It’s that time of year again when banks and police and cis white people put on their rainbow hats and proudly co-opt a movement started by trans women of colour.
Here then is my offering to the unstoppable gods of pinkwashing, fresh from the pages of Margins and Murmurations.
How did it ever come to this? I was a great man. I was a fucking king.
He remembered back to the days before the Crash and the Improvement. Back before he had come to the City and became a soldier. Back when he was the happiest he had ever been.
He lived in Berlin for most of his life and he had fond memories of that cold, bustling city. His good looks and powerful intelligence carried him through economics school and he became successful faster than any of his classmates. PhDs, job offers, he was spoilt for choice.
His first real job was at a multinational bank in the 2010’s. He was open from the beginning about his love of men and—as he kept reminding his workmates—he was just like everyone else so they had nothing to worry about.
In Berlin he had a good place to live and he paid his taxes. Gay rights were already forty years old by this point and gay men married, had kids, and served in the army. Once middle class, cis, gay, white men like him had their demands met, identity politics were declared officially over. Mobilising around sexuality and sexual freedom became passé as the most powerful of the queer hierarchy got everything they’d ever wanted.
He remembered his promotion to ‘sexual minorities liaison officer’. His job, as he saw it, was basically to hijack LGBT events in order to promote the bank. At one Pride, they’d even sponsored a giant, inflatable pink bicep on wheels with the bank logo printed all over it.
It was stupid as hell, he remembered, but people loved that shit.
He could clearly remember his first meeting with the board. The bankers scheming around the oversized conference table, minimum wage servants bringing him his coffee just how he liked it. Like all successful businesses, the bank was being accused of various financial evils—settlement construction in the West Bank, mineral exploitation in the Congo—and there were protests almost daily outside the Berlin headquarters. He learned that day, through six hours of powerpoint presentations, that it was the liaison officer’s job to give the bank a friendly face.
“After all,” they had said. “How bad can we be if we support the gays?”
Three months later, the bank was the main sponsor of Pride and, again, the bank was plagued by protests, this time by queer activists who began regular protests, die-ins, and blockades against what they called ‘Pinkwashing’—the deliberate exploitation of LGBT+ struggle for commercial gain.
The bank was rapidly losing face so the handsome, acceptably conservative Sexual Minorities Liaison Officer was sent to give a string of media interviews, publicly calling out any criticism of the bank’s sponsorship as radical homophobia.
“It’s the radicals, the muslims and the transsexuals,” he had said. “They want to take away our hard-earned freedom.”
The media took the bait and from night to day, the bankers gathered in their corporate tower became beacons of LGBT+ freedom, and the rabble of queer activists down in the street became homophobes. As a final coup de grâce, the Liaison Officer passed a motion that strictly forbid the use of the word ‘pinkwashing‘ in all official bank discourse. It was a perfect scheme—the bank went from strength to strength after that and the Liaison Officer earned himself a hefty bonus.
Those were the good days. He had all the sex he wanted, all the coke and GHB and poppers and methadone he could use. And he slept very well in his luxury apartment overlooking the park.
“You’re moving too slowly! Are you asleep or what?” One of the other prisoners was shouting at him from behind the conveyor belt. Prisoner 7485 saw there was already a big mound of nutrition bars piled up at the end of the belt waiting to be boxed up.
“Yeah!” joined in another prisoner from the next belt over. “You’re not dead yet, faggot!”
“Maybe he’s too busy checking out your ass, 7340!”
“Well, who can blame him?”
They laughed and Prisoner 7485 put his head down and worked faster. He just wanted to be back in his cell.
But this was all his fault.
The Improvement had destroyed his comfortable life, but he had survived it. Like a fucking phoenix, I rose from the ashes, worked my way to the top as a decorated General, went back in the closet so I could be the best.
He hefted another box of wrapped bars over to the delivery bay. His back was killing him and he leaned against the boxes for a moment to rest.
But I just couldn’t keep it in my pants.
“Keep moving!” shouted a guard.
The prisoner kept moving.
I had it all, he thought miserably to himself. And this time there’s no way out.