Before AIDS, Airbnb and Grindr changed the face of gay life forever, there were limited ways of finding your people, especially if you were a lone, gay man venturing into the unfamiliar territory of the West Coast.- Advertisement –
In the 1960s, a gay man named Bob Damron starting seeing America through a different lens. Where were the places that were gay-friendly in Butte, Montana? What about in Austin, Texas? Where were the bathhouses, the sex clubs, the diners and dive bars that would welcome queer folks with open arms?
Damron was a bartender who’d explored the world of San Francisco in the 1960s before settling in L.A.
He’d paved the way for gay enclaves like Castro Street and Christopher Street. He helped young men and women find their people and avoid getting into dangerous situations in rough, small towns and conservative cities.
Today, his legacy lives on. In an article by journalist Kate Sosin for L.A. Magazine, Publisher Gina Gatta recalls the founder of Damron Company, a business she now owns.
“Like a Bible salesman, Bob would get on the road,” Gatta tells Sosin. “He would travel around, and he would find the gays, and he would find the bars and bathhouses.”
Competitor guide books developed along side of Damron’s book, but none of them survived the tumultuous period of the late ‘60s and ‘70s, when everything in American culture, from sex to movies to politics, was becoming redefined for a new audience. By the time the Internet came along, LGBTQ+ folks had their own printed travel guides and websites like Planet Out to help them find new destinations and stay safe on the road.
But Gatta has been upholding Damron’s legacy since buying the company in 1989. Damron himself died of HIV in the early nineties.
Gatta has been single-handedly keeping the book going year after year. But the problem of keeping the book in print is a problem all publishers face: how do you sell people on something they can get for free online?
Today, teens can learn about their sexuality online, by asking friends or joining forums, or even reading Wikipedia.
If they want to find the nearest gay bar, it’s not hard to do. Still, there’s something romantic about holding a physical guidebook in your hand.
For a generation that decided long ago it would have nothing more to do with the physical elements of travel, including maps and guidebooks, there’s something touching about the idea of a book that was built over the course of years.
That someone was brave enough to find every bar, every hookup spot, and every dive bar where everybody could, feasibly, someday, know your name.
On Wednesday (10 July), a group of 30 LGBTI advocates sent a letter to dozens of tech companies, urging them to stop donating to anti-LGBTI politicians.
These companies include Google, Microsoft, AT&T, Dell, T-Mobile, and Amazon.
Tell me more
According to Buzzfeed News, the group Zeros for Zeros analyzed the contribution data between 2010 and 2019 of the top-scoring companies on the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Corporate Equality Index.
It found that 49 corporate PACs gave a combined $5,837,331 [€5,171,495.84] to members of Congress who received a rating of zero on the HRC’s legislative scorecard. This includes Texas Rep. Ted Cruz. Last year, Cruz introduced legislation that would make it legal for businesses and nonprofits to discriminate against same-sex couples.
‘These corporations create welcoming and safe environments for their LGBTQ employees and market to LGBTQ customers,’ Lane Hudson, campaign manager for Zero for Zeros, told Buzzfeed. ‘But they’re still giving to members of Congress who will make an America that is unsafe for all of us. And we want them to reconcile their values with their corporate giving.’
Companies like Google gave a combined $178,500 [€158,139.40] through their corporate PAC to anti-LGBTI politicians as well. Google has faced scrutiny for refusing to crack down on hate speech, and donated $10,000 [€8,859.35] to Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee. In 2014, Lee made statements in defense of religious liberty at the expense of LGBTI rights.
PACs associated with Amazon, AT&T, Microsoft, and Dell gave about $15,000 [€13,289.02] total to Texas Rep. Brian Babin. Republican Babin previously called Obama’s policy on gender-neutral bathrooms ‘wrong’ and ‘misguided.’
‘The federal government should not be in the business of throwing common sense and decency out the window and forcing local schools to permit a teenage boy who “identifies” as a girl to use changing rooms, locker rooms, and bathrooms with five year-old girls,’ Babin said in a statement.
‘For over four decades we’ve been committed to the LGBTQ+ community and have led the way in adopting workplace policies that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,’ an AT&T representative told Buzzfeed. ‘We support candidates on both sides of the aisle who are addressing the issues that impact our business, our employees, and our customers. That doesn’t mean we support their views on every issue.’
Microsoft, Google, AT&T, and T-Mobile are among the companies that, via their PACs, have donated thousands to Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King. King ran a successful campaign to oust three of the state’s Supreme Court judges after they ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage violated the Constitution.
