History

Are companies really supporting the LGBTQ community or are they just profiting off of gay pride?

As any gay worth their rainbow knows, June is pride month. For the next few weeks our newsfeeds will be flooded with endless iterations of ROY G. BIV inspired products and LGBTQ inclusive advertisements. While it’s extremely tempting to lose ourselves in the rainbows, glitter and flamboyant unicorns, it’s important to consider why companies are marketing to the LGBTQ community.

Do they really care about the interests of queer people or are they simply capitalizing on pride to turn a profit?

It’s no secret that attitudes toward LGBTQ people have changed drastically in recent years. In fact, support for gay marriage among U.S. citizens has risen from 32% in 2002 to 67% in 2018 and 92% of LGBTQ adults say society has become more accepting of them in the past decade.  This acceptance of the LGBTQ community has become increasingly reflective in advertisements and companies are now publicly supporting gay rights.

But it’s easy to just slap a rainbow on shoes, shirts or bottles of alcohol for pride. The real question is: where were these companies before supporting queer people benefited their bottom line?

1c1176aaabd68eb4bf70d7c35adaffb5

The truth is, “these brands are now feeling like it’s safe and less risky to [support gay rights],” says Jenn T. Grace, an LGBTQ business strategist. “The message it sends is, ‘you weren’t important to us before when it was risky but now, only when it’s safe, we’re willing to put our neck out there and support this community. It could be that it’s the right thing to do…but if it’s not making them money, they wouldn’t do it.”

With the influx of rainbow themed logos and commercials with same-sex partners, it’s not always easy to determine which companies are genuinely supportive of gay rights. Luckily, the Human Rights Campaign developed a reliable way to assess a company’s actual attitude toward LGBTQ people: the Corporate Equality Index (CEI). This index rates American businesses (between -25-100) based on their treatment of LGBTQ employees, consumers and investors. It gives invaluable insight into a company’s true intention when using gay pride to market their products.

Below is an analysis of companies who have used LGBTQ themes to market their products. It’s up to you to decide if they’ve earned it or not!

1) Apple Inc. 

apple-pride

In 2014, Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, became the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Since then, Cook has capitalized on his position of power to become a prominent advocate for gay rights. He has publicly condemned the anti-LGBTQ “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (signed by then Indiana Governor Mike Pence),  personally donated a substantial amount of money to gay rights efforts in the south, led about 8,000 Apple employees in San Francisco’s gay pride parade and used his platform, and buzz about the the iPhone X, to advocate for marriage equality in Australia.

rainbow_apple_logo1-100274483-orig

Surprisingly, Cook’s support of the LGBTQ community has actually been good for business. His relentless corporate activism, or speaking out on controversial issues largely unrelated to a company’s bottom line, is increasing sales of Apple products. According to researchers at Harvard and Duke, this happens “when CEOs take public stands on controversial issues [because] they can galvanize support for their company from those who share the same viewpoint.”

While Cook has definitely propelled Apple’s fight for equality through his personal commitment to gay rights, the tech company has a long history of supporting the queer community. In fact, few companies have consistently supported the LGBTQ community quite like Apple Inc., formerly known as Apple Computers Inc. In 2002, the year the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index began, Apple was 1 of just 13 companies to earn the highest possible rating (100.) And, every year since, Apple has managed to maintain that perfect score.

mOMr4c0lEven when the majority of Americans did not support gay rights, Apple prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, provided diversity training in relation to sexuality and gender identity and offered transgender-inclusive insurance coverage.

In the early 1990’s, Apple even refused to build an $80 million office complex in Round Rock, Texas unless their tax-break, which was rescinded due to the company’s pro gay policies, was reinstated. Residents had accused the tech company of “bringing homosexuality into Williamson County” and even took to wearing pins that expressed their disproval of the company’s commitment to equality. In response, Apple said, “that as a matter of both principle and economics the company would not build on the 128-acre site” unless they were reimbursed for the tax-break. Ultimately, the county folded and Apple broke ground on the project in 1994.

In more recent years, Apple has continued to fight for LGBTQ rights by removing anti-gay apps from the iTunes store and supporting a Supreme Court decision, that declared the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional in 2013. After the DOMA decision, the company issued an unequivocal statement of support saying, “Apple strongly supports marriage equality and we consider it a civil rights issue. We applaud the Supreme Court for its decisions today.”

It looks like Apple has earned their right to market to the LGBTQ community! Here is Apple’s latest options for pride.

2) Target 

Target has had a somewhat complicated relationship with the LGBTQ community for the past several years. While their stores proudly display shirts promoting equality and pride, in 2010 Target gave $150,000 to a Republican-friendly political fund, MN Forward, who ran TV ads supporting state legislator Tom Emmer. At that time, Emmer was a vehement opponent of gay marriage who actively worked to support a “constitutional marriage amendment that protects traditional marriage.”

