This year, it seems more brands than ever are participating in Pride celebrations with product releases. The part that has struck me as a little out-of-sorts and unexpected has been the lack of charitable components and meaningful ties to the LGBTQIA+ community.
This June marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, which is often considered the “birth of the modern LGBT movement” (GLAAD, Sage). New York City announced it would commemorate transgender activists “Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, two icons of the LGBTQ civil rights movement, with monuments” located “just blocks away from the historical Stonewall Inn” (The Trevor Project). Celebrating the progress, milestones, and victories achieved since the Stonewall uprising are part of Pride, but as The Trevor Project notes:
In the grand scheme of things, the Stonewall Uprising wasn’t that long ago. This year, we commemorate its 50th anniversary. Many who were there are with us today. On the other hand, the systemic issues that led to the uprising still exist in the present: discrimination, rejection, and inequality all contribute to disproportionate struggles with mental health for LGBTQ youth today.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers, and up to 50 percent of all trans people have made a suicide attempt, many before the age of 25. It’s clear there’s still a long way to go.
With World Pride on the horizon, along with the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, we have much to reflect on. In that process, let’s remember the importance of stories, both from our past and from our present, from our iconic civil rights leaders to the LGBTQ youth who don’t feel safe enough to come out. When we tell our stories, and we are heard, we win.”
— The Trevor Project, The Importance of Stories
The LGBTQIA+ community has made great strides forward in the last 50 years, and Pride is a time where people can come together and celebrate who they are, the progress they have made, and find support and strength within a safe space. There’s still more work to be done as there is continued discrimination, harassment, and violence against LGBTQIA+ throughout the world.
It’s important to keep in mind that the rights of LGBTQIA+ are not the same in every country (example: Taiwan became the first in Asia to recognize same-sex marriages in May of this year, while Pride festivals are even banned in some countries per Amenesty.org) and some are fighting just for the ability to live without fear of being killed, as some countries use the death penalty for same-sex sexual activity (see Wikipedia’s LGBT rights by country or territory). In the US, LGBTQIA+ rights have come under attack over the last few years with various proposals and moves to roll back protections that have been particularly aimed at transgender people.
When I discussed with Temptalia readers about the prevalence of Pride products this year (and many lacking charitable components) in our Discord, there was a sense of feeling invisible, unimportant, or forgotten, especially in light of some of the other issues the beauty community has called out in the past; they felt the support was not there.
I want the feelings of LGBTQIA+ to be heard, seen, and felt, so I hope that I can be a good ally by inviting them into and providing the space for them to 1) feel safe to share their feelings and 2) reach the Temptalia community because I know we have a fantastic, supportive and accepting community here that includes readers who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community and those who are allies. I reached out to readers through our Discord as well as through Twitter and kept my email available so that people could also submit anonymously.
Here’s what I asked (check out Twitter for the full conversation + all replies!):
What does Pride month mean to you? Why is important to you? What would you like to see from brands if they're going to "celebrate" Pride with products?
— Temptalia (@temptalia) June 13, 2019
On what Pride means:
I’m providing no summary or take aways because Pride is personal, as evidenced below, and I hope that you will take the time to read through the responses readers submitted. I very much appreciate them taking the time to provide thoughtful responses and allowing me to share those responses with Temptalia community.
“It’s reclaiming my queer identity from being erased and dismissed; from being slut-shamed for being bi and also being fetishized by certain members within and outside of the community. It’s remembering my non-binary friend who committed suicide. It’s seeing my young nibling wear all pink all the time and feeling joy and support. It’s being brown and queer and accepted by my siblings when I came out, and it’s accepting my brown and queer siblings when they’ve come out. It’s having my pronouns respected. It’s changing local government gender categories. It’s about feeling and looking like myself, and remembering those who came before us. It’s about supporting others, both in my personal friend and family circles, and via charities and organisations in my country and abroad.” — Anonymous, identifying as gender non-binary and pansexual
pride month to me is just a celebration that even though we still have tons of adversity towards us we’re still here and visible and thriving and fighting and it’s a time to remember those from the past that paved the way for us to be at the point we currently are at
— ♡alyssa♡ (@_rosebudzarry) June 13, 2019
“To me, Pride is a few things- to embrace yourself and your identity (whether it be your gender, sexuality, etc), to give support to other people in the community, and to remind ourselves of hardships we go through, past and present. But that’s just my personal interpretation of it, and my feelings may not reflect what other people feel or experience.” — Laura/platinatina
Pride month to me, as a queer person (that's how I self identify) is us as a community saying that we're here and we won't be silenced. We arent broken. We're proud of who we are and who we love and you won't take that from us. It's to let people who aren't out see that we (1/2)
— Katie McDonald (@KatieMc74403550) June 15, 2019
Pride means being unabashedly yourself and not hiding it behind social norms and expectations. I’d like brands to actively promote lgbt causes through social action or donation, and not simply slap rainbow flags on products and call themselves an ally
— Seth (@sethakins7) June 13, 2019
Pride is the one month when I don’t feel obligated not to talk about queer things.
