Topline: Behold the 2021 Pride campaign hall of shame

Was there a single queer person in the room when these ads were conceived?

Hello, world! ’Tis I, Erica Lenti, the lesbian at the table. I’m here with another edition of “Topline.” If you don’t know me, I’m Xtra’s senior editor covering politics and identities, one-half of the L Word recap podcast Off The Chart and dog-mother to the least famous dog on the internet

Erica Lenti

The final weekend of our blessed Pride Month is upon us, and I am exhausted. And no, it’s not because I’ve been enjoying that sweet, sweet double-vax summer, but rather because corporations, public agencies and straight people in general have been doing the most this year. So hold on to your snapbacks, because “Topline” is about to get salty. (And remember: there’s more where this came from. Subscribe to Xtra Weekly for the whole shebang.) 

What’s the buzz 🐝?

One of my favourite Pride pastimes is unpacking just how twisted and absurd messages of love, acceptance and community can get during the month of June. While often well-meaning, corporations, local governments and organizations frequently take their Pride campaigns to the extreme, creating Frankensteined messages for LGBTQ2S+ people that can only be described as either hilarious or monstrous (or sometimes both). 

Over the years at Xtra, we’ve done our civic gay duty by compiling some of the most horrific offenders. In 2019, Arvin Joaquin (my better salty half) and I cringed at the Toronto Transit Commission’s attempts to relate to queer folks, renaming subway stations #Qween and #Welleslay. Last month, Xtra staff writer Mel Woods reminded us that not even our intestines are safe from glitter thanks to Kelloggs. 

But that’s just the tip of the rainbow-encrusted iceberg. 

What were we thinking 🧂?

This year, I set out to find some of the worst Pride campaigns for my sadistic, queer pleasure—worse than Cottonelle telling you to wash your penis or Target assuming rainbow apparel is #fashion. I put a public call out on Twitter to nominate your (least?) favourite ads or messages, and there were so many to pick from.


And so, I present to you Xtra’s 2021 Unfortunate Pride Campaigns Hall of Shame. 

Most likely to offend you: Toronto’s gay garbage

Nothing says “you’re an integral part of our city” like trash. At least that’s what the City of Toronto seemed to relay with its rainbow-adorned recycling trucks this year. This Pride campaign is made infinitely more cringe by the fact that the trucks’ rear ends look like, well, rear ends. It’s not the only city vehicle to go full homo, but it’s definitely the worst. Congratulations, bestie: you’re garbage! 

Most likely to make you puke rainbows: Shake Shack

“We stand UNSHAKEABLE,” reads Shake Shack’s Pride campaign for—I swear to lesbian Jesus—its Pride milkshakes. The fruity shakes are topped with rainbow glitter in a special Pride cup, which is like a regular cup but ~rainbow~. Props to the company for partnering with The Trevor Project, an organization that provides support around suicide prevention. But I suspect this is far from the end of Shake Shack’s rainbow monstrosities. Next up: rainbow burgers?

Most likely to actually make you vomit: ICE

I had to triple-check that this was real, because I couldn’t believe a government agency could be this insensitive and oblivious. But then I remembered all of the heinous things U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has inflicted against our communities and it all made sense. 

Most likely to have been written without a single queer person in the room: Bud Light

Yaaaaaas queen! Slaaaay, said the cishet corporate bigwigs at Bud Light when they wrote this atrocious Pride ad. There’s something so poignant about having your identities erased in favour of selling beer… in an ad intended to celebrate your identities. On the plus side, straight people will never have to complain they don’t know what “LGBTQ” stands for. 

Most likely to make you straight: Skittles

Oh, Skittles. When will you learn? This isn’t the first time the company turned its candy colourless for Pride (at least this time they’re grey, not white). And yet, despite past criticism, Skittles has changed absolutely nothing about this campaign. “Only one rainbow matters during Pride,” reads its packaging this year, and I am yet again left an empty shell of a lesbian. To make matters worse, Skittles teamed up with GLAAD to donate $1 per package sold—but they’ve capped the donations at $100,000. (For the record: Skittles makes $300 million in estimated annual revenue.) Anyway, I guess I’m straight now.

What will next year bring? Hopefully fewer rainbows and regular Skittles, if we’re lucky. Happy Pride, fam! 

In other Xtra news 🌎

👉Everyone is gay. More than 1 million Canadians identify as LGBTQ2S+, according to new Statistics Canada data.

👉Welcome to the fam! Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib has come out, making him the first openly gay active NFL player.

👉Meet the aunties and uncles of Desi Rainbow, a support network for South Asian families that took off last year during the pandemic.

👉How can you spot when someone needs care—and how do you offer to help—in an increasing virtual world? Logan Summer chats with experts to offer practical tips

👉“We were like two subatomic particles moving in space, never really able to be in the same place or time.” In this month’s “Love Like Mine,” Alena Papayanis unpacks the physics of a failed relationship.

👉Want more headlines? Subscribe to Xtra Weekly.


Love and light to you this Pride Month! 

Happy Pride gif

Erica Lenti

Erica Lenti is a deputy editor at Chatelaine and a former editor at Xtra.

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