Continue reading “Are companies really supporting the LGBTQ community or are they just profiting off of gay pride?”

History

Remembering LGBT voices in military history

In the United States, Memorial Day is a time to remember all those who have died in service to our country. Social media will likely flood with images of widows and widowers mourning at grave sites, videos of soldiers reuniting with loved ones at airports and stories about selfless acts of valor. This somber, commemorative day is intended to evoke a deep sense of patriotism in all Americans.

But what’s missing from this picture? Would stories about military personnel mourning, rejoicing or sacrificing elicit the same sense of pride if the soldiers were members of the LGBT community? Unfortunately, the military has a long, complicated history with mistreating queer people.

Until President Obama repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011, being gay was grounds for termination from the military. This makes it nearly impossible to determine how many queer people made the ultimate sacrifice for our safety.  But, being allies and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, we have an obligation to remember these unsung heroes with vigor equal to that of their straight and cisgendered counterparts. This blog post is an attempt to highlight the service of these queer voices and depict the hardships they faced throughout history.

As you can imagine, it was difficult to be a member of the LGBT community while enlisted in the military. These brave women, men and gender nonconforming people were forced to lie about their sexual orientations just so they could protect and serve this country. In addition to risking their lives on the battlefield, LGBT service members faced potential violence in their own units and immediate discharge if their sexuality was discovered. In the 1940s, people with homosexual or bisexual orientations began receiving a “blue discharge” which made them ineligible for G.I. Bill benefits. During this time, service members suspected of queer orientations would receive an “undesirable discharge” while those guilty of homosexual activity (or engaging in “same-sex behavior”) would be “dishonorably discharged.” 

Sergeant Leonard Matlovich famously contested the armed forces’ discriminatory policies against queer people in 1975. Matlovich, who had served for 12 years in the Air Force, was a highly respected member of the military.  He had received a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and shrapnel wounds during the Vietnam War. Simply put, Matlovich was an exemplary member of the military. However, when he chose to disclose his sexuality to his superiors, Matlovich was immediately discharged.

In September of 1975, his story made the cover of TIME magazine and prompted outrage in both proponents and opponent of gay rights. Some called him “a disgrace to the uniform of an honorable service” while others supported his bravery in challenging an outdated system. Tragically, Matlovich died of AIDS in 1988 but used his tombstone as a poignant and permanent reminder of the prejudice he endured. It reads: “A Gay Vietnam Veteran… when I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”

831_LEONARD-MATLOVICH-GRAVESTON.jpg
Matlovich’s grave

It’s no secret that ever since the Revolutionary War people “have been drummed out of the U.S. military for homosexual acts.”  In 1919,  for instance, Navy officials encouraged some enlisted men to “entrap and seduce suspected gay sailors” so they could “obtain information and evidence pertaining to cocksuckers and rectum receivers.” During World War II, doctors even placed tongue depressors into patients’ throats to gauge their gag reflexes. The assumption was that men who performed oral sex on other men would lack this natural reflex.

Despite the severe repercussions of homosexual activity, some members of the military still risked their lives to have profound relationships with members of the same sex. In 1939, Gordon Bowsher and Gilbert Bradley did exactly that. Before he joined the British Army, Bradley was already in love with Bowsher.

In fact, the two men were so enamored with each other that they exchanged hundreds of romantic letters throughout the war that were only recently discovered.  Bowsher and Bradley risked imprisonment and death just to write about their desire for one another and fantasies for their future together. Unlike their heterosexual counterparts who could proudly discuss their sweethearts back home, these men were forced to hide their affection. The hopeful, albeit melancholic, tone of these letters is best summarized in the line: “wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our letters could be published in the future in a more enlightened time? Then all the world could see how in love we are.”

In discussing these letters, Peter Roscoe, a gay rights activist, explains that they serve as an important reminder that “there is a gay history and it isn’t always negative and tearful…despite all the awful circumstances, gay men and lesbians managed to rise above it all.”

3D4AE72300000578-0-image-a-32_1487262299681.jpg
Letters between Bowsher and Bradley

Two decades after Gordon Bowsher and Gilbert Bradley penned these letters, Fannie Mae Clackum became the first person to successfully challenge her discharge on the grounds of homosexuality from the U.S military. During the late 1940s and early 1950s Fannie served as a US Air Force Reservist and developed a close relationship with fellow Air Force Reservist, Grace Garner. Due to the pair’s intimate relationship, they were suspected of homosexual activity. In an attempt to prove these suspicions, the Air Force arranged for Fannie, Grace and a fellow solider to stay overnight in a motel together. In a cruel act of deception, the fellow solider served as an informant for the Air Force. Shortly after their motel stay, and despite Fannie’s and Grace’s denial of anything romantic occurring, the two women were dishonorably discharged from the Air Force.

