Tobi Hill-Meyer

Anti-Trans Company Producing PFLAG Merchandise

Filed By Tobi Hill-Meyer | July 13, 2011 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: anti-trans discrimination, Mich Fest, Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, OUT!wear, PFLAG, WBW

Update: As pointed out in the comments below, PFLAG has issued a statement (http://blog.pflag.org/2011/07/statement-on-outwear-pflag-national-and.html) and OUT!wear has taken down web sales for their anti-trans t-shirts.

Further Update: OUT!wear has posted a statement and an apology (http://www.facebook.com/notes/outwear-pridewear-accessories/an-open-letter-to-the-lgbt-community-and-its-allies-re-the-wbw-product-line/171857096212704)

Yesterday the news spread through Facebook that OUT!wear, a company that produces gay and lesbian designs for shirts and clothing - WBW_100Sticker_sm_200x133.jpgincluding a line of PFLAG merchandise - has released a new design in preparation for the Michigan Women's Music Festival to promote the exclusion of trans women. Several people complained that the shirt, which reads "100% WBW," is in contradiction with their mission:

"OUT!wear™ is quality custom Pridewear and Accessories "WORN WITH PRIDE" to promote visibility, unity and self esteem amongst Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans-gendered persons.To promote a positive image within our community, whether bold or discreet."

However, all negative comments on their facebook page were quickly deleted.

I can only assume that PFLAG is unaware of this situation, so I wrote to them to inform them of it. My email follows below.

I have worked with my local PFLAG off and on for almost a decade and was always very proud of how strongly supportive of the trans community they were. There are little to no trans resources in my small town and PFLAG stepped up to the plate. Many of the trans people coming out have found care and support from PFLAG -- it has literally been life saving. And I remember just after the turn of the millennium when PFLAG was among the first national organizations to declare that they would only support non-discrimination policies and other civil rights legislation if they are trans inclusive.

That's why I find it so disturbing to recently discover that the company OUT!wear is spreading a message frequently used to deny equal rights to and justify discrimination against trans women and it seems they have enjoyed a long term partnership with PFLAG, developing and promoting a line of PFLAG merchandise.

A recent addition to their designs is a t-shirt that announces "100% WBW", which stands for women-born-women or womyn-born-womyn. If you are unfamiliar with the term, it was developed as a way of justifying discrimination against trans women by insisting that we are not born women and declaring spaces to be WBW-only. It's designed as a more palatable way of proclaiming the right to discriminate against trans people and has been used to justify such egregious cases as denying trans women access to women's clinics and rape crisis support.

I understand that some people value a community of women around them (that they assume includes no trans people) and want to proclaim their support for that community. However, by framing the value of that community around how it excludes trans women, the positive aspects of those communities are forgotten and only the discrimination is left visible. Regardless of the motivations of OUT!wear, I keep coming back to the personal impact this situation creates. Now, when a trans person is just coming out and finds PFLAG as a resource, they might find this PFLAG merchandise page or run into them at a pride celebration. When they see the PFLAG logo right next to "100% WBW" t-shirts they will have to wonder why PFLAG supports an organization that seeks to create spaces 100% free from trans people. I'm pained to consider those who are at their most vulnerable not feeling like they can't turn to PFLAG because of this.

I understand that Out!wear helps fundraise for PFLAG and that you may wish to salvage this relationship. I would also encourage you to engage in conversation with them, perhaps they will listen to you. However, knowing how long such things can drag out, I would hope that you ask them to remove their PFLAG merchandise and any PFLAG logos from their webpage until the issue is resolved. I'm certain you would ask that of any partner organization that began selling "Ex-Gay" t-shirts or something thinly veiled like "100% Straight and Proud", and you should do the same here.

Please keep me informed of how you plan to address this situation.

Thanks,

--Tobi

Also, for reference you can see some of what people are saying about this situation at:
http://transgender.livejournal.com/2490694.html
http://www.facebook.com/pridewear?sk=reviews

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PFLAG released a statement here today: http://blog.pflag.org/2011/07/statement-on-outwear-pflag-national-and.html
I thought that might be of interest to you.

Good on PFLAG. I knew they would never tolerate that BS. Scary that OUT!Wear was using their old logos without any flags being raised.

Stealing from PFLAG. Really. Can someone get any lower?

rebeccasf | July 13, 2011 6:38 PM

OUT!Wear has removed all WBW clothing from their website!