I still get straight people telling me they don’t want to hear it, but I get to say, “It’s June. Suck it up.”
Re: #Pride promos, 100% of profits to LGBTQ causes or bust.
— Veronica Gorgeois (@VeronicaGorgeoi) June 15, 2019
What should brands be doing, if they’re going to celebrate Pride with products?
I’d feel more comfortable with companies using pride as a way to sell products if I knew that those companies were actually doing something to benefit/support the LGBTQ+ community
— Stephanie: The Fastest Duck in the City (@steffi955) June 13, 2019
Based on the responses I received, there were three points that seemed to run through most of them. First, there needs to be a charitable component; 100% of net proceeds is the bar to shoot for, but there has to be some “benefit/support” to the community (see Stephanie’s tweet). Efforts by Morphe, who donated 100% of proceeds to The Trevor Project, didn’t go unnoticed; the brand also filmed stories from the LGBTQIA+ community and added a straight donation ability of $1, $3, and $5 increments at checkout (for any and all Morphe products) to donate directly to The Trevor Project as well. An anonymous reader wanted brands to be clearer about their charitable contributions, too; like if it’s a product being sold in the UK, is a UK charity benefiting? only a US charity? Neither?
I would love to see brands embrace individual models/stories from the LGBTQ+ community. It would be cool to see major beauty brands support & educate at the same time! & give me people of every orientation, race, size & gender expression!
— Taylor Collins (@tlcollins402) June 14, 2019
if you’re going to make “pride” products, hire people from the LGBTQ+ community to design, create, promote etc. the product and donate a portion (or all !!) of the profits to a charity that helps our community ♥️?
— laur ? (@asap_laurel) June 14, 2019
Second, we want to see and hear stories from people in the community, and we want to see their stories, their creativity, and their art reflected in the products/packaging/campaigns released when products are tied to Pride (see Taylor’s, Laur’s, and Mandy’s tweets).
I'm pretty fed up of people whacking a rainbow on their OUTER packaging (like the box) in order to get money from people. Also, Pride rainbows without actually donating funds to LGBTQ+ causes.
— Chelle ?️? (@mu_your_mind) June 13, 2019
“This year, I’ve been noticing more and more brands releasing Pride collections, and… how they have been handled has been really rubbing me the wrong way. From what I’ve seen, most of the brand Pride launches I’ve seen this year give very little to charity. Morphe, so far, is the only one that I’ve felt more comfortable about. 100% of their net proceeds from their Pride collection – along with extra donation options available in the cart – go to The Trevor Project, a charity that gives crisis counseling to LGBT youth in need. So… that’s something, at least.
I have a lot of other personal frustrations about how Pride campaigns are handled, but they are more specific to me and might not represent the whole community- like, I understand the deep history and importance of drag to our community, but I also don’t like having everything that’s LGBT and makeup-related being reduced to cis gay men doing drag or drag-inspired looks. I’m a lesbian. Almost all of my close friends are trans women, that don’t want anything to do with drag for a multitude of reasons- for example, they don’t want cis people to think that their identity as a trans woman is just a costume to take off. I’ve asked around a lot for LGBT makeup artists on YouTube or Instagram that *aren’t* cis gay men or people in the drag community, and… I don’t get very much in response. I never feel like it’s anything I can relate to, or anything that I could refer to my friends to help them.
Like, for example- Buxom released a collection of lipglosses for Pride, and… all of them were in collaboration with men. Or Urban Decay’s Sparkle Out Loud Pride collection had some weirdly voyeuristic, lesbian fetish-y photos for its promotional images. I see brands turn their social media icons rainbow without giving much in return, and mostly reposting heavy, drag-inspired looks for Pride, stick a rainbow and a tag on the post, and go back to ignoring LGBT people when July 1st rolls around. A lot of this has just reminded me how excluded I feel from makeup communities, and that kind of goes against what Pride really means to me, you know?” — Laura/platinatina
Third, it’s not just about rainbows and bright colors. This is something I saw noted strongly in GLAAD’s Pride Month Resource Kit for Journalists; there are “many faces of Pride,” and that there’s “no single image” that represents the entire community or Pride events. There’s a strong desire to see diverse campaign imagery; that there’s more than “love is love” to the community. As Laura, above, points out: “reposting heavy, drag-inspired looks for Pride, stick a rainbow and a tag on the post, and go back to ignoring LGBT people when July 1st rolls around” doesn’t do justice to the diversity that exists in the LGBTQIA+ community.
