Pride or profit: LGBT students talk Pride branding

Sandra Torres

The month of June — Pride Month — brings an array of emotions to the LGBT community, including pride, love and possession. The Stonewall Riots of 1969 marked the beginning of marches for equality and acceptance of the LGBT community.

Store windows and advertisements showcase rainbow-themed items such as flags, shirts and signs. This support comes with a variety of reactions from Longhorns who are part of the LGBT community.

Accounting junior Claire Levinson is president of the Gay Business Student Association, which promotes LGBT representation in the corporate world. Levinson said she only buys merchandise from LGBT creators and artists during Pride Month.

“A lot of corporations … come off as trying to profit off us by sewing a rainbow on a T-shirt … saying ‘love is love’ … selling it for a profit and not giving much back to the community,”Levinson said. 

Levinson said she shops for Pride merchandise in January and February.

“I try to avoid commercial products in June unless I know it’s coming from an LGBT-run business or they’re giving 50% or more (of profits) to an LGBT organization,” Levinson said. 

History and anthropology senior Bailee Ufert, member of the LGBT community, said there are benefits and consequences to corporations using Pride Month to introducePride merchandise.

“It can be a good thing for stores to show their support for the LGBT community,” Ufert said. “I’m all for normalizing the LGBT community, but we must be careful about these companies.”

Forbes reported that nine different corporations that sell Pride-related merchandise in June donated millions to anti-LGBT politicians. Among those corporations, the biggest donations were from AT&T ($2,755,000), UPS ($2,366,122) and Comcast ($2,116,500). 

Many businesses launched campaigns to celebrate equality. According to the H&M website, their campaign “Stay True, Stay You” will give 10% of global sales from the collection to the United Nations’ Free & Equal campaign. Additionally, Target’s campaign spreads support through the #TakePride hashtag and with a $100,000 donation to GLSEN, an organization that works to create safe and affirming schools for all children in K-12 education.

Mark Bejemino, accounting senior and Gay Business Student Association vice president of finance, said he knows there is concern within the LGBT community about corporate involvement in Pride. Bejemino said he borrowed his pridewear from a friend because some of the Pride-themed merchandise was
too expensive.

“To a certain extent, they are using our community to earn a quick buck,” Bejemino said. “But it’s very endearing to know that a lot of corporations support the
LGBT community.”

Bejemino said the best way for businesses and corporations to approach Pride merchandising is to give back to the LGBT community.

“Especially now, with the political climate, it’s very important for us to be heard,” Bejemino said. “We need all the support we can get, even if that involves selling a couple of shirts.”