Every year, Pride ushers in a rainbow wave of corporate virtue-signaling where companies and brands of all sizes masquerade support of the LGBTQIA+ community… for a month. But come July 1, the rainbow social media icons are switched out, the “Love is Love” window displays are dismantled, and we all revert back to a society that more obviously antagonizes queer people. This Pride, however, feels a bit different.
“I’m typically complaining about rainbow washing around this time of year,” said Ian Schatzberg, Co-Founder of the queer-owned New York-based creative agency General Idea. “However, that unfortunately is not the case this year.”
In recent weeks, the likes of M&Ms, Bud Light, and Target have shrunk away from their Pride campaigns and backpedaled on performative solidarity. The General Idea team felt compelled to react to the despicable marketing maneuvers of these corporations with a campaign of their own that highlighted queer creatives who are contributing to our culture in compelling ways. The result is a Pride zine entitled “The Queers are Here,” and as part of the campaign, General Idea is donating over $6,000 to the Transgender Law Center to support their efforts around trans advocacy.
“It’s incredibly disappointing to see retailers pulling back their support,” Schatzberg continued. “They need to realize it will do more harm for their brand than good in the long run. I implore marketers to stand their ground. The LGBTQIA+ community has long fought for a seat at the table, and it’s time for us to keep brands accountable, despite fear of backlash, in order to ensure the LGBTQIA+ community continues to see representation throughout and beyond Pride Month.”
“Like any campaign we would produce for our clients, ‘The Queers Are Here’ started with research and insights,” said Tanner Graham, General Idea Co-Founder and Managing Partner, of the campaign development process. “We decided to create something that was an ode to the original Stonewall Riots and reflected the fashion, culture, and signs that drove that moment. A printed medium felt right, and it was important for us to create a visual journey for our audience. A zine was the right way to capture that.”
The pages of the zine feature photographs and stories about queer creators and culture makers, including artist Yves, comedian Grace Kuhlenschmidt, photographer Hunter Abrams, nightlife trendsetter Terence Edgerson, and musician Mel4ever. In doing so, the zine highlights how queerness is integral to the creative processes of a wide spectrum of identities.
“As a queer and minority-owned company, it’s essential that every single piece of work we touch places inclusivity at the forefront,” said General Idea Co-Founder and Executive Creative Director Semjon von Doenhoff. “We’re fortunate enough that our clients share similar points of view and empower us to cast diverse talent for campaigns we produce year-round. This made casting the zine easy; everyone we selected is a friend of the agency.”
Schatzberg has thoughts on how companies can authentically and genuinely support the LGBTQIA+ community and queerness year-round, beyond the month of June: “Stay true to your efforts of creating an inclusive workplace,” he said. “Bud Light and Target have demonstrated the ripple effect that comes with turning your back on efforts meant to promote diversity and inclusion. Hasty reactions like pulling back on these efforts will put your credibility at question amongst employees and other key stakeholders.”
“Every company should be built on strong foundational values,” he continued. “As you scale your business you need to pay close attention to them. Leaders should never stray from these values and ensure that each new team member will uphold them and contribute to an inclusive work environment.”
Lastly, Schatzberg suggests that companies should aim to actually care about their employees as people. “Ensure that your employees feel supported,” he said. “Good leaders have their ears on the ground and can quickly notice when there’s been a shift in culture. Take stock of that and implement the right steps in order to ensure everyone feels genuinely supported.”
‘The Queers are Here’ is available for purchase at the historic New York City gay bar Julius, with potential to be sold online as well. Scenes from the zine will also be on view through the General Idea Instagram.