Firms ‘Rainbow Wash’ for Profit, Neglect Real LGBTQ+ Support

Advocates for LGBTQ+ rights in Thailand criticize businesses for profiteering from Pride Month merchandise while neglecting active support for equal rights.

The founder of TransTalents Consulting Group, Nikki Phinyapincha, said that corporations have adapted their marketing approaches to include Pride Month, celebrated in June, a tactic she labels as “rainbow washing”.

She explained that businesses adopt rainbow imagery, logos and use related hashtags on social media to boost their merchandise sales. Some have even introduced special Pride Month editions to escalate their earnings.

However, she remarked, the genuine significance of Pride Month seems to be ignored.

“They make us [into] merely a source of income. Pride was not originally a celebration but [a commemoration] of our struggle for not only civil rights but also socio-economic inclusion and empowerment.”

“This includes equal rights to employment, promotions and access to education,” she expressed. “These rights are important as they improve our living conditions.”

She added that corporations need to display real, actionable support for the LGBTQ+ community, including the enforcement of safe workplace policies and the provision of mental health assistance for LGBTQ+ individuals.

“The safe workplace for LGBTQ+ [people] is crucial, they need a place where they can express their sexuality freely,” she continued.

“This could help increase their productivity as they will not need to be afraid for being who they are.”

She emphasized that equal opportunities for LGBTQ+ individuals to ascend in corporate hierarchies should be a priority.

She noted that a common belief persists amongst many companies that an LGBTQ+ person in a leadership role negatively impacts their business’s professionalism and reliability.

On the contrary, she proposed that having LGBTQ+ individuals in leadership positions assists companies in diversifying and bringing about structural business changes.

“If [corporations] seek money from us, please make sure to give back by listening to what we need and what we fight for,” she stated.

Lawyer and human rights adviser, Nada Chaiyajit, observed that “rainbow washing” is also prevalent in politics.

She pointed out that some political parties initiate pro-LGBTQ+ campaigns to win community votes.

She noted some political parties genuinely support the cause, including the Move Forward Party (MFP), which has proposed a marriage equality bill to amend Section 1448 of the Civil and Commercial Code that defines marriage as between a man and woman.

The MFP bill is designed to make marriage law gender-neutral, she shared.

The party also supports Thailand’s bid to host the World Pride event in 2028 to endorse equality, she informed.

However, she added, a country-wide change is also essential. Politicians must implement LGBTQ+-inclusive welfare policies, including paid gender affirmation leave, equal pay and civil service programmes that extend partners.

She further endorsed the establishment of a minimum representation of LGBTQ+ individuals and women in political positions to aid their career progression, enhancing diversity in the parliament.

In the May 14 general election, five openly LGBTQ+ MPs from the MFP won seats. However, one MP, Nateepat Kulsetthasith, stepped down due to a drunk driving incident on May 16.

“Having a gender quota is important because we need people who truly know what we need,” Ms Nada stated. “We want many political representatives from our community to vote for bills that are necessary for us LGBTQ+ people.”

“Many politicians do not know what our problems are, even if they say they support us,” she noted.

The new government should regard gender inclusivity while assigning ministerial roles, she suggested.

“Our pride is not a one-month-long campaign, but every single second of our lives,” expressed.

“We need people like us to sit in parliament to ensure our voices are heard and equally protected.”