Meditations… on the commodification of queerness
As Pride celebrations roll out around the world, brands and corporations are falling over themselves to signal allyship. Here, Manchester DJ and producer LOFT reflects on why we should be on high alert when it comes to the marketisation of queerness.
So there I am, a rainy Tuesday evening in June. I’m two broken hard drives deep and leaving for Germany in 12 hours, so I’m frantically cycling to Manchester’s CEX in a last ditch effort to resuscitate my laptop. In my hurried state, I make the admittedly foolish (but arguably legal) decision to turn left on a red light into a perpendicular cycle lane.
The number 92 bus comes right in from my blind spot. As I cycle past, the bus driver mouths an obscenity through the window. Imbued with a northern sense of self-righteousness, I call them a wanker and cycle on.
My mind really is on other matters. It’s quite possible I’ve just lost 12 months of half-finished tracks and stupid edits of Billie Eilish tunes – not the greatest loss, I’m aware, but it hurts nonetheless. I reach the top of Market Street and there it is again, the number 92 glowing in its yellow LED array. Of course, it’s parked across two sections of cycle lane. As I overtake to stop at the signal, I come past the window of the bus and make eye contact with the driver, then say some lukewarm comment about their spatial awareness.
This has apparently shaken the bus driver. They lean out of the window, and a suitably red face spits “why don’t you come up to Shudehill and we’ll sort this out you little poof?!” A magnificent display of character and fortitude. They’ve somehow managed to conjure this slur through a wormhole from 1982 and also failed to notice that the vehicle they’re driving is, in fact, covered in rainbow hearts.
Pride, eh? Ain’t it a funny thing. Simultaneously pervasive and yet somehow impotent in affecting social change. All around us companies are signalling their allegiance to the cause by selling us things and trying to remind us that they’re down with all non-heterosexual people. You’ve seen the LGBT M&S sandwich, you’ve probably come across the Lloyds TSB lanyard, but have you seen the eyebrow-raising Spotify playlist entitled Transcend?
When I first came across the playlist, the artwork was a pink, white and blue gradient, the colours of the trans flag. This has since been updated to a rainbow gradient with SOPHIE dead centre. The playlist, exclusively featuring trans and gender non-conforming artists, comes with a provocation to “take gender and genre to the next level.” Now I’m no Liz Pelly, nor am I the Final Boss of Gender, but I don’t think one needs to be in order to see this is as the kind of shallow, insidious marketing ploy of inclusion in which Spotify is so accustomed. I mean no shade towards anyone that has found this playlist engaging – a brief flick through to the updated tracklist shows it is, in fact, wall-to-wall heaters. However, just because a playlist bangs doesn’t make it inclusive. While this can be taken on face value as a celebration of queer artists, beneath that there is an othering. To me, it says “we appreciate your struggle but we do this by highlighting your difference to us while also flattening any difference within your group.”
This also serves to reinforce heteronormative assumptions of queerness. Since we are raised in a society with such logic at its very core, it’s incredibly easy to find oneself reflecting back these inflated caricatures, which ultimately leads to internalising the very same phobias that create othering in the first place.
It’s this othering nested within the marketisation of pride that ultimately makes the celebration feel so hollow and impossible for me to engage with, never mind the incredibly steep ticket prices. All of that being said, my queerbait princess Ariana Grande is headlining the PureGym Thomas Cook Boohoo Manchester Pride Weekender™. I suppose my hands are tied.
and departt from mono games is out now via Tri Angle Records.