Our ‘culture wars’ are a serious health risk to LGBTQ community

Companies should reassess the bad example they are setting by scaling back their support of the LGBTQ community. Standing up to anti-gay and anti-trans legislation and sentiment is exactly why Pride month exists.

Corporate pride and its rainbow displays of allyship have been shoved back into the closet in response to increasingly vocal and demonstrative anti-woke pushback.

Corporate pride and its rainbow displays of allyship have been shoved back into the closet in response to increasingly vocal and demonstrative anti-woke pushback.

ROBYN BECK, Getty

Every June, companies known as notable LGBTQ allies, like Target and Anheuser-Busch, commemorate Pride Month in the fashion of most annual celebrations: with targeted advertising and profitable merchandise.

This year, however, corporate pride and its rainbow displays have been shoved back into the closet in response to increasingly vocal and demonstrative “anti-woke” pushback. Perhaps most notably, Target removed its famous Pride Collection from stores after waves of homophobic opposition, leaving gay and trans customers to face that vitriol without so much as a rainbow T-shirt.

This is merely a drop in the bucket of American corporations abandoning their yearly statements of solidarity in response to hateful comments under nearly every Pride-themed social media post.

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For example, the official Major League Baseball Twitter account only had its rainbow profile picture up for a few hours before calls for a boycott filled the comments, while XBOX only had its Pride logo up for one day before callously changing it to a fiery hell-inspired version.

Although companies have been mocked for “rainbow capitalism” in the past, a commemorative rainbow logo is a harmless and simple gesture of support for a historically marginalized group. Deleting a social media post may seem innocuous, but when companies abandon the rainbow logos — and seemingly side with a vocal homophobic minority — it not only goes against everything Pride stands for but also poses a serious health risk to LGBTQ individuals.

Suicide, depression and other health risks

As a medical student at the University of Chicago, I have encountered and cared for innumerable gay and trans patients, who are at a disproportionate risk for a myriad of health issues including depression, homelessness, addiction, targeted violence and suicide.

The elevated risk is explained by the minority stress model, a tool that shows external and internal “stressors” — such as discrimination, victimization and internalized homophobia —contribute to the development of these health issues.

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So when homophobia is spewed in the comments of every Pride post on social media, and when companies show a lack of integrity by backing down in the face of those comments, it could actively contribute to higher rates of suicide, self-harm and depression among queer people, particularly children.

Homophobia is nothing new, but this is the first year in recent memory that it has been loud enough to scare companies into pulling back or even eliminating their marketing to the LGBTQ community.

All of this is doubly disastrous for queer people. First, it communicates that companies are listening to and siding with hateful commenters, adding to the stress of victimization in the LGBTQ community.

Second, the minority stress model also shows that representation and open displays of support actually reduce the adverse health outcomes associated with stressors. So by deleting their rainbow profile pictures, companies are also removing a critical tool to prevent increased rates of depression, suicide and self-harm in queer youth.

This is not to say that a corporation posting a yassified version of their logo — adding a beauty filter — will prevent a trans child from killing themselves. However, it will contribute to the likelihood that my future medical colleagues and I may encounter a queer patient who points to this Pride season as the month they learned to hate themselves.

Particularly during a year when hundreds of anti-queer, and particularly anti-trans, laws have been introduced and, in several cases, passed, it is dire to ensure our queer youth feel supported and protected.

All is not lost, however, for there are still abundant opportunities to celebrate and show appreciation for the queer community the rest of this Pride Month and all year round. Social and familial support buffers the effects of minority stressors, as well as engagement with other members of the community.

Attending your local Pride events, checking in on your queer loved ones and supporting queer initiatives can provide necessary support.

Also, I applaud Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signing of HB4664 earlier this year, protecting gender-affirming care patients and providers in Illinois.

I urge companies to reassess the bad example they are setting by scaling back their Pride. Doing so sends an internalized message that we should back down to hate. Standing up to anti-gay and anti-trans legislation and sentiment is exactly why Pride Month exists; now is the time to stand in solidarity and action for the LGBTQ community. It just may save a life.

Jonas Evan Talandis is a student in the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.

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The views and opinions expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Chicago Sun-Times or any of its affiliates.

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