Not too long ago, we had a conversation with a friend about Chick-Fil-A, the fast food chain. He, a gay man, was enjoying his chicken sandwich with passion and delight. It wasn’t long before he began to explain how and why he loved his lunch and the company in general. His list included the way the organization treats their workers, the fact they are given Sunday off as a “day of rest” and how polite the crew members are. Oh, and he enjoyed their chicken sandwiches more than other fast food joints.
“Ok”, we said, without a hint of irony or telegraphing our intent, we explained to him, in painful detail the history of Chick-Fil-A’s anti homosexual policies, actions, donations to organizations and politicians that fight against our rights, how this is the stance of the company and they have pledged never to change. We ended with the fact that each and every dollar he spends at this restaurant goes through the hands of a middle man, and ends up in the pocket of a person or organization what is fighting tooth and nail to remove each and every hard won right our community has obtained.
He, slowly, took a long sip of his soda, and then another bite of his chicken sandwich and said, “yeah, but they make damn good chicken”.
We didn’t argue with him or try to change his mind. We had educated him on the facts and issues at hand, and then he, a grown ass man, made a decision he was comfortable with. That is his right. Just as our right was to not ever eat at Chick-Fil-A but also not spend time with someone from our community that freely gives his money in contrast to our professional and personal efforts for equality.
That was then. Now, the company on the hot seat is Disney. Because of their silence on Florida’s so-called ” Don’t Say Gay” law, and then their timid turn about, folks on the left and right are outraged at the mouse house. But, if you have been paying attention, for the entirety of your life, you would know that Walt Disney and his company are no stranger to conflict and strife. Beginning with claims of anti-Semitism and beyond obvious racism within their cartoons (re: Song of the South) and boardrooms (no executives of colour), to the negative, yet thinly veiled, depictions of gay males as stereotypes and caricatures in recent big name hits (we’re looking at you Jaffar and Scar), Disney has never been friendly for every member of the family.
Companies, during the Age of AIDS, become gleefully aware of the high spending power and disposable income of many gay males. Ironically, it took the impending mass deaths of our brothers, and their end of life spending, to gain recognition. Now, we have an obligation to carry on their legacy by paying close attention to where we spend our money and which organizations we financially support. Because money is mostly a tool, a resource that not only assists us in purchasing products, goods and services but also establishing social and political power. This is just a fact.
That’s what it’s all about, at it’s core, right? Supporting companies and organizations financially that support, advocate on behalf of your individual set of values. Every single dollar/euro/pound/yen you spend goes toward an agenda that either upholds your values or fights against them. Your money goes from the retailer’s register, into a pool with others, and is then, at some point, put into the coffers of an organization or politician that is for or against you. There is an even faster correlation when you donate money to a particular non-profit because they are agents of agenda by nature and design. Your donations increase their ability to accomplish their stated mission. Conversely, your lack of support to non-profits that act on behalf of your values, will quickly either, go out of business for lack of financial support, or alter their mission towards communities that receive greater amounts of donations and grants.
Because we are going to use the term “value” many times in this article, let’s start off on the same page with some basic defintions that we can all understand.
These are the simplest to explain. They are the basis for your moral actions based on your personal belief system. They may stem from family standards, religious doctrine, national/cultural mores, but usually some combination of them all. Some might say these are your compass for what you believe is right or wrong.
Even though the word community is mostly used in conjunction with so-called minorities, we all are a member of at least one, but usually multiple communities. The values that stem from these associations will be based on what you view is a positive for your collective, and how your needs are being addressed. Because no community is a monolith, pinning down their values is truly difficult. The larger a group becomes the more voices there are seeking to be heard, and often times conflicts arise. Community values are best instituted when the greatest and most agreed upon issues are addressed. But, for every five (5) people in a conversation, there will be at least six (6) opinions.
