Commentary: Behind That Big Pride Edition Article

2012 Subaru Outback 3.6R 3
Photo by Randy Stern

Wait, you have not picked up your humongous Pride edition of Lavender magazine? You did not know I had an article in there?

What you missed by not picking up a copy or going online to Lavender's website is a listing of ten vehicles as polled from the readers of said magazine as ones identified as favored by the LGBT community? It was an elemental task that yielded no surprises whatsoever.

The poll showed that a significant majority of people – 58% of all respondents – named at least one Subaru as favorable to the LGBT community. Most of the responses named by the Outback and Forester above anything else. Sadly, neither the Impreza, the Legacy nor the BRZ garnered enough votes to join their outdoorsy cousins on the pages of Lavender.

Another brand that popped up the most – not as much as Subaru, mind you – was Jeep. As confirmed in my Lavender review of the Patriot, Jeep has a history with our community dating back to the 1970s. It was no surprise that the Wrangler and the Liberty garnered enough responses to join the Outback and Forester in the article.

The remaining six did not surprise me at all. Volkswagen had two – the Beetle and the Jetta. BMW Group also had a pair – the MINI Cooper and the BMW Z4. Toyota and Honda rounded out the list with the Prius and the Civic respectively.

You would think that this list would perpetuate stereotypes of the LGBT community. That is a call I would rather not make. But, it does speak to how the LGBT community views automobiles and confirms various consumer patterns by this demographic.

Frankly, we love automobiles. If we own one, it is because we care about it as what it does for us at a certain stage in our lives. A vehicle is an extension of our personality, which a good number of us take to heart. In some cases, we also base our consumer decisions on not just practicality and style points, but rather on political ones, too.

It brings up an interesting point about the LGBT community's approach to automotive consumerism. Not everyone buys into the political motivations of LGBT consumers – but some do. Those who do are the loudest people in the room and often have plenty to say when it comes to which retailers and brands to buy or use as a service. The automobile industry is no exception here.

For the majority of us who are not as politically and economically savvy as the loudest voices in our community, these following facts may come as a surprise. There are automobile companies doing business here that do not have an inclusive non-discrimination policy on their human resources books. A lot of automotive companies scored below 90 on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index – if not recorded a score at all. Yet, our community actually buys products from these companies. Some of my friends own products from those companies. I know an out gay manager of an automobile retailer that sells those same products. From what I know, none of these companies ever took any direct action against the LBGT community or its rank-and-file.

I did bring up the topic a few months ago with one of the companies I covered. When I asked about this quandary regarding not having any policies covering their LGBT employees, the response I got did not surprise me. This company is headquartered in California, yet they have an assembly plant in the South. They found it challenging to execute an universal policy to cover all employees because of the difference in state laws.

As a point of reference, Toyota executes the same set of inclusive human resources policies across all units in the USA – including states that do not have bias protection for LGBT employees on their books.

If we are concerned about the brands of automobiles we buy, there is a course of action we could take. Perhaps we should join General Mills and other companies submitting testimony in Congress right now to lobby for the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Therefore, these companies who do business in the USA will no longer be able to rely on state law to dictate human resources policy.

For the LGBT automotive consumer and enthusiast, I ask as to where do we strike the balance? It comes down to two strains of automotive consumerism: Brand loyalty and the gumption to shop other brands. Realistically, that 58% figure does not exactly reflect actual ownership numbers of Subarus in the LGBT community. I know for a fact we are more diverse than that. Our automotive diversity includes those brands where the human resources handbooks do not have the term "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender" included in their verbiage.

The other reality is that the industry loves us – not just for our money. Like most of our counterparts, sometimes they do not show it as much as we want them to.

Maybe that is OK for now…

The LGBT community's presumed economic power is quite influential. In doing my work here and on Lavender, I do what I can to interact with my community to gauge whether I am doing them a service or not. In some cases, I believe I am. Perhaps there is a vehicle that I have driven recently that may be something a reader might not have considered in their research. Then again, I could be driving something the community already has a fondness for. It is a job I proudly enjoy.

So, what about these ten vehicles polled for Lavender magazine? The people have spoken…and the reality is not exactly what we assumed it would be. Frankly, a "gay car" is something an individual owns regardless of brand, model or what is slapped on the back of it for "vehicular identity" purposes.

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