It’s June, and rainbow flags are everywhere. For one month only, every jailer [1], death dealer [2] and sweatshop owner [3] wants to be an ally.

This pride month, us queer workers are looking at our bosses. We see their rainbow flags, and we do not buy the act.

Our bosses kill us [4], force us into poverty [5], and sexually harass us [6]. They steal our time, the best parts of our minds, our bodies and lives. They waste our very selves on shit that doesn’t matter, just to make us earn the right to live [7]. As queer workers, we feel a special kind of fury when the boot on our throats has a rainbow sticker on it.

And if we’re queer, they pay us less. The UK has a queer pay gap. Queer workers in the UK earn on average £6,700 less than straight workers - about 16% of our pay [8]. These numbers come from research done by LinkedIn (hardly a progressive source). The real figures are unknown.

A pay gap is not the same as pay discrimination; pay discrimination is when someone is paid less than someone else for doing the same work. Pay discrimination is illegal, although still widespread [9]. A pay gap is when employees from an oppressed group earn less on average than the rest of the workforce in the same company.

When we talk about pay gaps, we normally talk about the gender pay gap. In the UK as a whole, in 2023, the gender pay gap is 31.2%, meaning that women in the UK on the whole spend about a third of their working lives working for free [10]. This varies across sectors and businesses. For example, at Boux Avenue {the underwear shop owned by Dragon’s Den chair-filler Theo Paphitis) women on average earn 75.7% less than male workers [11]. This is discrimination, pure and simple. But it is legal, nebulous, harder to prove, and easier for the bosses to deny or make excuses for.

The queer pay gap is often ignored. Like the gender pay gap, it is hard to understand, and probably has lots of overlapping causes, most of which boil down to bigotry in one form or another.

The queer pay gap is not necessarily a good way of looking at queer poverty [12], because a huge chunk of queer folks can’t even get jobs to begin with. Trans folks in the UK are twice as likely to be unemployed as the general population. In 2018, a third of UK employers reported they are “less likely” to hire a trans worker, and 43% said they were “unsure” if they would ever hire a trans worker [13].

And of course, discrimination is not just about pay. A third of queer workers say they have been harassed or bullied at work [14]. A quarter of queer workers say they are not even out at work [15]. A horrifying 70% of queer workers have been sexually harassed at work [16]. Workplaces are not safe spaces for queer folk, whether or not there is a rainbow flag above the door.

So next time your boss puts a rainbow on their logo, ask them about these issues. Do they have a queer pay gap in their company? Do they even know? How many of their workers have been sexually harassed at work? How many trans folks have they turned away at the door? And how many workers don’t feel safe to come out at work?

This pride month, let’s remember what allyship means. Fuck your rainbows. Give us our £6k back.

(art by East Coast It Notes)


[7] See 'Bullshit Jobs: A Theory' by David Graeber, 2018.

Recent articles

This article was published on 11 June 2023 by the SolFed group in Bristol. Other recent articles:

Other Posts

The Queer Pay Gap (posted 11. June)
The Queer Pay Gap (posted 11. June)
Bristol SF solidarity message with striking teachers (posted 30. January)
Solidarity with workers on strike (posted 5. August)
CEXPLOITATION (posted 10. November)