The larger the number of people the more complex defining their overall values will be. Societal values address the needs and issues of a much larger collective. These might be on the local/city level or up to the state and federal level. Of course, the largest societal issues concern the entire planet, like climate change, wars, refugee crisis and global pandemics. Because there are so many stake-holders, many individuals may feel disenfranchised from the process and opt out of participation, feeling their values are not valued. Compromise is the name of the game, where no one gets entirely what they want, no matter how important the issue.
This is where all of the above eventually meet. Political values are the actualization of any and all of your other values. This is the place where you elect leaders who will uphold your values and fight against those who wish to derail, harm or destroy them. Unfortunately, this is also the space where most individuals feel unheard and reduce their participation. The ever increasing rise of corporate lobbying groups, dark money and billionaires has decreased the interest and participation of the common man, and created a structure where corporations have all of the same rights as people in the United States, and their financial donations are considered acts of free speech.
Non profit organizations
We have never been silent about our dismay at the non-profits that claim to help the homosexual male community. As men of colour who dedicated decades of our lives and careers to these agencies, we learned all of their flaws from the inside. That is why we decided to step out and away from them and create an organization that works for our community, and our community alone, based on facts, science, education, personal community participation and experience.
The vast majority of non profits that bombard our senses were born in the Age of AIDS and created to address this specific health crisis effecting homosexual/bi sexual males the most. It was called the “gay cancer/plague” for a reason. But over time many have shifted their focus away from our community and towards more profitable and woke communities. This, in spite of the fact that the HIV infection rate yearly still hovers close to 90% in favour of homosexual males.
HIV organizations are not the only offenders, Human Rights Campaign, Stonewall UK, The Anti Violence Project, all quickly spring to mind when we think of non profits that take homosexual male money but no longer represent our values. They are able to do this, because we allow it. Many of us blindly donate our hard earned gay dollars to any organizations that have a prior history with our community or makes claims to work on our behalf. But, we don’t follow up on making sure they keep their promises.
The most heartbreaking fact of this betrayal is that almost all of these non profits were originally founded and funded solely by homosexual males for the purpose of fighting for our community values. They kept the names, but silently changed their mission statement.
Because almost every mid-sized to large non profit receives some amount of government funding, even if you don’t individually write them a check, you are still supporting them. For this reason you need to be proactive and find out the values of these organizations, who works there, who are the executives in charge, what programs do they offer, what communities are served, how well are they succeeding in their mission statement and do you agree with their intended goals.
Large for profit corporations
For good reason, these are the organizations that get the most scrutiny for their practices. Ironically, this lens is focused on them, by the very same non profits that are doing the exact same dirty deeds. From demanding increased diversity in the board room to the executive level, equal rights and protections for all minority groups and even questioning which agencies and politicians these corporations support, many non profits have done an amazing job at shifting the focus away from themselves and onto larger brands because they are for profit businesses.
The issue with only maintaining focus on large/mid sized for profit corporations, besides the fact that you are most likely letting non profits get away with hypocrisy, is that it can be come a full time job. Everyday we seem to being finding out that our most beloved corporations are polluting our oceans, destroying clean drinking water in impoverished countries, using child labour, exploiting workers/paying “slave wages”, are racist, sexist and yes, homophobic. In this day and age, no company is free of all of these, and even more serious crimes against our values. Even worse, the more a company hypes up how green, diverse or forward thinking they are, the more we find out how they are acting daily against their own chosen values, and thus us, their customers. This is how capitalism works. Money talks and bullshit walks. If it is cheaper to make trainers in Asia, instead of the United States, and there are little, if any regulations on work place safety or employment, far too many companies make this move.
And then there is the hypocrisy. Every year, more and more for profit companies have found their way into gay pride parades all over the world. They get huge floats, with banners and paint rainbows on all of their merch. They put ads in outlets viewed by our community, claim to be supporters, and even champions of our rights and values. Then, June is over and they are back on their homophobic bullshit. But, by this time, they have gotten the pink seal of approval from non profit organizations like GLAAD, had write ups in our news outlets as one of the best places for gays to work, and most of all, received a huge chunk of homosexual dollars and cents.
