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Wrapped in rainbows: Should big business be involved in Pride Month?

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Pride Month? And with sponsorship deals and rainbow branding now so common, is Pride’s protest message still getting through?Brands haven’t always been so willing to show support for the Pride movement.

In fact, in many countries there once would have been severe legal ramifications for businesses promoting homosexuality.In the UK, homosexuality was illegal until the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, which decriminalised some homosexual acts in England and Wales, but only those that took place in private.The history of businesses seeking to attract LGBTQ+ clients stretches back much further though, says Dr Justin Bengry, lecturer in queer history at Goldsmiths, University of London.In fact, according to Bengry, the British publishing industry courted a queer male readership as early as the 19th century.During his research, Bengry uncovered memos and internal documentation which discussed the economic potential of queer customers.“There’s a very long history of engagement with queer people, even if they weren’t named as such,” he explains.“There’s a grappling with how to address this group of consumers when the language around identifying what we would today call the LGBTQ+ community was unclear, even to the community itself.”Bengry points out that queer business ownership played an important role too.“We also shouldn’t discount too quickly the fact that there were a lot of businesses owned and operated by queer people, either in service of our community, or who recognised that other queer people were a potential market that they could well exploit,” he adds.While there was little to no overt marketing to the queer community until gay liberation in the UK, Bengry notes the interesting case of male lifestyle magazine “Men Only” in.

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