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December 8, 2006
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Volume 34
Issue 49
 
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Lesbian Notions by Libby Post
Shopping Gays
by Libby Post - SGN Contributing Writer

It's the week before Christmas and all through my house,
Five cats are chasing a terrorized mouse.
No shopping's been done as I pull out my hair,
Hoping someone else would purchase my holiday fare.

No such luck.

My partner Lynn will do a lot for me, but she draws the line at purchasing her own Christmas presents. I really don't blame her. But after 11-and-a-half years together and endless jewelry purchases (my favorite fallback), I'm at a bit of a loss.

Last year, we bought each other really good winter boots from Lands' End. That purchase comes in second to my all-time favorite joint present - a pair of air conditioners for our 10th anniversary, which happened to fall in the middle of the summer of 2005's heat wave here in the Northeast. The boots were practical, but the air conditioners certainly had an air (no pun intended) of romance to them - one went into our bedroom!

Whether you're in the same boat or have all your shopping done (and we all know that some of us are never done shopping), I think it's about time that we, as a community, directed our holiday spending in a pro-gay kind of way.

Doing this just got a bit easier with the Human Rights Campaign's "Buying Guide for Equality 2007." Not sure if you should buy a DVD player for your boyfriend from Radio Shack, Circuit City, or Best Buy? Choose the yellow and blue of Best Buy - they have a 100 percent rating on HRC's Corporate Equality Index (CEI). Circuit City only has a 55, and Radio Shack is close to the bottom of the barrel with a 40.

If you're not familiar with the CEI, you can go to HRC's website (www.hrc.org) for lots of information. Suffice it to say, every year the nation's largest LGBT organization surveys corporate America to see how well companies treat lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees, consumers, and investors. In 2006, HRC looked at more than 1,500 companies with 500 employees or more, of which 138 earned a perfect score.

Fortune Magazine, in a multiple-page story called "Queer Inc.," noted that June 2006 marked the first time that over half of the Fortune 500 companies - 263, if you want to precise - provided health insurance benefits to their employees' domestic partners, compared to 28 companies in 1996.

"Along with health benefits for their families, many workers also get bereavement leave when their same-sex partner dies, adoption assistance or paid leave if they have children, and relocation assistance for their partners if they are transferred. Put another way, gay marriage - an idea that has been banned by all but one of 27 states that have voted on it - has become a fact of life inside many big companies," wrote Marc Gunther, the article's author.

In my book, these companies need to be rewarded with gay dollars - perhaps it's time to get that old "Gay Money" rubber stamp out of mothballs and mark your greenbacks. If you charge everything, use the Rainbow Card or another LGBT affinity card. The bottom line is we need to send a clear message to the companies that support us that we support them.

We need to counter the constant boycott threats of the radical Christian right. When Wal-Mart announced it was expanding its LGBT diversity program by partnering with the National Lesbian and Gay Chamber of Commerce, the right got its knickers in a major twist. The American Family Association (AFA) called on its members not to shop there on Black Friday, and the Missouri Baptist Convention threatened an all-out boycott.

If not for Wal-Mart, AFA's demographic would have very few holiday shopping options, so the group claimed victory when the retailer said it would only support specific LGBT workplace equality initiatives and would not give unrestricted gifts to the Chamber or any other LGBT organizations. I just can't see Mr. and Mrs. Christian Right shopping at Target, can you?

Although they might be heartened to know that despite Target's gay ad aesthetic, the company only received an 80 percent on the CEI - clearly there's always room for improvement.

Other companies earning 100 percent on the CEI include include Sears and Walgreens. Interested in specific brands that garnered 100 percent? How about Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft Foods, Clorox, PepsiCo, and even Coors? Looking for home and garden products? DuPont, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams (who's surprised at that one?), Owens Corning, Replacements Ltd., and Whirlpool all received the top rating.

It's the week before Christmas and I better get to the store. My gift list is now growing for Lynn, the cats, Bailey our golden retriever, and many, many more!

Libby Post is the founding chair of the Empire State Pride Agenda and a political commentator on public radio, on the Web, and in print media. She can be reached care of this publication or at LesbianNotions@qsyndicate.com.

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