Across the country, LGBT+ advocates are voicing their concern at ‘Allies’ being included in American Apparel’s pride totes. American Apparel have responded to the controversy, and their statement doesn’t provide a clear resolution.
American Apparel’s pride line started off well with their excellent ‘Make America Gay Again’ line, a play on Donald Trump’s tagline, but sadly their second product, a tote carrying the definition of LGBTQA, has been met with great criticism. The tote defines LGBTQA as standing for Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer/Allies. However, around the world, activists have responded negatively to this product. Usually the ‘A’, when it is included, stands for asexual, aromantic, and sometimes agender, although some agender individuals prefer to be included under ‘T’. Replacing these identities with allies is indicative of a larger problem of perception of LGBT+ people.
Asexual and aromantic people often face erasure, both within and outside the LGBT+ community. This can involve the discrimination they face being minimized or disregarded. They often find themselves facing questions about whether their identity is real or if they’re just doing it for attention, much like other identities within the LGBT+ spectrum. To replace these identities with allies in the acronym is further erasure, not least because many LGBT+ people argue that allies should not be included in the acronym at all.
There is no doubt that allies have supported the LGBT+ movement, but they don’t face any discrimination for their identity. LGBT+ individuals find a sense of community with those who share their oppression and their identities, and for allies to be included in this can be hurtful, especially since allies may not always be an ally to everyone within the community, and nuance of some LGBT+ issues may be lost on them. While some allies provide fundamental, lifesaving support, such as those giving blood after the recent Orlando shooting while other members of the community were not able to, others may claim to be allies without any action in support of the LGBT+ community. That American Apparel failed to understand this before releasing their product suggests less than pure motives.
— American Apparel (@americanapparel) June 10, 2016
While this apology acknowledges the erasure, American Apparel does not acknowledge that including allies in the acronym is a fundamental mistake. Nor is the apology specific enough to the asexual, aromantic, and agender people who have been particularly hurt by this erasure, leaving many in the LGBT+ community dissatisfied by the response.
American Apparel have previously released other pro-LGBT+ merchandise, such as their “legalize gay” range when the battle for same-sex marriage still raged within the United States. While their consistent efforts in support are admirable, questions must be asked about their dedication to the LGBT+ movement when they’re not doing the research required. Is it possible that American Apparel are just trying to exploit an activist movement?