Why do we allow celebrities to hop on the Pride bandwagon and profit off of queer culture, and get away with it…
By Bianca Guzzo
This past Pride month was a colourful one. We saw more and more people coming out to support the cause. And while the support, and the exposure for the LGBTQ+ community, is great, some of the support seems to have an expiration date. Why do we let celebrities get away with insincere support during Pride month, when it feels like the support is only there to sell their product in the first place? Not only are there other artists who have openly supported the LGBTQ+ community year-round, but these part-time supporters also overshadow fierce activists in the community.
When pop star Taylor Swift began dropping new music this past spring, fans were shocked at the colourful statements she was making with both her visuals and her lyrics, as it was a big departure from the dark and vampy aesthetic from her previous album. Her first single “Me” heavily mentioned rainbows through lyrics and music videos that led some fans to believe that she might have been using her upcoming album Lover as an opportunity to step out as a queer ally.
Those theories were reinforced when teasers started dropping online for her second single, “You Need to Calm Down.” The music video featured the world’s brightest and biggest stars in the LGBTQ+ community, including Billy Porter, Laverne Cox, the cast of Queer Eye, Hayley Kiyoko, Ellen, Adam Lambert and, of course, a handful of Drag Race queens. Taylor used the music video to make a statement to show her support for the LGBTQ+ community, which on one hand is great, but the timing was kind of suspicious. The music video dropped in the middle of Pride month, and also coincided with a “surprise performance” of some of her music at the iconic Stonewall Inn in New York City.
Although she’s a global superstar, Swift rarely speaks openly about political issues. With the convenient timing of her new music dropping during Pride season, it felt like she was trying her hand at catering to her fans in the queer community, but something about it didn’t feel right.
Non-queer allies of the LGBTQ+ community have a responsibility to not only support those who identify within the community, but also to recognize that their privilege comes with a unique platform. When that platform is used for personal gain, their role as an ally feels more like a salesperson who is using queer culture to sell their product to an untapped market. When public figures start to support the queer movement and queer rights during Pride month, the timing of their support feels insincere, and it totally loses momentum when the public figure suddenly goes silent after Pride celebrations end. It’s the equivalent of a multi-million-dollar corporation changing their icon on social media to a rainbow version of their logo for the month of June, and changing it back on the first day of July.
Unfortunately, Taylor Swift’s support of the LGBTQ+ community felt like it expired at midnight on June 30. She’s been pretty silent on social media except for when she’s promoting her music. As with most things in pop-cultures, this new rainbow-filled Taylor era was met with split criticism. Some people felt they saw right through it, while others absolutely loved it. But I think we can all agree that if you’re looking for a pop star to spearhead the queer movement in the year 2019, Taylor Swift isn’t it.
For all the “support” that starts to feel disingenuous during Pride month, there are just as many public figures who speak out all year, who continue to speak up, and who show up, long after Pride celebrations end. For example, Miley Cyrus came out as pansexual, and continues to celebrate diversity and queer experiences in her work. Lady Gaga has always been outspoken about her sexual relationships with both men and women. Both Miley and Gaga have foundations that support LGBTQ+ youth. Ariana Grande publicly denounced her Catholic religion when she felt her brother (who identifies as gay) wasn’t being accepted into the church. British girl group Little Mix have been loud and proud supporters of the LGBTQ+ community for as long as they’ve been in the public eye, despite all four of the girls identifying as straight. They are constantly speaking out about women’s rights, and have included members of the LGBTQ+ community in a number of their music videos. Yet they didn’t get nearly the same amount of recognition that we’re giving to people who are doing the bare minimum by simply showing up during Pride season.
It’s up to us to call out people who are using our community for their own personal gain, whether it’s to sell music or other goods, or to promote their politics. Being a good ally doesn’t mean speaking up during Pride season, but showing support all year long. When it comes to speaking out about issues, if you don’t have a relevant and constructive narrative to contribute as an ally to a community, sometimes lending a platform so somebody else can have their voice heard is a simple gesture that goes a long way. When these so-called allies make their noise only at convenient times, they are profiting off of a marginalized community in order to further their own reach and career.
The more strides the queer movement makes, the more others will try to capitalize off of its many attributes. Though more visibility is always welcomed, it’s important to know when intentions are good, and when a marginalized community is being used to sell a product. Even if the support is genuine, we must remember those who deserve the real praise for their outspokenness and activism, and pay credit where credit is due.
BIANCA GUZZO is a writer based out of the GTA. She spends her free time watching Trixie Mattel makeup tutorials, though she has yet to nail the look.