Amazon, Dell, Google, Microsoft, and T-Mobile did not reply to Buzzfeed’s request for comment.
‘We’re not asking for the moon,’ Hudson said. ‘We’re just asking them to not give money to the most anti-gay members of Congress. These companies are giving money to politicians who would undo all the progress they supported. It doesn’t make sense.’
This revelation comes after many responded skeptically to corporations participating in this year’s Pride. This phenomenon is known as Rainbow Capitalism. This is where, for the month of June, companies will pay lip service to the LGBTI community (for example, changing their logos to include the Pride flag) in a way to pander to LGBTI consumers.
A total of 206 companies have signed onto a legal brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to find Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bars discrimination against LGBT people in the workforce.
The friend-of-the-court brief — organized by the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, Out & Equal, Out Leadership and Freedom for All Americans — is signed by the nation’s top businesses and argues anti-LGBT discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, thus illegal under the Title VII.
Among the signers are food companies like Domino’s Pizza and Coca-Cola Company, tech companies like Facebook and Mozilla Corp., and defense contractors like Northrup Grumman Corp.
“Even where companies voluntarily implement policies to prohibit sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination, such policies are not a substitute for the force of law,” the brief says. “Nor is the patchwork of incomplete state or local laws sufficient protection —for example, they cannot account for the cross-state mobility requirements of the modern workforce. Only a uniform federal rule can enable businesses to recruit and retain, and employees to perform, at their highest levels.”
According to the Human Rights Campaign, the brief has more corporate signers than any previous business brief in an LGBT non-discrimination case.
The brief was written by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, a Los Angeles-based law firm that also represents the signers in the case along with Robinson Curley P.C. and Taylor & Cohen LLP.
Erin Uritus, CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, said in a statement the brief “exposes the lie that affirming Civil Rights protections for LGBTQ Americans is somehow anti-business.”
“The opposite is true,” Uritus said. “Equality is good for businesses and employees. And consumers — who are increasingly savvy and intentional about their spending power — are demanding equality. I’m inspired by all of the leaders who have joined with us today in submitting this brief. The Civil Rights Act needs to be affirmed in a way that serves and protects all Americans.”
Established in Istanbul in 1890, Bomonti is Turkey’s oldest modern brewery and produces one of the country’s most popular lagers. The rainbow-coloured bottle was unveiled in an Instagram post by the head of Bomonti’s branding agency, alongside the caption: “We did it!”
It’s a bold move in a country which has been named the second-most restrictive on gay rights in Europe. Amnesty International previously told PinkNews in 2018 that Turkish LGBT+ people are “living in more fear than ever.”
Although courts ruled in April that the two-year ban on Pride parades could technically be lifted, Amnesty reported in May that “appalling” violence had been used against students holding a Pride march in the capital city of Ankara. Authorities also stripped the scholarships of students detained in the march.
And on Sunday (June 30) another Pride rally in Istanbul ended with tear gas and rubber bullets.
This current political climate makes Bomonti’s decision to embrace LGBT+ rights particularly significant — and while the commercialisation of Pride may be common in other countries, the Turkish LGBT+ community couldn’t be happier to see the beer brand following suit.
@zekibaskaya said, “I’m shocked! but really excellent idea,” @logolepsi said, “You’ve made us even more happy with rainbow marketing,” and @benimadimsencer said: “We’re so happy, so excited. For the first time in Turkey, a brand is investing in Pride and standing behind us like a door.”
Amazon has removed books by a ‘gay cure’ conversion therapy author.
Joseph Nicolosi penned a book that spread the dangerous and harmful practice of attempting to ‘cure’ a person’s sexual or gender identity.
He was the co-founder of the National Association of Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and a prominent leader in the ex-gay movement.
His book, A Parent’s Guide To Preventing Homosexuality, is one of the most well known ‘conversion therapy’ books.
But now, it has been removed from the UK and US versions of Amazon.
Rojo Alan, from Peterborough, wrote to Amazon several times to get the book removed from listings.
He previously went through conversion therapy himself as a young child.
Failing to get the right response, he engaged with others to leave negative reviews on the website. Quickly, the rating fell from four stars to two stars.
‘I looked into the “rules of publishing” on Amazon, to see what sort of things they allow and don’t allow,’ he said.
‘Once I wrapped my head around that I started to look into the laws of conversion therapy. The legal side of things.
‘Once I gathered everything I went back to Amazon and I threw all the information I had at them in several conversations. Yet I was given the same “we will refer this to the relevant team”. Again it felt hopeless and I wasn’t too sure what else I could do.’
