Rainbows and Retail: How Corporate Clothing Brands Can Do Better Next Pride Month


It’s about more than just the slogans

My partner was looking for that perfect pair of summer shorts: black jeans that cut off at the knees and loose, but not too baggy. We headed to Herald Square in Manhattan, where we were met with a barrage of rainbows. I felt a familiar sensation of dissonance as I passed Pride signage hanging in Levi’s, American Eagle, and the Gap. Major retail brands are not often queer-friendly, as alienating binary gender norms are built into the fabric of how clothing stores operate. My partner, who is gender non-conforming GNC and frequently misgendered in stores, has a particularly frustrating time. Yet here we were, passing a poster of cis and trans people alike wearing shirts that read End Stigma. As they described what they were looking for to an employee, I had hope that maybe this time would be different.

The employee looked my partner up and down, and I surmised her familiar calculation. Men’s or women’s section? Finally, she pointed us to the women’s section, where she recommended the “boyfriend jeans.” We thanked her and moved on. Our experiences at American Eagle and the Gap yielded similar results. We were immediately ushered to the women’s section both times. At the Gap, an employee earnestly persisted in asking what gender the shorts were intended for, despite us specifying our indifference as to which section the article of clothing came from. My partner took it in stride, but it was frustrating all the same. I love my partner, and they deserve to go into a store feeling confident and come out with clothes that make them feel great. I decided to do some digging.

I had to wonder if there was any training that teaches employees how to assist LGBTQ+ customers. The irony felt potent: Brands were adamantly promoting LGBTQ+ people, but they didn’t have the language to communicate with the demographic. The next day, I decided to find out. I called the Levi’s, American Eagle, and Gap corporate lines, customer service lines, and 34th street store lines and asked one question: “During Pride Month, do you offer offered training to your employees to help assist LGBTQ+ beyond the content provided in the Pride signage that is put up in stores?”

“We tell our employees to be friendly and open,” a voice at the 34th street Levi’s store responded. “We try not to make assumptions about people in general.” While this sounded like an honest effort, the answer was ultimately a no. Telling employees to be open is not the same as giving them vocabulary with which to communicate with LGBTQ+ people. I then called the American Eagle corporate line and was told that no extra training exists for educating employees about helping LGBTQ+ customers. In lieu of answering my question, a Gap customer service representative encouraged me to read about their partnership with the United Nations Foundation, as Gap will, to their credit, donate 30 percent of their net sales from Gap brand’s Pride T-shirts to the UN’s Free and Equal organization.

Some basic research into retail pride promotion was similarly encouraging. American Eagle, for example, is stepping up by partnering with and donating proceeds of their campaign to the It Gets Better Project. Across the street, we saw Levi’s, which has contributed more than $70 million to HIV/AIDS organizations over the years, which is nothing to sniff at. Many brands are making strides in supporting the LGBTQ+ community, both ideologically and monetarily, but there is still progress to be made.

Despite the lack of malicious intent, covering a store in rainbow signage while neglecting to make the store queer-friendly is not only painfully ironic—it’s disingenuous. This signage signals to queer people that an establishment is a Safe Space. Safe Spaces have been fundamental to queer organization since the Stonewall era when being LBGTQ+ was criminalized. Markings like rainbows were essential not only to signal that queer people would be physically safe, but that they would find a space of like-minded people. If the employee standing beside the rainbow display doesn’t have the training to assist a person represented on the flag, there’s a problem. Our symbols of safety lose their meanings.

With this obvious dissonance between message and practice, I decided to go to the source and ask queer people working in retail about their experience. Jess Flore*, a sales associate at Marshalls in Austin, Texas, says that when she sees someone who appears “uncomfortable going to the section where they want to look for clothes,” she springs into action. “Especially in pretty binary stores like Marshalls, I love being ‘other’-looking enough to help them feel comfortable being themselves while shopping,” Flore says. “Strength in numbers can be really important, especially in Texas!”

Former Abercrombie manager Sue Owen* explains that institutions themselves need to change. “Giving people of different identities staying power by displaying them both in ads as well as having them work in-store would be a way to affect change,” Owen says. “By normalizing it, they can show that they are accepting of people regardless of gender identity and expression.”

Brooklyn-based sex toy boutique employee Ariel Martinez also says that “the most striking thing about mainstream retail is how aggressively language is often gendered when there’s no need.” Corporate clothing brands could certainly take a page from sex-positive retail spaces, as employees are trained to facilitate an atmosphere where desire can be expressed openly and non-judgmentally. “Although it's polite to greet customers with 'ladies' or 'sir' or 'gentleman,' that's also completely unnecessary,” Martinez adds. “I'm a huge advocate of 'y'all'—I’m from Texas—but know other people use 'folks.'”

There are obviously no easy fixes to the gendered way in which society functions. Making sure employees know how to help customers navigate around these structures during Pride Month, however, is essential if one is going to cover their store in Pride signage. A flyer on respecting people’s non-binary pronoun usage would be a start. Directing visibly non-binary customers, or any customer for that matter, to the men or women’s section without asking what they are looking for is another idea. Corporate Pride efforts must transcend the message that LGBTQ+ people have the right to exist, and a right to be seen.

* some names have been changed to protect the identity of interviewees

Photo by Imani Givertz

Premiering today via NYLON

Small Talks, aka Cayley Spivey, has come a long way since starting a band, then becoming the entire band herself and forging her own fan base from the ground up. On her recent album A Conversation Between Us, she began to unpack any lingering baggage with one particular song: "Teeth." Today, she premieres the accompanying music video exclusively via NYLON.

