Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2017-06-20

The Commodification of LGBTQ Pride: How Capitalism Co-Opts Movements

I was cruising through Target the other day, and I saw a field of rainbow gear in the clothing section. At the same Target a year ago, there was one wall of Pride stuff and I thought that was a lot. An entire clothing section dedicated to rainbows for June was pretty remarkable growth within a year. There were pool floats, pride flag shawls, so many tanks and tee shirts with a lot of clever pride sayings, and a whole unicorn costume onesie that I almost called Dara to beg to buy. There were even tee shirts for couples to wear together to complete a rainbow for the ultimate dykealike experience and… PREFERRED PRONOUN PINS. At Target.

It is totally possible to hold multiple conflicting emotions at once and I had a bunch in the Target Pride section.

Surprised! In 1997—just twenty years ago—my gay mom would take her upside down triangle rainbow window cling off her car before I drove it. She didn’t want me to have to take the risk of homophobic hate crimes and I wasn’t out of the closet yet. It surprises me how far the acceptance of LGBT folks has come in my lifetime.

Validated! Listen, it’s capitalism. They are doing this because there are gay dollar$ to be made off of this and they want to cash in on this market. In the 70s being gay could get you fired or killed, and while that is still true today in many places, it is pretty amazing that you can come out and a big box store is giving you a high five by supplying your Pride gear.

My friend Franny at Dyke Day LA.

Delighted! I love rainbow stuff. In school I was very into school spirit, dressing up and rah rah for the team and I feel like my inherent cheerleader tendencies come out a lot when it comes to Gay Pride stuff. I love a good rainbow outfit, I love to wave a Pride flag in the right environment.

Heartened! I genuinely appreciate the show of support Target is giving the queer community by putting out this Pride section. Their show of solidarity in this instance is certainly well-intentioned. And in this political day and age when our rights could be dumped literally any minute, it’s nice to have entities give us that high five. (Though I do wonder if the Targets in Red States have big ol’ Pride sections.)

Annoyed! It always feels a type of way for me when businesses co-opt a movement. It used to be that I could only buy Pride gear on a special trip to a store in the Castro, and now those stores have all shut down and big box retailers are selling our Pride gear. It appears that more and more straight folks are going to Pride events because queers throw the best parties (we do) and they’ll put on a rainbow because it doesn’t matter, love is love! Rainbows aren’t just for queers anymore.

Maybe you’re not rainbow identified and you just want to be queer. Here’s a great shirt for that, available up to 3X, from queer non-binary owned Genuine Valentine!

Angry! At the commodification of Pride. Maybe Target should take a dollar (not even ten percent) of each of the shirts/Pride shawls they sell and give it to an LGBT non profit that benefits the most marginalized in our communities. But they’re not. The webpage selling their Pride gear sports a hashtag but not anything about donating to LGBT causes. The gay + ally dollar$ spent in that rainbow section are going to Target stockholders.

Big businesses mean well, they really do. They think they are helping when they have a big rainbow Levi’s store window or put together a social justice advertisement and slap their logo on the end of it. And in this day and age where most of the US spends their waking hours hypnotized on TV, those social justice commercials do make a difference. I really believe for it. However it does take most of the moxie out of the movement when it goes corporate.

Unbought and Unbossed! I love this Shirley Chisholm Lapel Pin from Radical Dreams–all products benefit community organizations.

Capitalism is a system that centers the privatization of resources. Movements are not owned by one person and are an amalgamation of ideas. Pride started out as a rebellion against homophobic and transphobic policing of queer people.

That general idea of “LGBTQ people deserve rights” pushed Pride forward annually and then as the movement grew, certain facets became privatized. Pride festivals became privatized in lots of ways, I would venture to say most common is someone in the first collective who started a Pride event in a city managed to be the last person standing so now they own it as {Whatever City} Pride Inc. and make curation choices with or without community input, charge admission, get sponsorships and make money off of producing Pride.

I brought my Femme Protection candle from (Queer Fat Femme owned) Last Craft with me to anchor my altar at Dyke Day! I charged a Femme Resilience magical incense blend while galavanting on my blankets with my pals. This candle is fabulous for Femme magic work and my new go-to gift for Femme birthdays.

Now corporations are putting rainbows all over things and making money off of what our Pride symbols mean to us–that same general idea that LGBTQ people deserve rights. They are taking an idea from a movement and privatizing resources associated with expressing it.