But, sure enough, Amazon removed all of the English language books by Nicolosi. It took Alan three months from the first email to removing the books.
‘These books were “how to” books,’ Alan told Gay Star News, also describing it as a ‘huge step in the right direction’.
‘These were books that were lying to parents on how they could cure their children from being gay or trans. It’s lying because it’s actually just a form of abuse.
‘The books went into ways in which you can mentally and physically abuse your child.
‘If this helps anyone from being harmed, that would be a good reason to do it.’
He was previously quoted in a documentary: ‘Everyone is heterosexual.’
‘The idea that some people are naturally homosexual, or naturally gay, is just a social construct.’
He also said: ‘So when you have individuals with same-sex attraction, we it as something went wrong developmentally and we try to resolve the issue and put them back on the path toward their natural heterosexuality.’
The World Psychiatric Association has condemned so-called ‘gay cure’ conversion therapy.
The group said they consider sexual orientation to be ‘innate’. They also said it is determined by ‘biological, psychological, developmental and social factors’.
‘WPA believes strongly in evidence-based treatment,’ they also said.
‘There is no sound scientific evidence that innate sexual orientation can be changed.
‘Furthermore, so-called treatments of homosexuality can create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish, and they can be potentially harmful … The provision of any intervention purporting to “treat” something that is not a disorder is wholly unethical.’
As the U.S. — and many other parts of the world — celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall uprising, rainbow flags and LGBTQ-inclusive ad campaigns appear to be omnipresent, especially in big cities. The ubiquity of these Pride campaigns make it easy to forget that this was not always the case. While many point to corporate America’s embrace of LGBTQ inclusivity as a major sign of progress, others believe corporations are coopting the movement.
Advertisements geared toward gay and lesbian consumers began to appear in earnest in the 1970s, inspired in part by the energy of the Stonewall uprising, which is widely considered the spark that fueled the modern LGBTQ movement.
So-called “sin” products, like alcohol and tobacco, were the first marketed to gays. These companies had little or nothing to lose from a potential boycott by the religious right, according to Katherine Sender, a communications professor at Cornell University and author of “Business, Not Politics: The Making of the Gay Market.”
“Now, getting a gay boycott is a much worse thing than getting a boycott from the religious right.”
PROFESSOR KATHERINE SENDER
Absolut vodka was the first brand to build itself with an eye toward the gay market, featuring full-page ads in gay outlets, such as The Advocate. Other alcohol brands like Boodles Gin ran ads in gay publications, but most ad revenue came from local gay bars and businesses.
However, with the exception of Absolut, much of the advertising aimed explicitly at gays came to a halt in the 1980s because of the HIV/AIDS crisis and the stigma surrounding the disease.
Things changed in the 1990s. Marketing surveys, namely the 1988 Simmons Market and the 1990 Overlooked Opinions survey, presented an image of gays and lesbians as an affluent, untapped market. Marketers estimated the total annual income of the gay community at over $500 billion. The surveys, however, were not representative and helped to start what researchers have since described as the “myth of gay affluence.”
In 1994, Ikea launched the first television ad to feature a gay couple. In the commercial, the two men tease each other about their taste in furniture.
“I remember it extremely well, because it was radical,” said Bob Witeck, president of Witeck Communications, a firm specializing in LGBTQ marketing. The couple “behaved in every sense like a married couple, and it was radical because it was normal and natural,” he said.
Not everyone loved the ad. In fact, the backlash was swift and strong. The American Family Association staged a boycott, and an Ikea store in New York received a bomb threat.
That same year, AT&T launched a direct-marketing mail campaign, making them the first US phone company to openly target lesbian and gay customers (MCI ran an earlier campaign, but used suggestive statements and imagery rather than a direct appeal).
“They got a big pushback from the religious right,” Sender said.
Companies remained more focused on gay men, though a notable exception was Subaru. In the late ‘90s, Subaru undertook a very successful lesbian-focused marketing campaign after research revealed its sturdy, practical cars appealed to this demographic. “It’s not a choice, it’s the way we’re built,” a 2000 print ad boasted.
This new interest in the “pink dollar” coincided with a massive increase in gay and lesbian visibility in the media. Ellen came out on TV in 1997, which Sender called “a massive deal.” Shows like “The L Word,” “Queer as Folk” and “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” ushered images and information about gays and lesbians into homes across the country.
