Defined as “an act of voluntary and intentional abstention from using, buying or dealing with a person, organization or country as an expression of protest,” a boycott can serve many purposes. Whether formally organized or a decentralized, grassroots campaign, boycotts typically are a peaceful means to either punish or inspire change. The gay boycott — that is to say, a boycott that has been sparked by the LGBTQ community or comes about in opposition to anti-LGBTQ actions — has long been a valued tool of the queer community.
“Pink money,” a term used to describe the immense purchasing power of the LGBTQ community (nearly $1 trillion in the United States alone as of 2015), can make or break companies, brands, politicians and economies. Support from the queer populace carries great weight; the indignation of that same group perhaps even more so.
In America, the fast food chain Chick-fil-A has been the subject of a years-long gay boycott by much of the community, following CEO Dan Cathy’s 2012 statement that he opposed same-sex marriage and the chain’s millions of dollars in anti-gay donations. Los Angeles hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei — who has long toyed with the idea of stoning gays under Sharia law — have also seen boycotts in the queer community’s name.
Elsewhere, companies and brands are the subject of boycotts when they do support LGBTQ causes. This year, Hungarian advertisements for Coca-Cola sparked a boycott by conservative lawmakers because the ads promoted LGBTQ acceptance. (It’s been reported that Coca-Cola has since dropped the pro-gay ad campaign.)
Most recently here in the United States, there has been much discussion over two luxe fitness brands, Equinox and SoulCycle, after it was uncovered that Stephen Ross, the parent company’s wealthy developer, planned to host (and did) a high-priced fundraiser for U.S. President Donald Trump in the Hamptons. While not necessarily a “gay boycott,” the Equinox boycott had many in the LGBTQ community incensed. (Both brands are particularly popular among American gays.)
Concerning boycotts, we at Hornet — the world’s leading gay social network, counting over 25 million gay men around the globe as its user base — were curious how gay men around the world feel about boycotts, particularly their value as a tool in the fight for queer civil rights.
Hornet surveyed 2,000 men from all reaches of the globe, on six continents. Respondents were as diverse as Hornet’s international userbase, hailing from 90 countries! (Find the full list of countries represented in Hornet’s gay boycott survey at the end of this article.)
When asked whether they have ever participated in a boycott of a company or brand, 56.5% responded in the affirmative. (43.5% indicated they have not participated in such a boycott.)
While the percentage of global citizens who have participated in a boycott is unclear, this 56.5% of gay male Hornet users who have boycotted in the past is significantly higher than the 25% of Americans who say they have “stopped using products or services from a company because of its political leanings or because of protests or boycotts,” according to this market research survey.
Survey respondents who indicated they had previously participated in a boycott of a company or brand were then asked the reason for said boycott. Of those gay men, 43.8% indicated it was a gay boycott — “the company or brand did not support LGBTQ issues”; 59.5% indicated they had participated in a boycott because they “did not agree with the company’s politics”; and 37.4% of these gay men cited “other” reasons for their boycotts.
Not only to respondents’ answers to this question prove the value of the “pink dollar” — nearly half of these gay men have taken steps to boycott a company that opposed the LGBTQ community — but their answers prove that, in 2019, politics indeed play a part in consumers’ everyday decisions. Companies and brands which take a stand in opposition to the rights or values of a particular group may find they are on the losing end of a boycott.
These days, companies are not just products; they also represent values. “Companies have to be known for something, and it’s not just your products and services,” Chris Allieri, founder of the communications and marketing firm Mulberry & Astor, said to Business Insider. “It’s who are you, what do you stand for?”
Last, Hornet’s gay boycott survey asked these men whether they consider boycotts to be an important tool in the fight for LGBTQ rights; 77% answered yes, a very high percentage.
In a world that is staunchly divided, where contingents on both side of the political spectrum are willing and able to organize the masses, one thing is certain: When it comes to a brand’s actions, policies and business decisions that may adversely affect the LGBTQ community, queer people are not a population that will simply “take it lying down.”
If anything, we will take out our wallets and use them accordingly.
Are you surprised by the results of Hornet’s gay boycott survey?
Countries and territories represented in Hornet’s gay boycott survey include: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dubai, Ecuador, England, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korea, Kuwait, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, Uganda, Ukraine, USA, Uzbekistan and Vietnam