As I watch the body positive movement continue to be co-opted by corporations for their profit, it also heartens/validates/disappoints/angers/annoys me. Fifteen years ago when I was yelling Love Your Body on stage it was a revolutionary stance and now Lane Bryant just uses it to sell stuff.

At the same time, it is still revolutionary for people to hear that loving their fat body is an option so I guess net positive? While cashing in on Pride and body positivity feels kind of icky, it is still awesome that so many corporations are standing in solidarity with LGBT people in this political climate, and it is revolutionary that fat teenagers are getting the message however it comes to them that loving their fat bodies is an option.

I got this FEMME shirt at The Plus Bus. It was originally produced by Forever 21. Did they mean to print my gender identity on a shirt as a Pride thing or just coincidence?

Pride events over time have become so corporate. What began as a rebellion—honoring what happened at Stonewall, where trans women of color were tired of being harassed by cops. As Pride events gained notoriety and acceptance, corporations started sponsoring them. I remember my first Pride in San Francisco in 2000 leaving with swag bags full of corporate logos and fans promoting Queer as Folk (remember that show?) about to debut on Showtime. It’s only gotten more intense and it has been years since I’ve gone to a Pride event with corporate sponsors.

Instead I have gravitated towards Dyke Marches, which at least maintain a separation from corporate sponsorship, are community run and funded. You see almost everyone you know or have slept with in town which is why some call it “The Ex March.” In LA it isn’t even a march, it’s just a park hangout and it is THE BEST. (I’m still so fresh to LA so I only see people I am excited to see.)

Dyke Day LA was SO FUN. Epic overlapping hangouts with so many rad folks. (Here, EK, Dara, Kean and Corina.)

Dyke Day LA costs thousands to produce and that money is raised through community fundraisers throughout the year. Community organizing is exhausting work and I am so grateful for the folks who put in the time to carve out space in Pride month that is totally separate from a corporate agenda.

It’s nice that we have this space that is maintained because of the values of the Dykes that came before us. We only have it when there are community members willing to do the work and others willing to donate towards it. (It’s also a great way to meet folks—I met a group of people who completely changed my life when I worked on the Philly Dyke March committee.)

In a Kristen and Tristan sandwich!

I have been thinking a lot about how we resist the capitalism that has seeped into Pride. I think it’s by continuing to push the envelope. Queer means a lot of things but one definition I like most is queer as in weird.

Once you’ve opened up to a sexuality that steps outside of the heterosexual paradigm I think you’re more likely to think outside the box in other ways. Most queers keep things weird and push towards justice, whatever they believe that to be. When corporations grab ahold of what used to be chanted from the streets it ends up this kind of washed and faded version of something we have in full color. I love that queers keep making great anti-capitalist signs for Pride and showing up for resistance.

Philly has pushed the Pride envelope this year by changing the Pride flag to add Black and Brown—a sign of solidarity with the too often marginalized LGBT people of color who are and have been essential to this movement. The backlash is as you would expect from White LGBT folks who don’t see how important this move is to queers of color. I’m here for anything that makes POC feel more supported in the movement–and it’s so new that it’s not reflected in the Pride section at Target.

I’ll admit that I totally bought that $12 Pride shawl (before I knew there was a new rainbow flag!) after much hemming and hawing. I’ve never seen a rainbow shawl for sale and I ultimately want to give a thumbs up to Target’s gesture of (economically beneficial to them) solidarity. But I also spend lots of dollars directly to queers for their hard work and craftspersonship.

I know that Pride can’t actually be bought, and you can’t monetize the feeling of a young queer person at their first Pride parade, because even if Absolut is sponsoring the float that baby queer is paying way more attention to their crush or cruising.

If you want to sport your Pride in a more dapper and baller way, consider purchasing exquisite gender equal footwear designed by my pal NiK Kacy a very active member of the LGBTQ community.

I wonder how long it will take for corporations to adjust to the new Pride flag? I wonder what is now chanted in the streets that twenty years from now will be sanitized for the masses? I hope we keep pushing the envelope and I hope we keep prioritizing real queer people over corporations.

BTW this is NOT a sponsored post (I would tell you) but if Target wants to pass some of their profits to a queer artist out here speaking my truth I am open to sponsorship as long as it is my words and ideas!

