbow-washing. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press - image credit)

From July 26-30, tune in to CBC Radio One's The Early Edition at 7:10 a.m. for All Out Vancouver a new special series produced by CBC's Kiran Singh that explores how the City of Vancouver supports its LGBTQ residents, many of whom seek refuge in the city because of its reputation as a safe haven.

Businesses big and small across the Lower Mainland are flying coloured flags this week as the Vancouver Pride Society hosts events celebrating the LGBTQ community and some members are warning consumers that rainbow-themed marketing is sometimes more about advertising than support.

The concept is known as rainbow capitalism or rainbow-washing and critics say people should make sure they are not spending their money at places that pander to customers by sticking a pride flag in their window but do not otherwise support LGBTQ people or policies.

"You see, you know, a bank or a hedge fund change their logo to a rainbow and it's like, how are you actually helping the community when, you know, we hear your employees are not being treated properly or they're being misgendered or a host of other things," said Mel Woods, a writer at Xtra Magazine who uses the pronoun they, speaking Wednesday on CBC's The Early Edition.

"It's definitely most glaring with these big corporations that are kind of performatively doing it."

Submitted by Mel Woods
Submitted by Mel Woods

Woods said it is wise to do a little research before spending at places who present as allies to find out if they have had LGBTQ employees say they were discriminated against and to determine if they do help the LGBTQ community financially or through advocacy or other means of support.

A Google search might also tell you if the business is queer-owned and, if it also operates in America, whether or not it has taken a stance on anti-transgender legislation that was recently passed in some U.S. states or is currently pending.

"Pay attention to what's being put into action, to what their stances [are] on other policies, on things that are tangential to queer rights," said Woods. "Vote with your dollar, if you will."

For themself, Woods said that vote is often for local shops as opposed to large corporations that they know make positive contributions to the community.

Braden Yamamoto works in marketing at a Burnaby brewery and this year, the company is churning out a beer created especially to celebrate Pride.

He said what sets this product aside from others that piggyback on Pride is that the recipe and the brewing process included the ideas and skills of queer staff members such as himself.

Submitted by Braden Yamamoto
Submitted by Braden Yamamoto

The brewing industry has been criticized for its lack of diversity and underrepresentation of LGBTQ employees, whereas Yamamoto said where he works at Dageraad Brewing the small team is largely diverse.

"We're proud to release that just because it's kind of this emblem of queerness within craft beer," Yamamoto told The Early Edition. "We have a voice and we are part of this community as well."

The beer itself is called Rozedag, in honour of Roze Zaterdag (literally Pink Saturday), the largest of Belgium's pride celebrations.

Proceeds from keg sales, as well as a portion of every glass sold, will go to support two-spirit, young people through the Urban Native Youth Association.

"They provide a lot of resources and support and mentorship and ceremony to Indigenous youth who are either two-spirited or queer and obviously that felt very timely and necessary right now," said Yamamoto.

Looking at how to best help the LGBTQ community locally, said Woods, is an ideal way for shops profiting off pride to operate.

"Here in Vancouver, there's a lot of local organizations that could really use that money and could really use that profile and that support."

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