Once discharged, Fannie and Grace moved in together, under the pretense of better fighting their dismissal. After eight years of court hearings, the pair finally prevailed in 1960 and the Air Force invalidated their discharges. Both women were awarded back pay for the remainder of their enlistment periods. [It’s important to note that both women denied having a sexual relationship but, considering that they lived together and had a very close relationship, it’s highly likely they were closeted.]

Fannie-Mae-Clackum.jpg
Fannie, Grace and other members of the Air Force

As time progressed, attitudes toward homosexuality began to soften. Interestingly, Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was actually intended to lift the ban on homosexual service. The policy, which went into effect on October 1, 1993, instructed that military personnel “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue and don’t harass” queer members of the armed forces.

An article written prior to the establishment of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” examined the role of allowing lesbians to serve in the military. The article cited a 1984 study in the Journal of Homosexuality that found gay women were “significantly more likely to have served in the military than heterosexual women” and referenced research that estimated 25% of all woman in the armed forces were gay. Unfortunately, this presumed prevalence of lesbians in the military made all women easy targets for discharge and dismissal.

Continue reading “Remembering LGBT voices in military history”

History

Was Jesus Christ gay?

We all know that Jesus Christ, the son of God, hung out with multitudes of men, spent nearly all his time with “sinners” and had an affinity for rainbows. But was Jesus Christ a member of the LGBTQIA+ community?

According to several theologians, the answer is a resounding yes.

Dr. Reverend Bob Shore-Goss, openly gay pastor and author of Queering Christ, argues that Jesus’ rejection of gender codes alone is proof of his queerness. He claims that since there was no term for homosexuality in ancient times, the fact that Jesus did not ascribe to the rules of his culture implies a subversion of heteronormativity.

In addition, Shore-Goss believes that Jesus had a homoerotic relationship with the disciple he called “beloved.” [While this disciple is never named, it’s widely believed to be John.] In an interview with Vice, Shore-Goss elaborates on his theory by describing a particularly personal exchange between the two men just before Jesus’ death.

“The beloved disciple is lying on the chest of Jesus at the last supper and is supposedly in his inner tunic,” says Shore-Gross. “[This] is what we would call underwear today. It’s a very intimate gesture, and it’s a special gesture of affection between the two.”

Harrelson-Art-Book-Pix-063006-003-500-px
Photo Credit

(Jesus laying half naked with another man at dinner seems pretty gay to me, but what do others think?) 

Theologian Theodore Jennings, author of The Man Jesus Loved, also agrees that Jesus indisputably had relations with men as evidenced by the intimate biblical descriptions of the John. Aside from Lazarus, John is the only one ever referred to as “beloved” by Jesus. (Not too many platonic friends call each other beloved).

Gerard Loughlin, a queer theologian and religious scholar, takes Jesus and John’s relationship even one step further in his book Queer Theology: Rethinking the Western Body. He argues that Jesus and John were married and the famous parable, the Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2:1-11), is actually about their gay wedding. (Now wouldn’t that be quite the twist for the religious conservatives? They’d all have to end their marriages, repent and become gay themselves!) 

Shockingly, this theory was actually quite common during ancient times. Its popularity was perpetuated by the apocryphal Acts of John, which claim that John broke off his engagement to a woman in order “bind himself” to Jesus. 

In fact, the wide spread belief of Jesus and John’s queerness is well documented in surviving art from that time period.

In The Calling of St. John (12th century), the artist depicts two scenes: Christ coaxing John away from his female bride and John resting his head upon Jesus’ chest. Jesus, in turn, cups the chin of his “beloved” which, in artistic convention, is used to indicate romantic intimacy.  The Latin reads: “Get up, leave the breast of your bride, and rest on the breast of the Lord Jesus.”

John-Calling-of-St-John-800-px-12th-Century.jpg
John the Apostle resting on the bosom of Christ,” Swabia/Lake Constance, early 14th century. Photo by Andreas Praefcke

But that’s not the only artistic display of Jesus and John’s affection for each other.

Continue reading “Was Jesus Christ gay?”

History

This ancient gay love story was once as popular as our Romeo and Juliet    

We’ve all heard the tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet but did you know that a queer love story was just as popular in archaic Greece?

I’m talking about the love affair between Patroclus and Achilles, whose friendship was established in Homer’s epic poem the “Iliad” but was immortalized as a homoerotic relationship by the ancient playwright, Aeschylus. Only fragments from Aeschylus’ once massively popular tragedy survive but his portrayal of Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship is indisputably romantic. In his three-part series titled, “Achilleis,” Aeschylus wrote about the life and love of Greek mythological hero, Achilles.

achilles_and_patroclus_by_wjsolha.jpg
Artist credit:  https://goo.gl/JXFbN5

For those of you unfamiliar with Homer’s “Iliad”, Achilles was prophesized to either die a hero in battle or live a long, uneventful life. Ultimately, Achilles decides to become a soldier and fights in the Trojan War with his best friend, Patroclus. Sadly, Patroclus is slain by Trojan Prince, Hector, and Achilles goes wild with grief. He beats his chest, smudges ashes on his head and acts like a recent widow. Motivated by sadness and, despite being warned that pursuing vengeance will result in his own death, Achilles murders Hector.