“I’d like to see Pride campaigns featuring a wider range of models from the community, not just those that are deemed more “palatable” or those that are fashionably fetishizable; I want more intersection. I want to see audit reports about how the company is doing internally with respect to to equal opportunity, supporting its LGBTQIA+ staff (temp and perm) — things like having non-gender specific bathrooms, how quickly they effect name and pronoun changes, staff training, etc.” — Anonymous, identifying as gender non-binary and pansexual
For some, they want to understand how a brand is supporting LGBTQIA+ issues beyond Pride products. I think it could be an interesting part of a campaign for a company to talk about what kind of support services they offer or what ongoing work they might be doing; there are definitely brands that do more in the background, so if there’s something to share, this is a good time to do so. They want to get a better sense that it’s not just lip service but that they walk the walk. (Think of MAC Viva Glam!)
On the other hand, I had a reader reach out anonymously and shared that while they felt they were in the minority, they were happy to see brands celebrating Pride, regardless of whether they donated anything toward the community, because they felt that it was giving LGBTQIA+ more visibility and normalizing them, which was very important to them. Sharing different perspectives is important because no one person can speak for an entire community.
Let’s Ask for Better
Beauty brands are primarily for-profit entities, so it’s not unexpected that brands make choices to also make more money, but in general, brands have provided some cover for when they do so–see Breast Cancer Awareness in October where tons of products launch but just about all donate some portion to the cause. Seeing brands market products as part of the Pride celebrations going on June but then failing to actually support LGBTQIA+ is deeply disappointing, and it’s not a trend I want to see continuing.
I would have liked to have seen more brands donating significant portion of profits–ideally, all profits–for sales from any products they released in the name of Pride to organizations that work toward supporting the LGBTQIA+ community. I want to see thoughtful names, if they’re used, that actually connect to the journeys, stories, and people from past and present in the movement (Morphe did this with their Pride palette) through names, campaign imagery, and so on. I’d love to see a little leaflet or one-sheet included in products sold that raise awareness for the community and talk about donations/the organization they’ve partnered with (Youth to the People includes messaging on their product packaging as well as a sheet of Pride stickers). I want brands to educate themselves internally and make sure that their own policies and corporate culture are supportive and inclusive.
On that note, I would like to draw attention to a few brands who are doing better with respect to Pride product tie-ins:
First and foremost, MAC Viva Glam is one of the best charitable endeavors by a beauty brand to my knowledge/experience. In 2019, the campaign celebrates 25 years of charitable giving. They’ve raised $500 million over that time by selling Viva Gma Lipsticks, where 100% of the SELLING PRICE (!!!) is “donated to the MAC Viva Glam Fund to support the health and rights of people of All Ages, All Races and All Genders.” Now, “As part of the 25th anniversary, [MAC is] expanding the mission of serving those affected by HIV/AIDS to also support other charities within the women and girls and the LGBTQ communities – under the newly named VIVA GLAM Fund.”
Morphe, as mentioned previously, released a large campaign featuring a diverse set of individuals who shared their stories as members of the LGBTQIA+ community. They partnered with The Trevor Project, which is an organization that provides support services and resources for LGBTQIA+ youth, and they are donating 100% of net proceeds from the sales of their Pride eyeshadow palette and brush set. They also enabled a feature on their website that allows customers to donate $1, $3, or $5 at checkout (on any order) to The Trevor Project. Morphe also provided context on why the names were chosen in their eyeshadow palette, which was a thoughtful touch.
Youth to the People released a specially packaged edition of their Superfood Cleanser and will be donating 100% of profits to GLSEN (up to $50,000), which focuses on “championing LGBTQ issues in K-12 education.”
For those who want to work on being good allies, UC Davis has some excellent resources on how to be a good ally along with a glossary, information about pronouns, and knowing what words are harmful. Below are some of the organizations that brands are supporting with charitable donations from the sales of their Pride product(s) — and if you have the means to do so, you might want to consider them as organizations to support with any charitable giving you do.
I invite readers to share their own answers, if they’re comfortable, to the questions I asked on social media. What does Pride month mean to you? Why is important to you? What would you like to see from brands if they’re going to “celebrate” Pride with products?
Thank you again to the readers who responded to my questions. I know that for some, it was an emotional moment to really think about it and give a thoughtful response. I am so thankful for and appreciate the emotional labor from readers who helped read through the draft of this post to ensure that it was as supportive as intended.
P.S. — I approved comments and hope to respond to more personally but didn’t want them to sit too long in the queue because I’d like everyone to get a chance to share and get visibility! xo