Old Navy recently announced that they will carry a line of gay pride t-shirts for the month of June, bearing rainbow themes and slogans like "Love Proudly," and will donate 10% of the proceeds to the It Gets Better Project. Old Navy's popular, inexpensive clothing and 1,035 locations could have put these shirts and their message of equality in the hands, or at least the consciousness, of people across the United States. Instead, the shirts will only be available in 26 locations, and cannot be purchased online.
Old Navy could have used its broad appeal to give the LGBT community exposure and support of an unprecedented kind. Instead, Old Navy has chosen to treat Pride as a commodity, dabbling in it to see whether there is a "market" for equality. Facebook users on the store's event page are reporting disinterested form letter responses to their customer service emails, with Old Navy representatives suggesting that, if the line is a success, its availability may be expanded in future years.
Old Navy needs to know that, while the LGBT community appreciates their effort to promote equality, we will not be content with any bone we're thrown. Our identity is not something to be commodified, market tested and discarded if found unprofitable. Far from spreading love and equality, Old Navy's choice of stores is utterly predictable: big cities and blue states where the "gay market" is comfortably established. By not making the line available in every store, Old Navy is reinforcing the stereotype that gay people do not exist in small-town America, or if they do, it is not yet time for them to "Love Proudly."
Tell Old Navy: make Pride available in every store in all 50 states!