Just in time for LGBTQ Pride Month (and Pride celebrations across the country), American Apparel has released a new collection entitled “Make America Gay Again!” which features some rainbow American flag tanks, a tote bag, and a fun and flirty take on Donald Trump’s unmistakable “Make America Great Again” hat.
American Apparel launched the line yesterday, in partnership with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the Ally Coalition, an organization started by designer Rachel Antonoff and her brother Jack Antonoff (the music dude who’s dating Lena Dunham), both of whom are straight.
“During a year where LGBTQ rights are being threatened all over the states, everyone is responsible for coming together and challenging these injustices," Jack Antonoff said, according to an HRC press release. "I’m proud that The Ally Coalition is joining with American Apparel and The Human Rights Campaign to #MakeAmericaGayAgain.”
Quick sidebar here: That's an interesting choice of name for the campaign. To "Make America Gay Again" harkens back to a time that doesn't really exist, at least as far as mainstream acknowledgement of non-heteronormative identity goes. As my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore noted, a corporation selling gay shirts is evidence that America is "gayer than it's ever been." (This, of course, parallels how the bygone America that Trump pines for was never really that great to begin with.)
Anyway, good on the Antonoff siblings for using their platforms to stand up for their fellow countrypeople and everything. But honestly, it looks like American Apparel really Macklemored themselves on this one. They've invited two straight (and white) people to speak for a cause that doesn’t directly apply to them.
But first, some details on the campaign: 30% of American Apparel sales (and 100% of sales from the HRC’s shop) will be put towards efforts to pass the Equality Act, which, as described by the HRC, “establishes explicit, permanent protections against discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity in matters of employment, housing, access to public places, federal funding, credit, education and jury service.” Great!
The campaign will also produce videos of personal stories from various LGBTQ people and allies, using either or both the hashtags #MakeAmericaGayAgain and #MakeAmericaLGBTQAgain. Cool!
It will also feature in-store events and a Pandora mixtape made by Jack Antonoff. Umm, k!
American Apparel has consistently remained committed to the gay rights movement in the U.S. In 2008, they launched their Legalize Gay collection in response to California’s Proposition 8. The company scored 100 on the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index for LGBTQ employees. AA also has a history of championing immigrant rights with their Legalize LA T-shirt campaign, also from 2008. With that in mind, a collection that advocates for gay rights while simultaneously undermining Donald Trump’s xenophobic and straight-up nonsensical anti-immigration stance couldn't be more in their wheelhouse. (Also, probably a great PR move for a company that’s been hustling to improve their public image since the firing of CEO Dov Charney, the platonic ideal of a creepy uncle, in late 2014.) But they missed the mark on this one.
I would love to see celebrities who actually identify as L, G, B, T, and/or Q as the voice of a campaign like this—and not in an unpaid, crowdsourced video kind of way, either. The intention is great, blah blah blah, I get it. But this is yet another instance of allies conflating showing support with dominating the conversation. How are you going to mix Trump and gay rights and NOT highlight a Latinx spokesperson?!
It’s a great cause, but it’s still just a cause for straight people. Why can’t we let people who are LGBTQ speak for themselves (with the support of their allies!) instead of looking through the rainbow-tinted glasses of straight people?