I often forget that Pride celebrations began as and continue to be protests.
How could I forget? There are two main reasons. First, the rights being fought for aren’t specifically mine, and second, the celebrations are so wonderful, so happy, so fun, it is a protest like no other.
But it is still a protest. I am filled with gratitude for it every year and am lucky to have found a great volunteer opportunity so I can participate this year, but we are gathering, celebrating and protesting for equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community. Equal rights for my neighbors, my friends, my colleagues … you know, Americans.
The tables have dramatically turned in 2023, though. The right is madder than hell, and they aren’t going to take it anymore. Yawn.
Lately, boycotts against Bud Light and Target have made some noise. But when the right started boycotting a place for being too “woke” that I had been protesting for being the opposite, I had to start doing some research.
Chik-fil-A? That’s right, America. Chik-fil-A has been labeled too woke.
Bud Light got in trouble for paying a transgender social media influencer to endorse their product. Target got in trouble for its Pride displays in its stores, selling rainbow-themed products, and then, apparently the ultimate sin, selling books on the topic. The right loves to declare success of their silly rage by pointing to sinking stock prices related to these two companies, even though their economic and stock claims are often incorrect.
Anheuser Busch InBev stocks have fallen nearly 20% since Kid Rock shot up some Bud Light that he apparently bought. Sales have dipped, although many customers boycotting Bud Light are migrating to other beers the parent company also sells. Keep an eye on this one. I’m betting InBev profits in the end, though I also think the right will be all right if it simply drinks less beer.
Target’s stock price has dipped, as well, but that dip is in line with their market as reported in detail by CBS. I can’t help thinking about the song “New Perspective” on Noah Kahan’s new album, “Stick Season.” In the song about a small town and feeling left behind, he sings: “Oh this town’s for the record now. The intersection got a Target, and they’re calling it downtown.”
But the Chik-fil-A thing is simply baffling. That protest stems from the discovery that the chicken sandwich and waffle fries maker has a diversity, equity and inclusion program. Forgive me. It’s not new, though. It is at least three years old and detailed in its Corporate Responsibility Statement. Thanks, right-wingers. I had no idea they had been operating in such a modern way for a number of years now. Maybe I will finally give them a chance to quench my chicken-sammie cravings going forward.
These boycotts are cute. They also are a waste of time and desperate. There is nothing less American than advocating for the reduction of rights and discriminating against other Americans. Oh, and shooting up a defenseless case of beer won’t make anyone straighter.
However, policy attacks on the community are painful reminders of the work Pride still has ahead. They are painful in the short term but will not survive in the long term.
The banning of certain gender-affirming health care in Indiana and 15 other states in 2023 alone is the most egregious attack. Eliminating health care is a new go-to strategy that could haunt the right for a generation. This specific care is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association and a long list of other organizations.
The banning of drag shows and related activities are running a close second to the health care bans. Tennessee led the way earlier this year when it passed its law restricting drag performances where children were present in March. Again, 15 states have passed laws with restrictions in 2023.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker, appointed by former President Donald Trump, struck down the Tennessee law on Friday for being “both unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad.” These bans are going to have First Amendment problems that will be difficult to overcome. Judge Parker went on to write in his 70-page ruling: “Simply put, no majority of the Supreme Court has held that sexually explicit — but not obscene — speech receives less protection than political, artistic or scientific speech.”
Pride is different this year in that its purpose has been made so clear, thanks to those flailing on the right for the boost. Republican-controlled state legislatures and other GOP elected officials are driven to reduce the freedoms and the standing of people I love.
So while I am enjoying the celebrations this month, I won’t forget that I’m protesting, too.
Michael Leppert is an author, educator and communication consultant in Indianapolis. He writes about government, politics and culture at MichaelLeppert.com. This commentary was originally published at indianacapitalchronicle.com. Send comments to [email protected].