2016-11-10

Four Strategies I’m Using to Move Forward in the Wake of the Election

Last night I was at Trader Joe’s and the cashier asked me how my day was going. I have a standing principal of authenticity and I don’t say “fine” unless it’s true. I try to give an honest answer. So I answered, “As a Gay American I’m really struggling in the wake of the calamitous election results.” He was not prepared for my answer and I watched him having a lot of Feelings as he rang up my groceries. I didn’t realize that my honest answer might be triggering to him, but sometimes I think cisgender White men need to be reminded of inconvenient truths.

And the inconvenient truth is, even as a Gay American, I’m a person with a lot of privilege, specifically White Privilege. I know the results are even more terrifying for people of color. I’m struggling in the unknowable future of a Drumpf* presidency. I don’t know what comes next for Muslim-Americans, undocumented people, people of color, gender non-conforming people, trans people, women, people of size, disabled people, any people dependent on Obamacare, and all of the other bodies of Americans that man metaphorically stood on top of or discarded while he used hatred to galvanize support.

I am remembering the legacy of resistance I come from. Before every event and performance I produce I do a circle prayer/offering of good intentions where I honor our queer ancestors. (If you’re curious what that looks like skip ahead to minute 9 of this video.) I don’t take for granted my ability to be a fat queer flamboyant femme, I know that just thirty years ago I wouldn’t have this access to express my authentic self. The ease I have being a weirdo in this world is because of the blood, sweat, and resistance of those people that came before.

It looks like it might get harder to be a weirdo for awhile. And at least I know that we have communities and we can create some really beautiful shit. And grass roots works a lot faster than government, the glacial pace of regression under Drumpf won’t be able to move as fast as we will. We can support each other and we can continue to make change.

amberhikesFrom my friend Amber Hikes: “I, for one, am not done fighting. There’s not one aspect of my identity (Black, Woman and Queer) that gives up and goes quietly into the night. We ain’t going out like that. Game on.”

I’ve been working with the spiritual principal “Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional,” and thinking through the ways I allow suffering into my life. I know that the pain from this election is real but I do not want to suffer. However, it’s super important to acknowledge our Feelings and process them, otherwise we end up just feeling them later—and paying interest.

Here are some strategies I’m using now to cope with all of the anger, grief, guilt, sadness, rage, and shock. I offer them to you as ideas. Take what you like and leave the rest.

Belief in my friends who are changing the world.
Giving me the most hope right now are my friends. When I start to spiral out into the what-ifs and the horror of 50 million people voting for someone who stands for so much hate, I can picture a friend and think about the ways they work to change the world.

I have surrounded myself with people who have big hearts and are bad asses, who see problems and dive in. These are people who work at non-profits or people who have corporate jobs and big volunteer lives. Who are artists who use their art to amplify anti-racism, experiences of marginalized people, who change people’s hearts and minds through self-expression. People with financial privilege that have a strong ethic of giving back and empowering people who don’t have the same privileges.

Especially people who are just everyday folks who speak up at the work lunch table or wherever to interrupt food shaming, racism, or “locker-room talk.” Frankly, I think that’s the most effective form of activism, one to one relationship-based conversations that help people have more compassion.**

It’s horrific to think about all the people who voted for hate (even if they couched it in different reasoning to make themselves feel better, a vote for Drumpf was a vote for White supremacy), but I believe so strongly in the people I know doing good it helps me have the faith to move forward.

halanbevincoffeeshopMy friend H. Alan Scott writes, “The Talmud says, ‘When the castle goes to ruin, castle is still its name; when the dunghill rises, still it is a dunghill.’ Drumpf is temporary, but if we focus, as a community, we’ll make the castle rise again.”

Have Faith Not Fear.
Earlier this year two people I knew had second bouts with cancer. This flipped me out because my partner is a cancer survivor. I started thinking about strategies to move forward without being afraid she’ll get cancer again. I could be worried and fearful 100% of the time if I let myself go into that thought spiral. I had the aha moment that I needed to remember to replace that fear with faith.

I have so much fear about the future of our country but I am choosing instead to have faith. Not faith in outcomes but faith moreso that we are going to work. I hope that people are galvanized enough to keep doing the work, keep having the uncomfortable conversations with people, keep standing in support. (Hey White folks who want to be in solidarity, here’s a great article about how to have those uncomfortable conversations with other White people. Here’s a great cartoon about how to interrupt Islamophobia.)

