you attended the Vancouver Pride Parade this August like I did you might have noticed a number of t-shirts in the crowd that read, “Gay For A Day.” On the surface, these t-shirts might seem like a gesture of support for the LGBTQ community. But when we stop to think… and I promise it will only take a second… we realize that this message falls horribly, horribly, short of any intended compassion.
Firstly, suggesting that yourself, or anyone, gets to choose to be gay for any arbitrary amount of time erases the truth that many of us (and arguably most of us?) don’t choose our sexuality. Not to mention, it certainly isn’t a temporary commitment. I saw another person at the parade wearing a shirt that said, “Gay For Another Day” and, I think, this is exactly the point. The stigma that non-heterosexual people face is something that can negatively affect every day of their lives. To reduce this struggle to one day is, frankly, offensive.
Secondly, and maybe it’s just me, but pledging support for the LGBTQ community for a day leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Especially when this one day happens to be the day of the Pride Parade, a day when, for so many of us, “supporting the LGBTQ community” means “supporting the bars and restaurants on Davie Street,” the message of the “Gay For A Day” t-shirts seems a little inauthentic.
I was interested in writing about the “Gay For A Day” t-shirts because I wanted to write about good intentions gone wrong. The “TOMS phenomenon” is an example of exactly that. Lots of people buy TOMS out of the goodness of their hearts – sending shoes to kids who might not have any seems like a genuine effort to be socially conscious. But, we now have lots of evidence now to suggest that TOMS’ presence in communities around the world has had a negative effect on the economic well-being of local industry.
I decided to look into the background behind the “Gay For A Day” t-shirts to learn a little more about the intentions that lead to their creation. The shirts are made by a group called G-Fad who wanted to help “create more understanding and awareness about the gay community.” Consequently, the group decided to make “gay friendly promotional kits that could help bring people together for a united cause.” What’s in these promotional kits? The t-shirt, LED sunglasses,“Mardi Gras” beads, a whistle and a rainbow flag.
Right. So. I’m not exactly sure how spending $20 dollars on kits that buy into and reinforce stereotypes can help to support the LGBTQ community, but maybe I’m just missing something… The website did seem to suggest that G-Fad supports LGBTQ youth groups in awareness campaigns, but the information about this was extremely vague and did nothing to outline G-Fad’s actually commitment to the cause.
So where do we go from here? From TOMS to the “Gay For A Day” t-shirts, the examples of well-intentioned consumers buying into social-responsibility-gone-wrong are ample. Thinking more about our consumption choices, and trying to chose more responsibly, has always been something that I’ve supported. But what happens when these “good choices” end up doing more harm than good? For this, I don’t have an answer. But, next year, when the Pride Parade comes around, think about the types of products that are being marketed in anticipation of the parade and ask yourself, “will this help me to be a better ally? Or will this reinforce heterosexist myths and buy into demeaning stereotypes?” And remember, supporting, celebrating, and listening to the voices of the LGBTQ community shouldn’t be a one day commitment. It should be a mind-set that non-LGBTQ folk carry with them every day. 365 days a year.
By: Caity Goerke – WAVAW Volunteer