While trolling my Facebook news feed for announcements of exes' engagements and friends' first dates gone awry, my eyes skimmed over the words "gay celebrity" and "Salvation Army." Before I could even get to the ubiquitous announcement of an upcoming burlesque show (you all should come visit Cleveland!), I paused and thought, "Well, good! I do so like when the notable gays speak out against the anti-gay despots. Who was it? What'd he say?"
The celebrity in question was David Bromstad. As a pop culture aficionado, I was a little miffed that I didn't know the name. A quick search revealed that he's some designer on HGTV, a genre of programming in which I no longer indulge, as I'm still recovering from the firing of Paige Davis on Trading Spaces. (Her brief return in 2008 did nothing to assuage the pain.)
As the story goes, David will be hosting a charity event for the Salvation Army, a surprising move given the organization's notoriously anti-gay past. And by "notoriously anti-gay" I mean that it was barely a year ago that one of their press people publicly implied that the gays should be executed. Oh, and also, they only provide domestic partner benefits where required by law, allegedly fired a woman for coming out as bisexual, and reserve the right to make hiring decisions based on moral compatibility.
But no matter! Our intrepid HGTV designer defended his position by putting out a statement noting his status as a celebrity (do actual celebrities call themselves celebrities?) and stating, "I applaud the Salvation Army's symbolic handshake towards acceptance and would be foolish to not extend my hand in acceptance."
OK, David, let's do a minor reality check. Inviting a local "celebrity" to host a $110-per-ticket local event in which the celebrity's name gets top billing above the description of the event in an effort to sell tickets? Well, that's just sound fundraising. Unless the Salvation Army releases a statement linking the booking of Bromstad to a change in their policies, it isn't a handshake, it isn't an olive branch, and it certainly isn't anything near acceptance.
But fine, whatever, go host the event. My greater problem is with this sentence in his statement: "If we simply separate ourselves from those that we assume oppose us or our beliefs then we will never make strides in the right direction."
I urge my LGBT and ally brothers and sisters to use this line as a clarion call to do the complete opposite of what my designing pioneer of equality puts forth.
First, we absolutely should and must separate ourselves from those who oppose us. We shouldn't be giving them our business or our time. Do not get gas at Exxon. Ever. Do not sit your family down at Cracker Barrel. Never purchase a toy from Hasbro. Avoid Kohl's and AutoZone and Men's Wearhouse and BJ's and True Value.
Second, don't "assume" opposition. Actually find out. It's easy! All of the information above comes from the Corporate Equality Index published by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), where you can learn all about the practices of the top global companies. And if you don't see your shopping venue on the list, pick up the phone and actually ask the vendor some questions. Do they prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity? Do they offer benefits for same-sex partners? Is their health insurance trans-friendly? Do they boast efforts that engage with the external LGBT community? Once you have this info, make your purchasing decisions accordingly.
And finally, it is not "we" the gays who need to "make strides in the right direction" toward these organizations. If we actually spend our money only on the organizations that support the LGBT community, then they, the bad ones, will make strides in the right directions toward us. They want our money. And they don't get it if we spend it elsewhere. This then makes them change. Plus, throwing our money at pro-LGBT companies encourages the companies with pro-gay practices to keep on the same track. These are not complex concepts.
Let's please stop making it easier for these organizations and companies to continue their anti-gay practices. Instead, let's use our lavender color splash to inspire a complete purchasing makeover. (See what I did there, David Bromstad?)
Follow Ken Schneck, PhD on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ThisShowIsSoGay