We know it’s hard, but you are going to have to do your homework and learn more about the for profit companies that you financially support. But relax, anything that one company sells can be found at another that does uphold your values and supports your community. And some times for a lower price. You just need to seek them out.
“Gay and Gay friendly” retailers
It was this group that inspired this article. If gay guys love to do anything, it’s shop. We shop for clothes, items for our homes, gifts, books, music and so much more. In the beginning, these companies were founded out of necessity. We needed particular items for our lives and wanted stores that catered to us, in a welcome fashion, not begrudgingly taking our money. There was an emphasis on “pink dollars” and where we should, and should not spend our money. But, those days are gone. Many of the companies that hang a rainbow flag outside their shop, or advertise to our community, do not uphold our values. They’re just getting fat off our money and pleased that we aren’t looking in their closet to find their skeletons.
Just because a company claims to be “gay” or “gay friendly”, does not mean it is. You should not be fooled by the sight of homosexuals working there, the companies participation in pride parades or even statements on their website. These are still for profit, capitalist companies, who’s first and main objective is to make money. Yes, you obtain merchandise in exchange for your currency, but don’t forget, no matter how low the price, they still have a huge mark-up and are the real winners in the deal.
So, what do you do? Treat them the exact same way you would any straight, large/midsized for profit company. Do your homework. Examine the “about us” page on their website, see who really runs the joint, which charities, if any, do they donate to, who do they put on their website/adverts and, if in doubt, give them a call and ask the hard questions.
We have all had horrid experiences with establishments that have claimed to be for our community. The fact you would believe that your favourite retailer is any different from a large multi national corporation, is what they rely on to keep your business.
As you well know, we do not accept any advertisements from other companies or organizations. This allows us to retain our integrity when researching and writing articles without fear of losing revenue if they object to our articles. We also do not actively promote any company, brand or organization over any others. We have highlighted some companies in our articles on particular topics but stress that they are not the only ones that may provide a particular product or service but ones that were, usually randomly selected.
There have been two (2) exceptions to this rule. The first, was our article on buying fetish gear on-line, where we detailed our particular experiences with companies that market their fetish products to the homosexual male community. We choose larger, well known brands, because they have community history, and are able to ship products internationally. Since they are well known brands, we acknowledged that we had also been customers of those businesses, but would not let that colour the outcome of our examination.
This article is the second time we are making an exception to this rule, for the same reasons as above.
None of the seven (7) companies and one event knew that we were writing this article. We approached them in good faith and awaited their reaction. Each of the following companies are brands that we have been customers of for years, and even decades, which makes our findings even the more disappointing.
Here is what we did
We choose seven (7) for profit corporations, and one large event, that market their products to the homosexual male community. Like in our prior article, we choose ones that sold gear of the sexual nature, with a large and well known following within our community. They are all international companies, based in differing countries but ship their products globally. And finally, they all market themselves as members of our community. They also all have an open to the public retail shop inside of a historically gay neighborhood. Except, obviously, for the event company.
These companies were also chosen due to their very substantial newsletter campaign that, collectively holds, hundreds of thousand of names and email addresses for homosexuals around the world, including each one of us. Finally, our stated purpose in our email contact with them was for some sort of listing, advertisement or blurb about The Gay Male Journal, to assist in spreading the world about our on-line healthcare resource. We mentioned the importance of attracting the attention of the most number of homosexual males possible to increase our collective awareness of general, sexual, mental and emotional healthcare. Also, since we are a non profit any expenses they incurred on our behalf are tax deductible. We sent this email to companies that do not have any links to non profit healthcare organizations that specialize in homosexual male health or healthcare in general.
We reached out to:
Blatino Oasis Palm Springs (This is a yearly event, and not a retailer)
Here is what happened
We waited a month before publishing this article after the first email communications were sent. They were sent on the exact same day, within minutes apart, and from the same GMJ corporate email account address.
