Rainbow Washing

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Pride…


I’m not the first to notice or comment that Pride Month is bigger than ever this year. Biggest ever. I’ve been around long enough to remember when it was just the Pride Parade on Sunday which then became Pride Weekend and then Pride Week and now Pride Month. The festivities started promptly on June 1st. Which is exactly when the Pride Flags started coming out too.

In what felt like a NY Minutes, flags were everywhere. Store fronts. Logos. Email signatures. Sneaker, socks, t-shirts. Snack foods. Ice cream.. It seems like every brand and every company is waving the Pride Flag this month.

Some are calling it Rainbow Washing, and I’ve listened intently to the argument. To my read, Rainbow Washing is when these brands and companies simply wave the flag for a month in an attempt to make money without any real commitment to the community or without any real contribution back.

I get it. I hear it.

But I still love seeing all the flags, regardless. Because I think it helps us.

I grew up at a time when there were no flags. No discussions. There was no acceptance and certainly no inclusion. Nothing. And I knew nothing as a result. If I had seen even one flag growing up it just may have changed the trajectory of my own coming out story. It may have eased what was otherwise a tough time.

Then while I was coming out in the 1990’s, there were very few flags even during what is now Pride Month. Sure the vodkas, the cruise ships, and the HIV medicines were supportive but that was about it. I longed to come to the Pride Parade on Sunday just to see all of the support, and as more brands and companies joined in the parade it was thrilling. Thrilling. Many, if not most, of those brands and companies were energized by their LGBT+ employees which made it even better. Acceptance. Inclusion. More flags.

So I don’t mind seeing all of the flags, even if they are just up temporarily. Because I have to believe two things.

First, and most importantly, all of the people who are still struggling with their own coming out story have to feel better seeing all of those flags. I truly believe that. How could it not be true. A sea of Pride Flags has to make it all feel more safe. And physical and emotional safety is paramount when coming out. And staying out. For those coming out and for the families and friends.

Secondly, I also have to believe that it’s a journey for the brands and companies too. This year it’s a flag. Next year is a special product or service. The year after it’s a contribution back to the community. And all along the way the brand and company is accepting customers and employees from the LGBT+ world, which will drive further change. I truly believe that.

So at this year’s World Pride Weekend Celebration in New York, you’ll see me taking in every flag I can find. Putting them on my IG stories and smiling with every post. Perhaps wearing a few myself.

Happy Pride! What’s your experience? JIM