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29 June 2023

How capitalism harms migrants + queer people

Pride 2023

In a previous blog post, we spoke about how the State enacts oppression against queer people and other marginalised groups. In this blog post, we will talk about how capitalism and the market subject queer people and other marginalised groups to harm.


Rahul Rao uses the term homocapitalism to describe how the market accepts “palatable” and “respectable” LGBTQ+ people, for the purposes of profit, since they are the ones with the most financial capital. The financial empowerment of White LGBTQ+ people is dependent on, and obscures, the deliberate marginalisation and suffering of racialised and migratised queer people. One example of this is the long-standing gentrification of queer spaces.

“Homonecronationalism” + gentrification

Elijah Edelman came up with the theory of homonecronationalism in order to explain the gentrification taking place in European cities, and how this rests on the capitalist targeting and expulsion of racialised and diasporic queer communities. 

Homonecronationalism explains how racialised, migratised and working-class queer people are constructed as “bad queers”, economically unproductive, or as “threats”, in order to justify their removal from neighbourhoods that are in the process of being gentrified. Queer working class diasporic community spaces that are deemed unprofitable within a capitalist system are destroyed via marginalisation, criminalisation, discrimination, destruction of public housing, police surveillance or killings, often by State institutions and corporate bodies. This then creates the space for the “good”, economically productive LGBTQ+ communities and corporates to appear, which is then used deliberately to distract from the gentrification that has taken place. 

In the UK context, racialised and migratised queer people are expelled from inner city areas in order to make space for gentrification. They are excluded from basic services, and their community spaces are shut down and demolished, which pushes them out of the areas in which they live and into high-rise blocks with flammable cladding. Through gentrification, areas such as Hackney, Soho and Brixton, with vibrant histories of Black radical queer communities, increasingly become sites of commercialised White gay nightlife. 

Aside from gentrification, the corporate appropriation of Pride also enacts harm against queer and migrant communities.

Corporate appropriation of Pride

Pride and the struggle for queer justice are often emptied of their radical history, and distilled into a neoliberal marketing tactic. Corporate appropriation of the queer struggle is commonly referred to as “rainbow capitalism”.

Rainbow capitalism erases the anti-capitalist and anti-corporate roots and history of the queer liberation movement. It also obscures the continued harm that these corporations enact: companies release Pride and LGBTQ+ merchandise to present a queer friendly facade, and to distract from their continued exploitation of migrant workers in their supply chains. This is pinkwashing. 

Rainbow capitalism and pinkwashing means that consumers are buying LGBTQ+ merchandise in an attempt to be seen as allies without doing anything to tackle inequalities facing queer communities. Rainbow capitalism perpetuates the belief that individual acts of consumerism count as activism. This steers people away from engaging in actual collective radical activism that challenges the exploitation of migrant workers and other oppressive systems. Aside from depoliticising the struggle for queer liberation and presenting it as a single-issue corporate endeavour, rainbow capitalism also silences and decenters actual intersectional queer organising. 

Corporate support of the LGBTQ+ struggle is always performative, opportunistic and profit-driven. This shows us that inclusion is not synonymous with liberation. Inclusion into capitalism is always based on respectability, which acts to further harm marginalised queer people such as queer migrants and queer POC. 

We can use our understanding of rainbow capitalism to work for an intersectional politics that challenges mainstream respectability and consumerism, and that fights for the liberation of both queer people and migrants, especially those deemed economically unproductive. 

by Anastasia Gavalas

For more information on how pinkwashing is used by states, visit the Al Qaws website here.