There is not much to discuss regarding the first five (5) companies on our list because they never replied. Not via email, phone, text or carrier pigeon. Why businesses that make millions of dollars/euros off of merchandise marketed and sold almost exclusively to the homosexual male community, would not even take the time to react to a homosexual male healthcare non profit that is seeking a partnership to assist in getting more of our community, sometimes, life saving information, is a question we can not answer. You would need to contact them and ask. Disappointed, is not a strong enough word to describe our feelings. We can not tell you the amount of money we have spent inside of these stores over the decades and not even given a courtesy to reply to our request. Even if the answer was “no”.
What could be worse than receiving no answer at all? Well, receiving a nasty reply that stealthy calls us transphobes, even though they cannot support that claim and made no attempts to. But, we will let you be the judge. We received two replies to our email from Mr B. Amsterdam.
The first from their Brand manager, Tony De Wilde and then from their inhouse publication WINGS, Communications Associate, and self-professed queer, FRANK COLOSIMO.
thank you for your message, I think for sure we could do something together, with our platform Mister B Wings which is a printed magazine as well as online platform we try to inform and educate our demographic as well, with articles about sexual health mental health and community etc. www.misterbwings.com Maybe we could do an interview with you and post it on our platform and vice versa ?I’ve added our marketing manager @Frank Colosimo in CC Let me know what you think and/or if you have any other ideas.
www.misterb.comTONY DE WILDE
He/HimBrand Manager Phone nr. : +31 20 788 30 00
Mister B Trading BV.
Van der Madeweg 5-B
Hi, thanks for your interest in working with us and Wings magazine.
Your journal covers some very important topics and speaks to many of the needs within our community, however, we find some of your content (especially in your spcial media posts) to be rather trans-antagonistic and conflicts with our values as a brand (and personally) and we think it’s best we don’t move forward with any collaborations.
I hope you understand.
Direct: +31 62 550 13 87Marketing +31 20 788 30 40
Mister B Wholesale & Internet BV
Van der Madeweg 5-B
firstname.lastname@example.org www.misterb.com misterbwings.com
It can go without stating, what happened here and by whom. A company that is known for it’s marking to the homosexual male community refused to promote the ONLY on-line healthcare resource, founded, operated and for homosexual males. This was not just a decision based on their company’s alleged values, but the very specific values of Frank Colosimo himself.
For the record, we are not now, nor have we ever been transphobic. Not even Frank Colosimo could openly claim that we are. Instead, he played word games and created the new term “trans antagonist”. No, we have no idea what the hell that means, as it was not defined, nor were examples of this activity proffered. Unlike us, Mr. B does not include within their corporate or personal value structure honesty or providing proof and evidence of their claims.
We make no apologies for:
standing up for the rights of homosexual males
providing our community with much needed healthcare information in ways no one else does, and never has
creating a space that focuses on homosexual males only
or for creating a twitter account that:
- details homophobic attacks against the members of our community by the trans/queer community,
- highlights hypocrisy from the organizations claiming to fight on our behalf and
- ensuring that the factual and correct information about the founding of our civil rights movement and cultural history is accurate and does not erase us from our own deeds and accomplishments in favour of a new community, agenda and/or ideology
On the brighter side
One corporation stepped up quickly to the task and added our non profit to their April 2022 newsletter. The response from this company as well as their homosexual male readers was shocking! In the best ways. Stan from Debriefboys in Canada did a stellar job and we can not thank him enough. He understood our cause, and the value in the work that we do and how it could help his customers. No fuss, no muss. The very same day that their newsletter was sent, traffic to our website tripled. Yes, really.
Imagine the impact our organization could have had on the lives of homosexual males all around the world if the other “gay/gay friendly” corporations we contacted, listed us in even one of their newsletters.
As you know, our site is free and offers some of the absolute best healthcare information you can find. But, we guess these other retailers don’t love you as much as they love your money. Pro Tip: Sick and dead homosexuals don’t buy anything but caskets!
