My name is Jeanna, and I'm the founder, owner, and general one-woman-show behind Bluestockings Boutique, which was founded to be the first-ever explicitly LGBTQIA+ inclusive lingerie store in the United States.
I started Bluestockings to have a safe space where my community could shop, and also to work towards stronger LGBTQIA+ representation in the lingerie industry. Why? So many reasons.
The industry was largely silent after the marriage equality decision last year, perpetuating the myth that business is somehow separate from politics.
And the industry has been silent as anti-LGBT (especially anti-trans) bills have been introduced and passed throughout the United States throughout 2016.
But there have been a few wins since June of last year, too: moments where certain brands and stores stepped forward in their support.
It's Pride Month 2016.
Let's talk about the wins.
1. Victoria’s Secret’s increasingly LGBTQIA+ friendly marketing
Surprised? You should be. Lingerie enthusiasts, progressive feminists, and progressive feminists who are lingerie enthusiasts share a common loathing for and distrust of Victoria’s Secret.
The reasons for this are well known. Victoria's Secret is infamous for its abysmal, unethical labor practices, and even more so for their historically heteronormative, cissexist marketing (which they perpetuate on a daily basis).
With this in mind, why am I marking the importance of a few Instagram pictures? (Example: the one below)
Because Victoria’s Secret owns 60% of the lingerie market in the United States, and our lingerie market is the largest in the world. Like other brands that toe the line between dominating and monopolizing a market, Victoria’s Secret does not change their practices unless they perceive the culture to be fundamentally shifting.
Most importantly, they do not change unless they perceive that their brand would be damaged by not keeping up.
As such, Victoria’s Secret’s LGBTQIA+ friendly copy marks a significant turn in the lingerie industry.
Now, has Victoria’s Secret come out in support of their LGBTQIA+ customers? No. Are they still producing homoerotic images that objectify women and shoehorn them into cissexist constructs? Yes.
BUT. This industry giant is tipping its toes in the waters of inclusivity. And that merits our attention.
2. THINX’s campaign featuring a trans man
courtesy of THINX
I never expected to get off the subway at Union Square Station and see a trans guy modeling period underwear. It was the best ad I’ve seen on the subway, ever.
It was a reminder of how far the lingerie industry has to come. Victoria's Secret showing two femme-presenting, conventionally attractive models together is one thing. Showing trans folks in ads is far more radical.
Other brands could stand to take notes from THINX’s progressive, inclusive campaigns. THINX uses their marketing as a platform for non-descript inclusivity. The point of THINX’s campaign, of course, is to popularize period undies. But they do so with models not often seen in mass lingerie marketing: black women, trans men.
It bears noting that THINX (formerly SheThinx) is one of the best-funded “indie” lingerie brands currently on the market. (They had a multi-million dollar series A round of VC funding.) We have to keep in mind that the vast majority of other lingerie indies are not able to produce such a widespread, media-backed campaign. THINX's deep pockets set it apart.
But: inclusive representation is still something to be inspired by.
After all, including trans people in lingerie campaigns at all is still extremely rare. (Origami Customs, Neon Moon, Chrysalis, All is Fair, and Bluestockings are the only ones to do so.) To include a trans model in a campaign about menstruation? A huge step towards true inclusivity.
I asked Cora Harrington of The Lingerie Addict what she thought the biggest moment for the LGBTQIA+ community was, and she concurred:
3. All is Fair: A Lingerie Boutique Exclusively for the Trans Community is Now Open in Kansas City
Bluestockings was the first lingerie boutique in the United States (possibly the world) geared to the LGBTQIA+ community. All is Fair, a recently Kickstarted gender-inclusive line of binders and underthings, opened the first lingerie boutique exclusively geared to the trans community late in 2015.
All is Fair is the brainchild of designer and entrepreneur Peregrine Honig. Honig has owned Birdies Panties, a boutique lingerie shop, for 13 years.
All is Fair
This is a tremendous step forward: a boutique and line exclusively designed for the trans community. However, it's important to note the ways in which All is Fair is limited by virtue of being an independent small business.
It's vital that we develop understanding and empathy for small, independent businesses taking the big steps that those with bigger budgets won't take.
For example, All is Fair is only open by appointment. (Keep in mind, they still have the overhead of a brick and mortar store.) Also, because they are independent, they will inevitably expand their line more slowly than lines that have outside funding or family money behind them.
The lingerie industry still has a long way to go - but these wins encourage me. And I hope they encourage you.
What do you think? Did you have a favorite LGBTQIA+ friendly lingerie moment of 2016? Share in the comments!
P.S. My #1 fave moment was Bluestockings' entirely LGBTQIA+ lingerie photo shoot - read about it here!