Where Do You Draw the Line With Anti-LGBT Businesses?

01/10/2017 06:37 pm ET Updated Jan 16, 2017

A recent controversy surrounding the seemingly lovely Chip and Jo from HGTV's Fixer Upper has caused a rift among even the most progressive and LGBT people.  Like many queer people, it's very obvious to me when our tribe is missing from the equation. We're accustomed to seeing every commercial or book or TV show hetero focused, but it still doesn't dull the sting to be invisible in the media we're consuming. Yes, content has gotten wildly more inclusive than it was when I was a teenager coming out (there was nothing then), but in some ways that makes the gaps even starker. I love HGTV. I've been pleased to see same-sex couples on Property Brothers, Tiny House Nation and other shows. I've also noticed that there haven't been any on Chip and Jo's show, Fixer Upper. I didn't peg them for homophobes; I simply took note. But it also wasn't surprising when BuzzFeed broke the news that the couple attend a church that allegedly is hostile to LGBT people.  I admit I didn't do the research. I took the news for face value. They live in Texas, the most hostile state for LGBT people, and haven't renovated any of their lovely homes for same-sex families. It was enough for me to decide not to land on their show when channel flipping, something that made me sad because I had enjoyed watching their panache more than any other. But I wasn't about to support something that my conscience told me not to, even if I wasn’t entirely sure. Then Chip and Jo put out a statement that's been met with largely positive reception. They said they want to love everyone and "agree to disagree." It was license enough for many to return to them with open arms, or to condemn critiques of the note as assumptions. Even LGBT friends and staunch supporters happily returned to their regularly scheduled programming. But the statement didn't say they were supportive of LGBT people, and it didn't say that the church they attend is inclusive. And because of that, I can't being myself to embrace them, or any business or individual or public figure who wordsmith’s my right to live freely and equally. We have power as consumers. In fact, in many cases, our wallets are the only voice we have. If I tune in to watch and support and promote a show whose hosts then give the money they earned from the show to an institution that makes an individual or minority group feel unworthy, illegitimate, even suicidal, then I'm complicit.  It's the same reason I won't eat at Chick-fil-A or buy from Home Depot. Do all Chick-fil-A owners donate to anti-LGBT causes? Not necessarily. But some do. And I’d rather just take my chicken business elsewhere rather than risk giving my dollars over to an entity that might use them to hurt those most vulnerable.  In a recent parallel moment, the Salvation Army put out a cute little statement after years of overt anti-LGBT rhetoric supposedly clarifying that non-discrimination is written into their bylaws. It was enough for some to drop coins in their red buckets this year and abandon their longstanding belief that the organization has treated LGBT people with the utmost disrespect and disregard. But when I dug a little deeper, I realized the statement was just a superficial attempt to sway public opinion without any meat to back it up. They weren't apologizing for a history of discrimination against LGBT people; they weren't pledging to change their ways; and in fact, there were recent accounts that indicated they were continuing to marginalize.  I'd rather air on the side of caution until proven otherwise. I respect that others may draw their lines somewhere else. It is entirely possible that Chip and Jo are gay-loving pals but until that's clear, until all companies with murky rumors clarify their policies and positions in plain and honest language without wordplay, I'm going to draw my line in the sand and stand firm. It’s worth it to me to make a conservative decision in order to err on the side of not supporting an entity that doesn’t respect diversity.

I’m thinking about the isolated gay teenager in small-town Texas whose church turned him away and whose neighbors say things like “we love the sinner, but the hate the sin” and drive him to suicide. I’ll sleep better knowing my dollars didn’t go to support that veneer of hate masked as “love” and “tolerance.” Where do you draw your line?

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