Another pleasant surprise was from the gentlemen over at Blatino Oasis. If you do not know who they are, they are the largest yearly gathering for Black and Latino homosexual and bi sexual males. This is a weekend long event in Palm Springs, California and is known to be huge and a fantastic time for all attendees. It is also held at a clothing optional resort. If that makes any difference.
Joe Hawkins was super busy planning and arranging the event but still took time to return our request the very next day. Due to circumstances beyond any of our control, we could not be placed inside of their marking materials but we did create a solution that fits all of the parities involved. This was great news, as we are always looking new avenues to expand our reach into communities of colour.
The Power of Boycotting
Thanks to social media, laziness coupled with hubris, everybody is a keyboard activist and word warrior. But rarely do most people put their money where they claim their values are. Yes, we watched all of the marching over the last years in reaction to the senseless murders of Black and Brown males and females at the hands of United States and UK police officers. And, for a moment, that was fine. But, almost none of the goals of Black Lives Matter have been achieved, the killings continue, the size of American police forces and their budgets grows each year, and many have gone on with their lives.
As for BlackLivesMatter, their founders got PAID! From multi million dollar homes, expensive cars and travel, to providing for their personal needs first, they made sure to benefit the most. And, even though they claimed monies would go toward organizations helping the entire LGBTQ community, almost all of it ended up in the hands of those that address transgender issues ONLY.
As bad as that may seem, homosexuals do even less to fight for their rights. Too many are convinced that because THEY and THEIR circle of friends are doing well, that the struggles for us all are over. Many times we must correct white gays when they make these claims to us, homosexual males of colour. Exiting your personal echo chamber is good for the soul.
In the early days of the gay rights movement, marches were mainstays. This is because, it aped the actions of the seemingly successful American civil rights movement. But, they also copied another act from Black Americans of the 1960’s; boycotting.
Here are two (2) interesting boycotts but with different immediate outcomes.
Anita Bryant & Orange Juice
On January 18th, 1977 the Dade County Commission of Miami, Florida approved a law that would outlaw discrimination against gays and lesbians in the workplace and housing markets. A gay lobbying group named Dade County Coalition for the Humanistic Rights of Gays, which was formed only a year before, had requested that this bill be brought before the Commission by Commissioner Ruth Shack. The lobbying group was led by gay activists Jack Campbell, Bob Basker, and Bob Kunst.
In early 1977, former American pop star and beauty pageant winner Anita Bryant began campaigning in Dade County, Florida to repeal the local ordinance. She formed the group Save Our Children in 1977 and led an aggressive campaign to amass votes on a public petition for the repeal of the ordinance. As the President of Save Our Children, Anita Bryant claimed that “known practicing homosexuals” were converting children to homosexuality. Dade County Coalition for the Humanistic Rights of Gays and Save Our Children were the key actors in the boycott.
Having gained popularity in the United States for her chart topping songs, Anita Bryant had been previously hired by the Florida Citrus Commission in 1969 as their spokeswoman. Bryant used her celebrity to garner support for Save Our Children, the primary purpose of which was to repeal the ordinance that protected gay and lesbian residents of Dade County from housing and employment discrimination based on their sexuality. Save Our Children was a personal project of Bryant’s, but in November of 1977 the Florida Citrus Commission openly supported her campaign.
The boycott was arranged by a partnership between the Dade County Coalition for the Humanistic Rights of Gays and the national LGB movement. It was bolstered by support from the iconic gay activist and politician Harvey Milk as well as the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee and the San Francisco Tavern Guild. The goals of the boycott were to bring national attention to the ordinance and exert pressure on the area to uphold the ordinance. The movement was fortified by Milk’s recognition and the backing of columnists from the Bay Area Reporter and the gay rights paper The Advocate, who appealed to people’s patriotism by drawing connections between the Florida orange juice boycott and the Boston Tea Party.