"'Teeth' is about my personal battle with letting go of the past," Spivey tells NYLON, admitting that it's easily her favorite song off of A Conversation Between Us.

Watch the video for "Teeth" below.

Small Talks - Teeth (Official Music Video) - YouTube

Photos by Joe Maher/Getty Images, Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for TIME

Must have been pretty awkward

Taylor Swift and Sophie Turner were guests on the U.K.'s The Graham Norton Show together, which must have been awkward for Turner's husband, Joe Jonas, seeing as he also happens to be Swift's ex. I wonder if his name came up?

The interview doesn't come out until Friday night, but promotional photos show the two sharing a couch. Swift is making an appearance to perform her new single, "ME!" while Turner is promoting her new film, X- Men: Dark Phoenix. But it seems necessary for the two to be asked about Jonas.

Swift was just on the Ellen DeGeneres Show earlier this month, where she brought up the fact that she felt bad for putting Jonas "on blast" on DeGeneres' show back in 2008 by telling the audience that he broke up with her in a record-setting short phone call. But, according to Swift, she and Jonas are chill now, since it happened pretty long ago, which means she's probably already hung out with Turner and maybe even gossiped about him with her.

We can only hope that they get the chance to spill some tea on television.

Screenshot via YouTube, Photo Courtesy of HBO

"That's! His! Auntie!"

Leslie Jones has rewatched the Game of Thrones finale with a beer in hand, Seth Meyers at her side, and a full camera crew ready to take in all her glorious reactions. Spoilers ahead, but, if you haven't watched last week's episode already, that's kind of on you at this point.

When Jon Snow started to make out with Daenerys, also known as his aunt, only to stab her through the chest moments later, it was emotional whiplash for everyone watching. And, Jones' reactions—both from her first and second viewing—sum it all perfectly.

"That's! His! Auntie! [gagging noises]," Jones says before making an aside about calling the police if her uncle ever tried to do the same. But then the knife goes in, and Jones screams. "Did you see that?!" Jones asks, "Yeah bitch, that's a knife in you." Meyers points out the funniest part of all: "Why are you so upset about someone kissing their aunt but totally fine with someone killing their aunt?" Jones replies, "Because that bitch needed to go," and, well, same.

Other highlights from the comedians' rewatch include comparing Dany's victory speech to a bad improv gig, predicting that their dogs would have less of a reaction to their deaths than Drogon did to his mother's, and more.

Watch all of Jones' reactions from this Late Night clip below.

Game of Jones: Leslie Jones and Seth Watch Game of Thrones' Series Finale

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These lyrics are a lot

Robbie Tripp, aka Curvy Wife Guy, is back with a music video, titled "Chubby Sexy," starring his wife and a trio of models. In it, Tripp raps about his bold choice to find women with an average body size attractive.

The video begins with a series of statements laid over some pool water: "Curves are the new high fashion," "Chubby is the new sexy," "We Out Here." Tripp posits that these queens deserve an anthem, which they do. What they do not deserve is this Cursed Song. As he lists all the names he knows to call them by (thick, thicc, and BBW), one model (who I really, really hope was paid well) squirts some lotion down her cleavage, and Tripp begins dancing.

"My girl chubby sexy/ Call her bonita gordita," Tripp states in his chorus, before going on to compare "big booty meat" to the peach emoji. Another thing he mentions is that his wife can't find a belt that fits her waist, and that's why he calls her James and the Giant Peach. He then tries to dab. Here are some of the other Cursed highlights from his, uh, verses:

Got those Khaleesi curves/ Knows how to dragon slay
She like a dude that's woke/ We like a girl that's weighty
Some say a chubby girl that's risky/ But they ain't met a curvy girl that's frisky
Imma dunk that donk like I'm Andrew Wiggins.
Thick like an Amazon/ Built like Big Ben.

Tripp says one thing in the video that I couldn't agree more with: "She don't need a man." No, she does not. Please run. If you must, watch the entire video, below. Or send it to your nemesis!

Robbie Tripp - Chubby Sexy (Official Music Video)

Photo by Emma McIntyre / Getty Images.

See the promo here

It was bound to happen. The Kadashians and Jenners have committed themselves to letting the cameras roll on their lives, for better or for worse. So if you thought that the Jordyn Woods and Tristan Thompson cheating scandal was off limits, you thought wrong. The trailer for Sunday's episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians was just released, and it involves the famous family working through the fallout of what happened when Woods went to a party at Thompson's house.

The teaser includes the infamous clip of Khloé Kardashian screaming "LIAAAARRRRRR." It's still not explicitly clear who prompted that strong response. She could be responding to Thompson, who clearly isn't always honest. Or she could be reacting to Woods account of the events on Red Table Talk. But the most revealing moment comes when we see Kylie Jenner—who was Woods' best friend before all of this happened—react for the first time.

In a heart-to-heart conversation, momager Kris Jenner says, "For you and Jordyn, it's like a divorce." Kylie only offers this in response: "She fucked up." Based on Woods' version of events—which I'm inclined to believeThompson is the one who fucked up. Still, I'm hoping for some kind of reconciliation between the two longtime friends. Perhaps we'll have to wait until next season for that.

Check out the promo video below.