P.S. The links at the bottom of the article are broken!! ;-)

Okay, now the WBW items seem to be gone (although the page is still there blank: http://www.outwear.com/sess/utn154e1d015287789/shopdata/0010_WBW/product_overview.shopscript). I'll be keeping an eye out for them, but it does seem like they're gone. Let's hope so.

rebeccasf | July 13, 2011 7:22 PM

I did a search for "WBW" on their site and the empty page came up. But I'm sure she'll still be selling them at fest!

Punkkitty | July 13, 2011 6:44 PM

Tobi, thanks for publishing this and increasing the exposure of the hatred.

The WBW products are still showing on their facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/pridewear Thank you for posting this Tobi maybe one day I'll be able to say the LGBT doesn't discriminate against me while claiming to speak for me and represent me without my consent. While I might say I'm not part of the LGBT and definitely not to be labeled Transgender I'll happily stand in solidarity with both my T and Cis brothers and sisters fighting this hurtful discrimination.

In case anyone would like to sign a petition against this here is a link to one http://www.change.org/petitions/outwear-pridewear-stop-selling-anti-trans-shirts-and-apparel
I proudly signed it in support of my Lesbian and straight identified Trans sisters and Transmen who are equally disrespected by it.

So, are you saying you have no respect for gay and lesbian trans people, regardless of their surgical status?

Monica I'm not sure where you got that from from. Please do me a favor try finding something better to do than put words into my mouth that I didn't say.

Your words, "I proudly signed it in support of my Lesbian and straight identified Trans sisters and Transmen who are equally disrespected by it." The easy to see where I got it. Next time, be a bit more transparent.

Monica, I read that as:

"I proudly signed it in support of [my Lesbian and straight identified Trans sisters] and [Transmen who are equally disrespected by it]."

In this way, she's talking about two groups, 1) her trans sisters, who are both lesbian and straight, and also 2) trans men who are also disrespected by a WBW policy. Technically, I suppose there should be a comma separating the two categories of people, so your reading of it does make sense, but I don't believe it's what she was trying to say.

Well it does kinda render gay transmen pretty invisible.

It was purely a statement of support excuse my grammatical errors but simply following the link I would think would have clearly shown my intent. Greg I was trying to also show support for my Trans brothers who are often forgotten in these conversations and I believe equally subject to eraser by this and other things going on within the LGBT community.

Thanks for posting Tobi. I'm not sure about The Michigan Womyn's Fest, or the idea of spaces for cis-sexual individuals only. As one who feels locked out, I can only imagine their motivation. It seems as Feminists, they,we, would want to be as inclusive as possible. Any movement gains strength and power in numbers. A revolution of one is impossible. Even a vanguard party needs to support of the masses.There would be complications and nuances to be sure by including Transwomen as there is by adding the 'T' to LGBT, but I think we contribute to both movements, and we and they are better for it!

So very glad they took care of it so quickly, 'cause the headline alone sent my blood pressure soaring.

Out!wear Pridewear has posted a very thoughtful response to this controversy on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/notes/outwear-pridewear-accessories/an-open-letter-to-the-lgbt-community-and-its-allies-re-the-wbw-product-line/171857096212704. They apologize for their lack of understanding about the exclusion of trans people inherent in the "WBW" message and have to decided not to produce that line of merchandise.

Yes, the companies' response is thoughtful and non-confrontational. But I truly don't believe she didn't know the history or implications of "100% WBW" considering they've sold at MichFest and many other dyke festivals before. And her explanation that she also makes a shirt called "love is a many gendered thing" fits perfectly into how FAAB genderqueer people are accepted in womyn's communities but trans women often aren't. They also appropriated PFLAG's (old) logo and tried to make it sound as if they had a genuine connection to the organization. I give her a very, very cautious benefit of the doubt.

Johnny K. | July 14, 2011 1:01 PM

As a male - with no personal stake in this issue - there's no way that these WBW shirts can be intended to say anything other than "I'm not one of those icky trannies!" I'd heard the stories of not being allowed into music festivals as such, but this blatant hostility is truly horrible!

For what it's worth, from what I've seen among gay men, FTM folks are generally accepted as male, though many MBM's say they're leery of a relationship with such blokes for ... sexual compatibility reasons.

I agree that her professed ignorance smells fishy.

And I can't give her the benefit of the doubt.

Yeah, I'm thankful for the thoughtful response given what it easily could have been. However, I was struck by the suggestion that "Love is a Many Gendered Thing" is supposed to be trans positive. I mean, I can vaguely see how it supports those who identify as having many genders (or more specifically, those who love them), but when I saw that t-shirt I thought it was a bi/pan-sexual message.