"We wanted to change society, not conform to it. Our battle cry was 'innovate, don't assimilate.'" -Peter Tatchell

While reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the June 1969 Stonewall riots and today’s rainbow-branded capitalism, author Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation for Speaking out for Human Rights, said, “[We] never campaigned for equality. Our demand was LGBT+ liberation. We wanted to change society, not conform to it. Our battle cry was ‘innovate, don’t assimilate.’”

This quote which pertains specifically to the gay liberation movement of the 1970s is still relevant today when looking at the rise of “Rainbow Capitalism” and the more recent reduction of corporate support for pride month. For many in our LGBTQIA+ community seeing formally allied corporations, companies and shops take down their Pride flags, remove Pride merchandise, restrict employees’ personal Pride flair, and/or move Pride merchandise to the furthest corner in the back of the store, created a tsunami of painful emotions and the (re)appearance of public segregation and discrimination. Even worse, it created fear for our individual and community safety. The action of removing a people’s flag may seem minor, but the message is not, nor has it ever been throughout history.

And while these changing winds of support can feel like a setback on the road to equity and inclusion, there is still hope for progress. Challenging times can be opportunities to innovate, create and to build bigger stronger communities. As Peter Tatchell said, “innovate, don’t assimilate.” We show our resiliency through finding ways to be proud and out, in creating opportunities for queer joy, and in building alliances and safe spaces. We take action by supporting local LGBTQIA+ businesses, artists and events. And most importantly, when sharing space and time with others we encourage, build up, and cheerlead their, and our, ability to thrive not just survive.

Hope is never silent,” so tell your story and let your Pride colors shine bright because you are strong, smart, talented, beautiful and resilient, with or without corporate sponsors.

Jackie Whitley

Jackie is a human rights activist who is involved in his local queer community through organizations such as Phoenix Pride and Drag Story Hour AZ. Originally from Los Angeles, when working in film and television he had the privilege of getting to appear in multiple episodes of Disney’s That’s So Raven.