While organizations that supported the gay rights movement mobilized support for the boycott, the opposition used its own connections to further support for the message of Save Our Children. Newspapers such as the Miami Herald ran recycled stories from previous years about gay sex crimes. From the pulpits on Sunday mornings, local priests urged their congregations to take political action by voting for the repeal of the ordinance. Despite the efforts of the nationwide boycott of Florida orange juice, in June 1977 residents of Dade County repealed the ordinance by a large majority with a margin of 69 to 31.
While this was a massive loss for gay rights activists, in 1980 they celebrated when Bryant’s rapidly diminishing career was highlighted by her firing from the Florida Citrus Commission. Save Our Children’s popularity sank with that of Anita Bryant. While gay activists were happy with the fact that Bryant’s national fame was permanently damaged, their primary goal of upholding the ordinance had failed. Furthermore, the Florida Citrus Commission never formally retracted its support for Bryant and would go on to support openly homophobic spokespeople in the future.
In 1998, Dade County passed a new gay and lesbian rights ordinance that remains until this day, which conservative Christian groups attempted and failed to repeal in 2002.
Coors beer company
It all started with a test. The use of polygraph tests on job applicants, a process that the company had implemented following the 1960 kidnapping and murder of Adolph Coors III. These tests, conducted during the applicant’s background check, were a significant point of contention among union members at the company, with the union alleging that the questions asked violated privacy and led to discrimination. Questions asked during the testing covered topics including the use of marijuana, personal debts the individual owed, political affiliations of the applicant (specifically regarding “subversive, revolutionary or communist activities”), and a question that read, “Is there anything in your personal life that might tend to discredit or embarrass this company if it were known?” Multiple sources also reported that applicants were asked about their sexual orientation.
According to William Coors, approximately 45 percent of applicants failed the polygraph testing, primarily with regards to questions over drug use.
Despite the company’s claims, Coors became known throughout the LGB community for its homophobic practices, and by 1973, the boycott had expanded to include members of that community. The LGB community also began to forge an alliance against Coors with local unions, who resented the company’s anti-unionism. Around this time, president Allan Baird of Teamsters Local 921, which had organized Coors distribution workers in San Francisco, worked with activist Howard Wallace (an openly gay truck driver and Teamsters member to organize a largescale boycott in the Bay Area, leading to numerous gay bars refusing to carry Coors products. Gay rights activist Scott Smith was also involved in the boycott and brought it to the attention of Harvey Milk, a noted gay activist and politician, who met with Baird in 1973 and helped coordinate the boycott, strengthening the alliance between the traditionally conservative Teamsters union and the area’s gay community. Through Milk, the boycott spread throughout the Castro District, the city’s gay neighborhood. Milk also encouraged the Teamsters to hire openly gay people and to oppose the Briggs Amendment, a California ballot measure that would have banned LGB teachers from employment. Activist Cleve Jones was also involved, and he later claimed that the Bay Area boycott was the first-ever instance of collaboration between labor unions and the gay rights movement. Activist Tami Gold later claimed that the boycott was “perhaps one of the first major public demonstrations of the links between class and sexual identity”.
Before you go….
Once again, we find ourselves at a pivotal crossroad and are fighting for our right to be ourselves. As some rage about North American southern states new so-called “Don’t say gay” bills and laws, there is a cacophony of silence about those who can not openly call themselves homosexuals or same sex attracted in the very same physical and cyber spaces we created, popularized and made rich as fuck!
Homosexuality is not legally criminalized yet again in most of the western world, but there is no doubt that within the larger LGBTQIA++ community, socially being same sex attracted only, is akin to the highest of crimes.
If you have an issue with Disney’s slow response to these new efforts, why are you not bothered by Facebook, Grindr, Twitter or any other place that has made a clear effort to subvert your orientation?
Look, it’s your money, and you will spend it wherever and however you choose, no matter what we say. But remember one final thing. Someone, somewhere is getting rich off of your hard earned gay dollars and a social/political agenda is being funded by YOU.
We strongly suggest you know which side supports your values, with your cash.
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