“But They’re Good to Gay People”

By TJ Acena, PQ Monthly

The holiday season means consumers are shopping for gifts and, based on all the emails I’m getting, non-profits are making one last push for tax-deductible donations. As a gay person I want to make sure that the money I spend/give doesn’t support companies/organizations that treat gay people terribly, but: How do I know? I don’t want to be a gay Benedict Arnold. Thankfully, I recently stumbled across an article on the Advocate entitled Holiday Guide: Shop Here, Not There, where similar businesses are compared on their stance on gay rights. For example: It recommended shopping at Starbucks instead of Chick-fil-A, perhaps also because getting someone a chicken sandwich for Christmas is a terrible idea.

But treating LGBTQ people as actual human beings doesn’t make a company “good.” For example, the guide rates Chevron way over ExonnMobile, and rightly so; but it’s worth remembering that the measure of a company is not just its track record with LGBTQ people.  Earlier this year Chevron sued a group of people in Ecuador who won a lawsuit against Chevron for pollution the company caused in their country that lead to cancer and deaths or local people.

I’ll just let you think about all the shitty things corporations do to people all over the world and get a little outraged (at them or at me for being so self-righteous).

It seems like a good solution would be to buy locally made goods, Portland is full of them, but maybe you don’t live in Portland. Or maybe it’s easier to buy things from a big box store because it’s nearby and you’re busy and money is a real thing and you can’t afford to buy all your friends handmade goods made from reclaimed materials that cost more than you spend on food for a month. We have to make choices. And they seem so small, but when thousands of thousands of people start making the same small choices the consequences of all those little actions have big consequences. And those consequences are worldwide.

The Advocate piece also reminds us of the problematic history of the Salvation Army and its stance towards homosexuality, because there are non-profits that are problematic for LGBTQ people. But it also seems that LGBTQ non-profits can be problematic for other people. In a piece on PolicyMic Hannah Kapp-Klote talks about an article on Gawker earlier this year by Steven W. Thrasher.

Thrasher highlights that many of the biggest donors to the Human Rights Campaign, the multi-million dollar nonprofit that receives the bulk of donations for LGBT issues, are drone manufacturers. These donors profit off of the United States’ use of drones to kill civilians, including children, with little oversight or accountability.

Has the HRC done some good things for gay people? Yes. Obviously we live in a very complex world and there are no easy answers, and buying someone a gift from Walmart isn’t going to destroy the world. But I like to think that another world is possible. Kapp-Klote really ties everything I’m talking about together.

Your thoughts? Weigh in below.

Note: The opinions herein reflect the views of TJ Acena, not necessarily PQ Monthly.

tjTJ Acena is a freelance writer and essayist living in Portland, OR. You can reach him through PQ Monthly at info@PQMonthly.com.