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Cheryl Dumesnil, “Old (Sort of, Kind of, Almost Gay) Navy”

Happy Pride Month! One of our very own Supergays, medications writer and poet Cheryl Dumesnil contributed this article to Out & Around. Cheryl’s also shared with us The C Word and “I’ve Been Married Three Times.” We love her writing about the crossroads of parenthood, clinic lesbians and suburbia.

In civil rights movements, pill change happens slowly. Sometimes maddeningly slowly. (Yes, I am speaking to you, Proposition 8 trial.) But while we wait (and work) for laws to change, signs of progress pop up in unexpected places. Like the “Parent 1” and “Parent 2” options that appeared on my child’s school enrollment form. Like seeing a Google ad featuring the It Gets Better project, running on prime time, network television. (And it wasn’t even Pride Month! And the show wasn’t even Glee!) Or like the recent announcement, which spread virally over the rainbow-hued web, that Old Navy would become the first major retailer to produce gay pride t-shirts. Even better: the proceeds from said t-shirts will benefit It Gets Better. How rad is that?

Commence suburban lesbo mama fantasizing: I haul my two kiddos to the local “Old Navvy” (a mispronunciation coined by our early reader years ago), and there, amongst the racks of Fourth of July novelty tees we find the Pride shirts. Then I get all ceremonial and share with our junior activists the importance of this moment in retail history. I take a few snapshots of the kiddos posing next to the shirt racks. Then we buy a tee for each member of our family (because, of course, in my fantasy O.N. has printed adult and kid sizes), including our pets (because they have dog and cat sizes, too). Go, Navvy! Thanks for bringing pride to my humble ‘burb.

Except I just found out that they haven’t actually brought pride to my ‘burb. They have stocked exactly 26 of their 1000+ stores with the Pride t’s, and ours ain’t one of ‘em.

Fantasy squelched. At least I can order the shirts online, right? Didn’t I read that in the blogosphere? So I log on to Ye Ole Navy Internet Shoppe, type the word “pride” in the search box, hit the enter key, and I get . . . flip flops.  Huh. I key in “it gets better,” and up come a cool pair of suede sneakers. Hmm. I enter the word “gay,” and here we go with twelve different heather gray t-shirts, nary a rainbow silkscreen amongst them. What the . . .

Okay. So. Apparently this whole Old Gay Navy thing is not as ballsy (or ovaries-y) as I had hoped it would be. I had thought this was a sign of change, of pride going mainstream. Old Navy had billed it as such (well, Old Navy had announced it to the blogosphere, and they had billed it as such). But the fine print at the bottom of what I now recognize (duh) as a marketing-campaign-dressed-up-in-civil-rights-clothing reads: Old Navy Pride available only in participating stores, located in famously gay-friendly cities, and rendered invisible on that great equalizer, Ye Ole Internet Shoppe. Gay kids in South Dakota need not apply.

In other words, not so rad (which, if I remember my 1980s slang correctly, stands for radical). If their marketing campaign drums up a few bucks for It Gets Better, cool. But I’m no longer proud of Old Navy, no more than I was proud of Budweiser for adding rainbow trim to those flags they hang up at bars. Thanks for the nod, guys, but the beer still tastes cheap.

Wow. Bitter, much?

[Spouse’s note: My wife Tracie thinks I am being too hard on Old Navy. A business owner herself, she says it doesn’t make good economic sense to stock all 1000+ stores with Pride shirts that might not sell. True enough. But why not make the shirts visible and available online? Is there a good business reason for that choice, or is it good old fashioned fear of backlash? Please discuss.]

What surprises me more than Old Navy’s partial pride is the fact that I actually bought into it. Hook. Line. Sinker. Shouldn’t I know better by now?

Sometimes change happens, um . . . what’s the word for “two steps forward one step back-ly”? I already know this. I’m used to the dance. We get partial progress all the time:

DADT is defunct! (Insert call for celebration rally at Market and Castro.) But not yet, so don’t go taping pictures of your lover on your footlocker.

The U.S. Department of Justice won’t defend DOMA! (Insert call for celebration rally at Market and Castro.) But they can’t wipe the unconstitutional law off the books. Yet. Maybe later.

U.S. District Judge Walker ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional! (Insert call for celebration rally at Market and Castro.) But hold up, newlywed wannabes—we’ve got years to go before you can actually seal those legal vows with a kiss.