In “Myrmindons”, the first installment of Aeschylus’ trilogy, Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship differs from the “Iliad” because it’s made to be explicitly sexual.

An example of this blatant eroticism can be seen after Achilles finds Patroclus’ body stripped naked on the battlefield by the Trojans. Achilles laments his dead lover by saying, “Had you no reverence for the unsullied holiness of your thighs/ Ungrateful for the many kisses I gave you?” (Can’t get much gayer than that).

It’s important to understand that these plays of Aeschylus were so popular that the content was considered common knowledge even a hundred years later. To put that in context, the Great Gatsby was published just under a hundred years ago and most people  in modern society are aware of the book’s plot. In fact, Aeschylus’ rendition and interpretation of Homer’s epic poem was nearly universally accepted or recognized in ancient Greece.

Continue reading “This ancient gay love story was once as popular as our Romeo and Juliet    “

History

A history of same sex love: Greeks (1)

When I was 23-years-old I handed my mother a 13-page coming out letter. This letter read like a dissertation and I’m honestly shocked I didn’t include citations or a bibliography. It was structured linearly and I proceeded to argue my case for being a lesbian. I’m talking biblical references, well-developed ethical arguments (with counter-points and rebuttals), appeals to ethos, pathos and logos AND academic quotes. [Is it obvious I had just completed my first argument course?]

Needless to say, I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (diagnosed) and an insatiable desire to learn.

Prior to coming out, this led me on a quest to consume as much information about homosexuality as humanly possible. I would like to share this information in case another could benefit from my extensive research when coming out to his/her/ their family.

I found a historical understanding of homosexuality to be especially important when conversing with people who claim it is “unnatural” or the byproduct of a liberal agenda.

Here are some facts about homosexual activity (the Greeks did not have a word for homosexuality as we understand it today) in parts of ancient Greece.

  • Pederasty was an important part of Greek culture where an older man (erastes) would teach a younger, most likely teenaged, man (the eromenos) all about politics, war, sex and essentials to becoming an ideal citizen
  • Homosexual activity is extremely common among the Olympian male gods
    • In fact, all primary male gods on Olympus had homosexual relationships attributed to them with the exception of Ares (the god of war)
      • Zeus kidnapped the beautiful Ganymede to be his lover and cup-bearer on Mount Olympus, Poseidon took Pelops, the king of Pisa, as his lover, Apollo is linked to several men but most notably the Macedonian Prince Hyakinthos, who was killed after catching a discus and Apollo turned him into the hyacinth flower.
        • Hercules, Dionysus, Hermes and Pan also enjoyed the company of men
      • Poets constantly wrote about same-sex love, attraction and affection. These included
      • Greek political leaders had consequential instances of homoerotic passions
        • Athens: Solon, Peisistratus, Hippias, Hipparchus, Themistocles, Aristides, Critias, Demosthenes, and Aeschines
        • Sparta: Pausanias, Lysander, and Agesilaus
        • Samos: Polycrates
        • Syracuse: Hieron and Agathocles
        • Thebes: Epaminondas and Pelopidas
        • Macedon: Archelaus, Philip II, and Alexander
      • Socrates, Plato and Xenophon spoke or wrote about the power of love between men (albeit denying physical expression of this love)
      • Stoics, or people who ascribe to self-control as a means of overcoming emotions, such as Zeno, Cleanthes, and Chrysippus lauded boy love
      • Phidias’s love for Pantarces was memorialized in marble.
      • In Plato’s Symposium, the character Phaedrus praises the “male eros.”
        • “For I know not any greater blessing to a young man who is beginning life than a virtuous lover, or to a lover than a beloved youth. For the principle that ought to be the guide of men who would nobly live—that principle, I say, neither kindred, nor honor, nor wealth, nor any other motive is able to implant so well as love.”

Many biographers and historians believe that, in Greek culture, “not to have had a male lover seems to have bespoken a lack of character or a deficiency in sensibility”. However, as time progressed the “sin” of the ancient Greeks was widely condemned. In fact, homosexuality became “the sin not even to be mentioned among Christians.” If it had to be mentioned it was limited to legal treaties or discussions of moral theology.

Why was there such a distinct and sharp change? I don’t have an answer yet but we’re on a mission to keep learning and discovering.

Ps the majority of this information comes from this book. I highly recommend purchasing it.