Cards for Queers: Hallmark, the AFA and you

Well, the LGBTQ community is officially a market sayeth the folks at Hallmark. From the Post-Gazette:

The nation's largest greeting card company is rolling out same-sex wedding cards — featuring two tuxedos, overlapping hearts or intertwined flowers, with best wishes inside. “Two hearts. One promise,” one says.

Hallmark added the cards after California joined Massachusetts as the only U.S. states with legal gay marriage.

The language inside the cards is neutral, with no mention of wedding or marriage, making them also suitable for a commitment ceremony. Hallmark says the move is a response to consumer demand.

“It's our goal to be as relevant as possible to as many people as we can,” Hallmark spokeswoman Sarah Gronberg Kolell said.

In response, the American Family Association is calling for a boycott of Hallmark.  <yawn>.  In response to the boycott, LGBTQ advocates are calling for queer people and our allies to send Hallmark cards to the AFA headquarters.  <chuckle>

For the past 14 years, Pittsburgh's queer and queer-allied folk could buy these same themed cards at a wonderful little gift store called A Pleasant Present in Squirrel Hill. There are cards for every occasion.  Owner Michael Ferraro told me that he carries lines from three vendors … 10% Productions (18 years in business), Vash Designs and Smart Alex.  He has no plans to carry Hallmark cards.

I'm not objecting to Hallmark expanding their card selection. I recognize that being an identifiable “market” is part of the march toward equality.  I also recognize that market forces are vastly different than human rights campaigns so we'll be seeing no “congratulations on your transition” or “bisexuals have twice as much love to give” cards (tongue in cheek or not) from Hallmark or American Greetings anytime soon. 

What bothers me is that every time a local lesbian or gay man plunks down a few bucks at Amy's Hallmark for a gay-themed card, that money goes into the coffers of Amy's Hallmark.  This is not much progress.  Amy's Hallmark isn't going to sell tickets to OUTrageous Bingo, the Lambda Ball or the River cruises — free of charge.  Amy's Hallmark isn't going to post flyers for the upcoming women's dance.  Amy's Hallmark won't purchase an ad in the GLCC newsletter or the PrideGuide.  Amy's Hallmark won't purchase advertising to support local radio programs that are super progressive on gay issues.  Amy's Hallmark isn't going to create employment opportunities for queer youth or donate door prizes to leather themed events. 

Local LGBT owned businesses like A Pleasant Present take our queer dollars and reinvest them back into our community.  These businesses deserve our support in return.  Amy's Hallmark isn't going to provide that service.  They are going to take our money and that's that.  It is the American way.

Should you buy a Hallmark card?  Why not?  But you should at least consider making a trip to Squirrel Hill say one a year to do some queer-shopping.  You can order gift baskets over the phone.  And there's tons and tons of products that are not gay-themed.   If you can drop by to pick up your tickets for an event, you can browse the store and maybe pick up some greetings cards for upcoming occasions — cards from companies that have been targeting our community for a long time.  It is shameful that people would make the trip there and not even be aware that asking staff to stop their revenue generating work to sell you a bingo ticket deserves some payback.  A card.  A trinket for an upcoming birthday.  A mug.  Really, a thank you to the business for supporting your community.

The holidays are right around the corner.  I was in A Pleasant Present yesterday purchasing a gift basket for work.  I found a cute little trinket to buy for Ledcat as a gift — a redneck road rage button.  Michael is having a little “pop a ballon” sale so I ended up with 30% off my purchase.  I put two quarters in the meter which I snagged right in front of the store.  I stopped at Starbucks (a sponsor of a work project so that's a little thank you, too) and then I swung by the library.  While I was in A Pleasant Present, I caught up with some local news and met a new friend who made a point to stop by my display at Hot House last night.  I picked up the current issue of Pittsburgh's OUT which is impossible to find on the Northside.  I browsed the postings.  I made a few mental notes of gifts for upcoming birthdays.  I bought an anniversary card.  It was a very sucessful little trip. 

A Pleasant Present is just one example of supporting a queer owned business.  We can't expect our shops, bars, coffeehouses and ice cream parlors to continue going the extra-mile for our community if we don't invest a bit more than an occasional “free refills” Diet Coke in their livelihood.  If Amy's Hallmark and her sister stores see some brisk sales of the gay relationship cards, that will encourage them to expand the line so by all means include them in your choices. 

I would just challenge every person who relies on A Pleasant Present and other local LGBT owned businesses for access to your social activities — spend a little money there to show that you appreciate their support. 

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