Sigh.

Living in the crosshairs of a civil rights movement means learning to manage expectations and disappointments, hopes and fears, excitements and frustrations. We all do this in our own ways. These days, I respond to prospects for change with protective caution. Working in the movement, I set my intentions, I take action, and all the while I practice releasing expectations, releasing attachment to outcome, knowing anything can happen when you’re working for change—from the stunning disappointments to the awe-inspiring celebrations. As my kids say, “You never know, Mommy.” That’s right, kiddos. You never know.

Here’s what I do know: even in my “protective caution” mode I am still prone to (what are apparently unreasonable) fantasies, like that Old Navy is really spreading pride (or at least Pride gear) to new sectors of our nation. But this fantasizing is not necessarily a bad thing. It helps us visualize what can happen, what should happen, what will happen eventually when we focus on creating positive change.

Try it. For a moment, visualize that soldier pasting her girlfriend’s photo on her footlocker. Visualize those wannabe newlyweds signing their names on that marriage license. See that gay kid in South Dakota, who not only shops at Old Navy but now enjoys discrimination-free employment there, hanging Pride t-shirts next to the Fourth of July t-shirts in his hometown’s Old Navy. (Insert your own change-related fantasies here: _____________.) Feels good, doesn’t it?

Okay. Now let’s get to work. Let’s make it happen.

* * *

Update: In response to my “Where are the Pride shirts?” email (yes, I did that), Old Navy’s online customer service sent this response: “Thank you for your inquiry regarding the Pride T-Shirt. We’re sorry this item is not currently available at oldnavy.com, but we were able to locate it for you at the stores below. You can use your credit card to place an order from any of these stores and have the product shipped directly to your home. Please note there is a $6.00 shipping charge when shipping an item from a store to your home.”

California

Beverly Connection 100 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, CA (310) 854-0706
Fashion Valley 7007 Friars Rd, San Diego, CA (619) 299-4329
4th and Market  801 Market Street, San Francisco, CA (415) 344-0376
Florida
Florida Mall 8001 S Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL (407) 812-7258
Coral Ridge S/C 3200 North Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, FL (954) 566-8154

Georgia
Buckhead Station 1 Buckhead Loop, Atlanta, GA (404) 467-0604

Hawaii
Ala Moana 1450 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu, HI (808) 951-9938

Illinois
North and Kingsbury 1596 N Kingsbury St., Chicago, IL, (312) 397-0624
State Street / Washington 35 N State St., Chicago, IL, (312) 551-0523

Massachussetts
Cambridgeside 100 Cambridgeside Place, Cambridge, MA (617) 577-0073

Minnesota
Mall of America 138 E Broadway, Bloomington, MN (952) 854-0096
The Quarry 1620 New Brighton Blvd., Minneapolis, MN (612) 788-6491

Nevada
Turnberry Town Square 6587 Las Vegas Blvd., S, #8-169, Las Vegas, NV (702) 361-0135

New York
Huntington 839-114 New York Ave., Huntington, NY (631) 351-1854
18th & 6th Avenue, 610 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY (212) 645-0885
Herald Square – 34th St. 144-150 W 34th St., New York, NY (212) 594-0115
Broadway 503 Broadway, New York, NY (212) 226-0865

Ohio
Lennox Center 1731 Olentangy River Rd., Columbus, OH (614) 298-8953

Oregon
Lloyd Center 1028 Lloyd Center, Portland OR (503) 287-6040

Pennsylvania
Gallery II 1001 Market St., Philadelphia, PA 19107 (215) 413-7013

Texas
Barton Creek 2901 S Capital of Texas Hwy., Austin, TX (512) 328-0959
Dallas Galleria 13350 Dallas Pkwy, Dallas TX (972) 776-4770

Virginia
Tysons Corner 1961 Chain Bridge Road, McLean, VA (703) 356-0894

Washington
5th and Pine 511 Pine St., Seattle, WA 98101 (206) 623-3983

Wisconsin
Madison East Town 2348 E Springs Dr., Madison, WI (608) 240-1702

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2 Responses

  1. Cheryl!!!

    This is a fantastic article. Funny, informative and now I WANT a gay pride t-shirt. They are really cute.

    xxoo
    Swathi

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