Pride Month 2021: A personal Account of Loss, PinkWashing, Rainbow Capitalism and The Performative Agenda

I have been very quiet for the last one month. I lost my father unexpectedly on May 4th. It was so sudden that it took me some time to get in terms of his unbearable loss. The world has become maniacal in more ways than one. My father, a decorated veteran, a hero died because of a broken system, an apathetic government of India at the Centre and at the state of Uttar Pradesh, and the greedy and overwhelmed medical and health services of a country that seems to be declining in an abyss of hopelessness. My father did not want to leave India. He loved his country till the last gasping breath. I cannot even talk about the trauma I went through after watching my father die horribly in the second wave that hit India as I struggled to procure even basic services like an ambulance and a hospital bed for him because of the inaction and absolute irresponsible response of the government and medical ecosystem that is not equipped to meet any contingency whatsoever. I also blame myself equally for not being able to plan ahead considering that I was well aware about the entire system-collapse in India. As macabre as it may sound, unfortunately this is the harsh reality I am left to face. Our privileges and money are no good in the wake of the ongoing pandemic and I shudder to think about people's fate who have nothing. The struggle for survival is real. My only source of connection to India is my parents. I have lost one parent and that is a huge loss to me personally, that is also irreplaceable. It is painful to forgive and forget and move on with life as usual. We are learning to live with the grief. I am grieving and my family and I are bereaved but holding on to the good memories of my father to somehow minimize the loss of his passing. I pray every day that he is in a good place and may he find peace and happiness forever and ever.

He was my biggest cheerleader. My foundation and pillar of support. I have started writing a book that I am dedicating to the memory of my father. It will be out this July 2021. His legacy shall continue to live on. Incidentally, my father was also a big supporter of LGBTQ+ rights. Early April, he ordered two rainbow t-shirts that he was planning to wear with me in June offering his support and allyship to LGBTQ+ visibility and empowerment. I would have loved to twin with my dad and celebrate the onset of Pride Month. Alas!

Usually, June is full of enthusiasm for me because this month I often travel and attend pride parades with gusto and a spirit of bonhomie and community. June is a colorful month in so many ways for the LGBTQ+ community full of events and opportunities to establish new agenda for the rest of the year. Obviously, I have not been able to travel since 2020.

This year I am seeing highlights that I must share with my readers. First, It is filling me with joy that people with influence combined with experience have the courage to share their stories and perspectives about being part of the community and facing real-world challenges even in the times where acceptance is an all-time high that it has ever been in the history of LGBTQ+ representation. The more people that can articulate the needs of the community based on their own experience, the more we can push the agenda to bring about real change as a lot is still left to be done especially in countries across the world that are becoming more closed and complex about LGBTQ+ rights diminishing the community even further.

Second, thankfully, people are realizing how some brands push the narrative of pinkwashing just to sell and make profits but without even giving an iota of an afterthought to the betterment, upliftment, and empowerment of the community. Rainbow capitalism has reigned supreme but now it's being called out. That in itself makes a huge difference. Many organizations work on the surface level while remaining ignorant to the challenges of the communities they pretentiously represent in their marketing campaigns. Lack of Visibility is a major concern in the community which results in LGBTQ+ folks to remain closeted and not even try to live their authentic selves out of fear and not finding enough support from pseudo allyship. McKinsey & Company and LGBTQIA+: The Alliance report reiterates the importance of LGBTQIA+ inclusion at the workplace citing incisive statistics where decisive actions can bring about a positive change: In the 455 million strong global LGBTQ community, only 27% self-identify due to social pressures and legal constraints! 

Lastly, minorities discriminating against a subset of minorities within the LGBTQ+ community is appalling, it is frankly unacceptable even for any diaspora and beyond, for that matter as we are all interlinked, interrelated, and intersectional. This fact is now being addressed at large by the community and that is such a welcoming stance to be taken as we all progress towards equality and empowerment.

Surprisingly, many LGBTQ+ organizations themselves are seen to be pinkwashing and capitalizing on the pink pound. I came across one such organization in India that claims to connect LGBTQ+ talent to inclusive organizations and I realized that it's just a big farce. They are also launching a marketplace for helping LGBTQ+ businesses but I have very little hope on the impact since their main aim is to cut and commercialize the gay community and use the community to their advantage. A post by Fariha Tasnim, a STEM advocate who I follow on LinkedIn shared the thoughts I am trying to articulate beautifully and aptly. She writes:

Image Credit: Fariha Tasnim/ LinkedIn

"Slapping on a rainbow once a year isn't allyship, it's marketing. Rainbow washing allows governments and corporations to present a unified front with no tangible backing. We need more than a rainbow logo.

We need legislation and policies that protect and support the LGBTQ+ community. We need protocols and strategies to dismantle systemic oppression and execute DEI initiatives. In simple terms, use your money and power to help queer people.

Hire them. Promote them. Invest in them. 
Earn your rainbow privileges."

Happy Pride Month, my Papa Pussycat.

- Amit Anand