Over the past few years, the average errands trip has become much more colorful during the month of June. The aisles of Target are bedecked in rainbows of t-shirts, rompers, hats and other accessories bearing slogans like “love is love,” “equality wins” and “out and proud.” With more companies producing pride merchandise, it provides a multitude of great opportunities for dialogue, representation and visibility.
Mass-produced pride merchandise becoming readily accessible to LGBTQIA+ people is a wonderful thing, especially for kids who are beginning to navigate their sexuality and those who may not see that kind of representation frequently.
I personally went to a small school and remember my best friend beginning to question his gender and sexuality when we were in seventh grade. Awesome resources like the Trevor Project helped guide him through the incredibly raw and emotional process. His family was incredibly supportive of him and took him to his first pride festival in Des Moines, where he got his first piece of pride merchandise. It was a small thing, but it further cemented that this wasn’t something in his head — it was real.
Pride merchandise is also important because it increases the visibility of the community. It’s a lot more difficult to ignore the existence of a marginalized community when they’re wearing a shirt that says “Born this gay." Increasing visibility also increases dialogue and education. Seeing more people out and about, living their everyday lives, just as straight people do normalizes queerness. It also forces people who “don’t approve” to see that LGBTQIA+ people aren’t monsters but rather people just like them.
Seeing adults out in pride merchandise can be beneficial for kids of all ages and backgrounds. Kids are naturally the most understanding and open-minded human beings. In seeing more adults openly wearing pride merchandise, non-LGBTQIA+ kids will learn that LGBTQIA+ people are as diverse as everyone else and are just like them. It will also show kids who are questioning gender or sexuality that they aren’t abnormal or disgusting, as some people in their life might be telling them. In normalizing queerness to children, we can make a kinder and more tolerant future for children of all identities, hopefully begin to undo the wrongs done to the LGBTQIA+ community and cease the ones happening now.
If you or someone you know is looking to, as John Ceiriog Hughes, author of the cult classic holiday tune ‘Deck the Halls’, so eloquently put it, “Don we now our gay apparel,” Newsweek has a great list of 30 companies with pride merchandise who are also giving back to the LGBTQIA+ community.
Another option when it comes to getting your pride merchandise is to look on sites like Etsy or find LGBTQIA+ artists on Instagram or Twitter to support. Whatever you can do to help small communities this Pride Month and for the rest of the year, try what you can. Even shopping small sites like Etsy can make a world of difference for those who are behind the merchandise.