Despite the increased visibility and a number of successful ad campaigns, even into the early 2000s mainstream companies still risked a backlash for gay and lesbian inclusivity, according to Sender. Many companies were still afraid to be labeled as selling a “gay product.” Representation of transgender people was almost always negative, relying on transphobic tropes of deceit or mistaken identity, according to Sender’s research.
FROM THE GAY MARKET TO THE LGBTQ MARKET
Rich Ferraro, chief communications officer at GLAAD, a national LGBTQ media advocacy organization, has been consulting on LGBTQ images in advertising since 2008. He sees a very different media landscape today.
“The backlash that once occurred if a brand had LGBTQ marketing campaigns is no longer,” Ferraro wrote in an email. “For instance, fringe organizations like Family Research Council, National Organization for Marriage and One Million Moms would start petitions (which never really reached large numbers), but now they do not.”
Sender agreed, saying, “Now, getting a gay boycott is a much worse thing than getting a boycott from the religious right.”
More and more companies are engaging in LGBTQ-inclusive advertising, Ferraro said. “Categories have exploded — spirits and travel were typically leaders in LGBTQ-inclusive campaigns, but now it’s retail, cars, banking and financial services, food and beverages, youth-oriented brands,” he explained.
Witeck said “there is probably no more efficient way to say we are a contemporary brand” than to make your ad campaigns LGBTQ-inclusive.
For legacy brands, like Coca Cola, they must always be refreshed and made relevant, Witeck added. “LGBTQ marketing is an effective way to say, ‘We get it. We look and talk and act like we are in the 21st century.’”
However, Sender said that LGBTQ consumers are not only looking for inclusion in campaigns, but are holding companies accountable in their employment and production practices.
“Now, people are asking more questions, particularly around transgender polices and health care,” she said.
“What constitutes the responsibility of the advertising companies is expanding in ways that are really quite powerful,” Sender added, noting that consumers are asking questions like, “Are they buying products or services or in countries that have extremely bad policies and legal enforcement around LGBTQ people?”
Because of their resources, companies are also in a position to exert powerful political influence if they want to. Witeck mentioned the corporate boycotts of North Carolina after the passage of HB2 (the so-called “bathroom bill) that helped to precipitate its repeal and major companies’ outspoken support for transgender equality.
“Traditionally, one or two campaigns are inclusive of transgender people, now it is a norm,” Ferraro said.
Kristin Comeforo, associate professor of communications at Hartford College, worries that advertisers often take a “check-the-box approach” to the inclusion of gender and racial diversity, rather than a genuine engagement with intersectional experiences.
She also worries that corporate sponsorship can silence the voices of LGBTQ people who face intersectional marginalization.
Sender agreed, noting that “the 50th anniversary of Stonewall is such a big deal everyone wants a piece of that.” As a result, she added, Pride marches have become “a party for everybody.”
“What gets left behind are the very real struggles of LGBTQ people in this country — trans people in particular and people of color facing multiple layers of discrimination,” she added. “This ‘party’ suggests that being gay is just an excuse to have a lovely time, but there is still a long way to go.”
‘We are working with partners to create a product, as well as a sensitive and private process free of personal questions, that will allow for true names, not deadnames, to appear on cards without the requirement of a legal name change,’ the statement says.
‘This will ease a major pain point for the transgender and non-binary community.
‘For many in the LGBTQIA+ community, the name on their credit, debit or prepaid card does not reflect their true identity.’ the statement adds.
‘As a result, for the transgender and non-binary communities in particular, the card in their pocket can serve as a source of sensitivity, misrepresenting their true identity when shopping and going about daily life.’
The move’s announcement was accompanied by a video. The video shows trans and non-binary people discussing the difficulties they experienced while using credit cards with their birth names.
People in the video describe having ‘moments of anxiety and moments of panic’ when handing over their payment cards.
‘It puts me in a place where I feel like I’m in danger,’ one of the participants says.
At the end of the video, the participants are given payment cards which have their chosen names.
Businesses making changes
Numerous businesses have begun making changes or expressing support for the trans community.
In an about-face, YouTube announced it would start removing channels promoting extreme views. This included reversing a decision about right-wing commentator Steven Crowder.
The video platform has recently received a slew of criticism for its handling of the Crowder situation.
It all began when YouTube announced an investigation into Crowder after journalist Carlos Maza claimed Crowder was targeting him with racist and homophobic harassment.
A few days later, YouTube said Crowder’s videos did not violate its harassment policies.
All of that changed on Wednesday (5 June) with a new policy change from the company.
YouTube bans extremism
The company said in a blog post it would be banning video ‘alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status’.
‘This would include, for example, videos that promote or glorify Nazi ideology, which is inherently discriminatory,’ the post continued.
