Recently, Old Navy announced they would be selling a line of Gay Pride themed t-shirts until the end of June, if they don't sell out before then. The timing is spot on, seeing as June is when many LGBTQ communities host their local Pride Parades. This tradition became nationally recognized in 2009 when President Obama officially declared June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month (read President Obama's proclamation of this here).
The Internet has been buzzing with excitement over these shirts, which come in men's, women's, and children's sizes and sell for less than $15 a pop, because it is one of the first times a major clothing chain has released a line of Gay Pride themed swag. The only other notable example is the Legalize Gay t-shirts, a collaborative project between American Apparel and the Human Rights Campaign to advocate for the repeal of Prop 8. Moreover, 10% of the Old Navy t-shirts' proceeds go to the It Gets Better Project, which aims to support LGBT youth in a contemporary cultural climate where anti-queer bullying and hate crimes are incredibly prevalent.
All of this has me very excited. Ignoring the fact that the t-shirts feature your expected and generally uncreative rainbow designs (but they get the point across), the fact that these shirts are being carried by such a retail giant is groundbreaking. But here is the catch: Old Navy has over 1,000 stores nationwide, but these shirts are available in a mere 27 of them. For a list of store locations where the shirts are carried, go here.
The select locations are clearly strategic choices on Old Navy's part- they are largely in liberal pockets of the US in major metropolitan cities where the shirts are likely to sell and unlikely to face fierce opposition. It would indeed be a risky business venture to plop this line of shirts into a store located in an area dominated by political and religious conservatism. Yet, it is these very areas that are most hostile to LGBT people. Thus, it is where the message of community, love, pride, and diversity is most needed. Of course, sporting rainbow gear doesn't automatically initiate community and pride. But if there are areas in the US where it is dangerous to wear a rainbow shirt, it certainly isn't safe to be out of the closet. In addition to such social ostracism and instances of hate-motivated violence, all LGBT people are denied political and legal rights that all American citizens are entitled to.
Ideally, these shirts would be available in all of Old Navy's stores though I know that in this cultural moment it doesn't make business to do so. But this is about more than t-shirts. It is political, legal, and social equality.