What A World

What A World: Playing the Gay Card

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Hallmark introduces new line of same-sex greetings

By Nancy Ford

NancyFord at desk
Nancy Ford

Somebody call Walgreen’s and tell them they’re going to need a longer card aisle.

Hallmark, that venerable provider of greeting cards (and greeting card-like television programs) helping emotionally constipated Americans get in touch with their feelings for 98 years, has announced it is now offering same-sex specific greeting cards. Specifically, cards of congratulations suitable for civil unions, commitment ceremonies, and—at least in California and Massachusetts—marriage.

The news came in late August with Hallmark representative, Sarah Gronberg Kolell, telling the press:

It’s a very special day,
And we all just want to say
We’re very glad you’re gay
And that, for Hallmark cards, you’ll pay!

My words, not hers.

“It’s our goal to be as relevant as possible to as many people as we can,” Kolell, vice president in charge of mass appeal, actually told the Associated Press.

The introductory series of three cards depicts your choice of two headless tuxedos, overlapping bodiless hearts, or intertwined flowers (but not the Georgia O’Keefe, pistils a-blazing kind), offering gender nondiscriminate best wishes inside. “Two hearts. One promise,” one vital-organically reads.

If Hallmark really wants to strike gold, it should consider launching an entire division of greetings tailored to lesbian occasions, including cards to commemorate the anniversaries of a lesbian couple’s first meeting, their first week, and their first month together. Everyone knows lesbian anniversary cards are appropriate and expected to be sent each month up until one year, and then annually, usually petering out at about three years. Then the cycle begins alllll over again. Ca-ching!

And let’s not underestimate the myriad possibilities for congratulating those couples who are anticipating blessed events. What rhymes with “suitable donor” besides “inscrutable boner”?

There are two sides to this card coin, one being Hallmark’s laudable policy of inclusivity. But it also represents one more nail in the coffin of independently owned, “gay” card retailers, a business niche all but dead in Houston except for the occasional spinning counter display in the few metrosexual men’s apparel shops.

One of the best, safest ways for local gay people—male or female, young or old—to begin peeping out of the closet was by browsing Houston’s ’80s and ’90s-era queer bookstores, Inklings or Crossroads or Lobo, enjoying the oh-so-specific wallsfull of FUQBUQ (you know—for us queers, by us queers) greeting cards. At one time those locally owned, now-closed shops provided us another valuable destination besides the bars to find our own kind.

Now, instead of having whole boutiques to call our own, we’re forced to browse with the generic customers who are looking at cards to shop for a card ! Now, our hysterical, terse, inside-joke greetings are fated to blend in with all the other hetero birthday, anniversary, get well, and we’ll-miss-you cards in one vast, common, one-stop-shopping corral.

Do you need some batteries, wart remover, or a singing fish plaque to go with your assimilation? Thank you and come again!

But back to that coin. The undeniable good news is that Hallmark gets it. Hallmark recognizes that we gay people appreciate being able to give voice to our celebrations in our own gay way, as do people of color celebrate their Kwanzaas and quinceaneras, just like families who celebrate bar and bat mitzvahs.

And even more kudos go to Hallmark for reaching out to those few gay residents of Littlestraightville, Iowansabraskinois who count themselves lucky their town even has a Walgreen’s or CVS. Those seemingly alone rural gay folk no longer have to worry about having their license plates photographed while parking in front of a “notoriously gay business” while they browse, or even buy, a gay-themed card. Now they can at least congregate smack-dab in front of that “One Heart” card, instead of always hovering around in the cosmetics and camping equipment aisles.

Of course, the usual suspects in extreme conservative circles are braying their ire at Hallmark’s surrender to the Dark Side.

“Hallmark is jeopardizing its brand as a family-friendly company,” Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, sputtered following Hallmark’s announcement. “Customers used to be able to trust Hallmark to produce quality products that were safe for all ages. Now parents will need to steer their kids from Hallmark’s section of the greeting card aisle and away from its previously heartwarming movies for fear that they too will push homosexual messages.”

Yes, imagine the horror of those innocent fundamentalist parents, forced to explain to their children that gay people have birthdays, too!

Ultimately, Hallmark is to be highly commended for its bold policy of inclusion, regardless of motivation. But fair-mindedness is nothing new for the people who care about providing products to people who care enough to send the very best.

Each year, the Human Rights Campaign’s Buyers Guide rates companies on a scale of 0 to 100, based on whether or not they have policies that support GLBT people—policies like anti-discrimination protections, domestic partner benefits, diversity training, transgender wellness benefits, and advertising practices.

This year, HRC rated Hallmark a solid 90 out of 100, enocuraging equality-minded consumers to “make every effort to support these companies.”

The next time I need a hard-copy greeting card that I physically send with a stamp or hand-deliver personally, chances are I’ll spring for a Hallmark. Especially if it’s to celebrate a special day and I have something to say in a special way.

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