‘Finally, we will remove content denying that well-documented violent events, like the Holocaust or the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, took place.’
While they did not name any specific channels, numerous right-wing people reportedly began complaining their videos had been deleted, according to the New York Times.
Crowder was one of the casualties of this policy change.
YouTube updated its Twitter thread about Crowder, writing its management decided to suspend the channel’s monetization.
‘We came to this decision because a pattern of egregious actions has harmed the broader community and is against our YouTube Partner Program policies,’ the company wrote.
Google employees unhappy
YouTube is a subsidiary of Google, and employees of the parent company are reportedly pushing back against YouTube’s whisplashing decisions.
‘Not everyone will agree with the calls we make — some will say we haven’t done enough; others will say we’ve gone too far,’ YouTube said in an expanded statementon Crowder.
‘In the subsequent days, we saw the widespread harm to the YouTube community resulting from the ongoing pattern of egregious behavior, took a deeper look, and made the decision to suspend monetization,’ it said.
‘In order to be considered for reinstatement, all relevant issues with the channel need to be addressed, including any videos that violate our policies, as well as things like offensive merchandise.’
Despite the reversal, Google employees are starting to use the hashtag #NoPrideInYT on Twitter.
Sources told BuzzFeed News a petition began circulating within Google ‘demanding that management remove pride branding from its public social media accounts’. Employees reportedly find the Pride branding — things like rainbow logos — hypocritical in the face of YouTube’s handling of Crowder.
Escalating the fight over Chick-fil-A’s religious rights, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued San Antonio on Monday as part of his investigation into the city’s decision to reject the chicken chain as an airport vendor.
The lawsuit, filed in state district court in Travis County, seeks a court order requiring San Antonio to turn over emails and other internal communications in which council members and city employees discussed the Chick-fil-A contract with each other and outsiders.
On Monday, Paxton repeated allegations that San Antonio politicians had engaged in religious discrimination, adding that Chick-fil-A’s leaders are “well-known for their personal belief in the Christian faith and traditional understanding of marriage.”
Last month both chambers of the Texas legislature passed the so-called “Save Chick-Fil-A” bill which would ban local governments from taking “any adverse action” against businesses based on their support for a religious group. Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign the bill. Also last month the Trump administration’s FAA opened its own probe.
‘Since I started working at Vox,’ Maza wrote, ‘Steven Crowder has been making video after video “debunking” Strikethrough.
‘Every single video has included repeated, overt attacks on my sexual orientation and ethnicity.
‘I’ve been called an anchor baby, a lispy queer, a Mexican, etc. These videos get millions of views on YouTube.
‘Every time one gets posted, I wake up to a wall of homophobic/racist abuse on Instagram and Twitter.’
Moreover, Mazos compiled an extensive report cataloguing Crowder’s actions, including a compilation video, and the times he had red flagged it to YouTube. Crowder, who has over three million subscribers, is also behind the ‘socialism for fags’ t-shirts.
‘Videos […] posted don’t violate our policies’
The pressure piled online, spurring YouTube to issue a public statement on Twitter.
YouTube said: ‘Thanks again for taking the time to share all of this information with us. We take allegations of harassment very seriously–we know this is important and impacts a lot of people.
‘Our teams spent the last few days conducting an in-depth review of the videos flagged to us, and while we found language that was clearly hurtful, the videos as posted don’t violate our policies.’
However, YouTube’s harassment an cyberbullying policy explicitly bars ‘content that makes hurtful and negative comments/videos about another person.’
In addition, the twitter account added: ‘As an open platform, it’s crucial for us to allow everyone–from creators to journalists to late-night TV hosts–to express their opinions w/in the scope of our policies.
‘Opinions can be deeply offensive, but if they don’t violate our policies, they’ll remain on our site.’
Harassment is ‘never ok’
Furthermore, a Google spokesperson gave Gay Star News background behind the investigation.
They explained that, in the videos flagged by Maza, ‘Crowder has not instructed his viewers to harass Maza on YouTube or any other platform and the main point of these videos was not to harass or threaten, but rather to respond to the opinion.’
But while the company did not directly comment on Crowder or his followers’ activity, they did express that ‘certain behavior,’ such as ‘doxxing’ and ‘encouraging viewers to harass,’ is ‘never ok.’
Carlos Maza slams YouTube
Following the investigation, Mazos hit out at the site.
He said: ‘I don’t know what to say. YouTube has decided not to punish Crowder, after he spent two years harassing me for being gay and Latino.