Remembering times we had a dip in social progress and we came back.
When Prop 8 passed in CA and it outlawed gay marriage, everyone was so mad! There were protests in solidarity all over the country! But the thing I couldn’t forget in that time (2008) was that when I was in college there was a similar referendum on the ballot (Prop 22 in March of 2000) that passed with a 10% greater margin. I was sad that gay marriage was still outlawed in CA but at the same time also impressed at how much the margin had changed. Prop 8 passed by only a sliver.

I genuinely believe social progress is the way forward and that our social justice work is working. I think the Drumpf election is a setback and a wake-up call to apathy and White complacency. If you feel you didn’t do enough work on this election, you can pick it up now and start working on ways to shift the world. (10 Simple Ways White People Can Step Up to Fight Everyday Racism.)

I remember when Bush won the election in 2000. I was 21 and we thought we should all move to Canada. I don’t think that anymore, I am going to stay here and fight because I believe we can continue to move social progress forward. I’m going to tap my mentor activists for their experiences of hope and how they moved forward during the GWB years. This is worse, but we have so much we can build on.

I also believe that the amount of talk about rape culture going on in the election has helped shift the conversation, emboldened women and is teaching more consent on a wide scale. A silver lining from this traumatic election cycle.

daniellemannafromheavenMy friend Danielle Berrin is a Senior Editor at the Jewish Journal, pictured here delivering “Manna from Heaven” after blessing the Challah at my Epic High Holiday Shabbat dinner. Because of the talk of Drumpf’s sexual assaults, she chose to come out in her newspaper about having been sexually assaulted during an interview with a prominent journalist. She put herself at personal and professional risk to do so, since women are so often lambasted for talking about sexual assault experiences. Her story has had an a-typical result, with the assailant outing himself and ultimately resigning from prominent positions. I was surprised and grateful that Danielle has received so much support. This is a new era where sexual assault survivors are becoming more and more supported. The more of us who speak out against rape culture and sexual assault the faster we will change things so entitled men like Drumpf don’t just get to grab whoever they want whenever they want. Photo by Rick Sorkin.

Channeling rage
Rage and anger are totally valid emotions. So is a feeling of powerlessness. The first step to processing pain is validating your feelings. Protests are a great way to channel anger, so are art projects, cooking, and exercise. Figure out what you need to do to identify the feelings you’re feeling in the wake of the election and figure out a way to channel them so that you can refresh yourself for the work ahead.

Self Care
Whenever I go through loss or get hard news my first stop is self care. After Grandmother’s recent lung cancer diagnosis I committed to a daily meditation practice and I’m proud to say I’ve been consistent for 25 days and that’s my longest daily meditation stretch so far.

In a world and culture that doesn’t value my body, my gender or my sexuality I know I have to value it the most. Self care is an act of resistance and it is really important that we prioritize this.

I encourage you to do a self care inventory. How are you caring for yourself? What ways can you adjust your life to make room for the things that increase your capacity to care for yourself? Self care stretches time and enables your fuel for the revolution. Make self care dates with friends and check in with each other about following through with self care.

Right now I’m in a “detox from America” and am doing all I can to cleanse my mind from this stuff and support my resilience.

Kate Bornstein says this about suicide—do whatever you need to do to stay alive, just don’t be mean. Figure out what you need to do and do it, because we need you to stay alive.

magalybevinatweddingFrom my friend Magaly Ickes-Jones: “My first generation Cuban/Nicaraguan-American, gender non-conforming, queer, Latinx, veteran, political scientist lover of the U.S. Constitution heart is bruised and battered by the unamerican hatred, ignorance, and fear that fueled American voters yesterday. I’ll heal and it will get better. I appreciate the comfort of my loved ones and these words and the promise that can’t be taken back: ‘We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.’ -Preamble to the U.S Constitution”

I am going to do what I know to do and look for support from my loved ones as we hold each other up. I’m going to stick to my faith. I believe we are going to work together stronger. We’re going to be okay. It’s what I have to tell myself every time a new cancer diagnosis comes into my life, every time I mourn a friend, every time I try something and fail. I remind myself that everything is okay in the end, and if it’s not okay it’s not the end. It’s not the end.

*I installed that app from the amazing John Oliver video “Make Donald Drumpf again” and so now all I ever read is Drumpf online and it makes me feel good. Thought with 30 million views it sadly still didn’t change the election results.

**I like the idea of spreading kindness rather than calling it “political correctness.” My work in the world is to support activist resilience and I want to help people do this work more effectively. If you have questions about how to do that, hit me up and I will work to get it answered.

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