It’s no secret that we live in very divisive times, especially concerning topics that range from sexual orientation to gender identity and beyond. However, the pleasure products manufacturing industry continues to make essential strides in the right direction toward the inclusion of everyone.
I want to recognize the beautiful “rainbow community” with my contribution to this month’s publication. My good friend — and movie producer/director — Israel Luna coined the term “rainbow community” as a comprehensive way to include anyone who identifies within the varied spectrum of LGBTQI+. As we head into June, widely celebrated as Pride month around the world, there is much to think about in regards to LGBTQI+ representation in our industry.
For context, let me begin by explaining how I came to be part of this illustrious industry. My career path has been a winding one, full of pit-stop positions commonly found within the confines of the overly structured and monotonous daily grind that is “corporate America.” While I enjoyed my time on the figurative hamster wheel, I must admit that I never truly felt at home in most parts of that world. When the opportunity to come onboard with Sliquid presented itself I had zero hesitation to dive in headfirst. I knew the company and the industry was going to be a freeing space where I could be myself, as well as a place where my perspective on sexuality, and life in general, would be accepted and celebrated.
Jumping back a couple of decades, I have been a customer of the pleasure products industry since I was of the age to walk into an adult boutique, proudly flash my ID, and wander around the racks discovering hidden desires I didn’t even know I had at the time. I have always been drawn to the sexier, grittier things in life. As one does by nature, I gravitated towards products that were produced by and for men like me … as in gay men … in case you’re wondering. This is not to say that I exclusively sought out gay or gay-friendly brands and products but, because I could identify with the content and imagery they were delivering, I was in! Was their marketing brilliant? Not particularly. Was it successful and necessary? Absolutely. Time has progressed, as has my age, and now I have the privilege of being part of the content creation that I identified with in my younger years and still do to this day.
From almost any standpoint, trends are great for business. If you can latch onto a trend, preferably at the head-start of its upswing, then your brand is sure to reap the benefits of being on top of what’s hot at the moment. What is NOT a trend, however, is gay culture and the needs and desires of the LGBTQI+ community. In fact, I would go so far as to say that gay culture has always been about bucking the trends and blazing its own trail.
When it comes to intimate items that address the rainbow community, gay-themed offerings are certainly nothing new. Plenty of products have come and gone over the years leaving a solid foundation of groundwork that companies past and present have laid to create today’s LGBTQI+ marketplace. For instance, with that foundation, we have seen more visibility given to the sexual health and wellness of our trans brothers and sisters with new, innovative products being released every year. The industry is always working to make sure gay men, lesbian women, bi-sexual persons and everyone in between have a product or brand that they see themselves in.
A brand does not have to be a gay “owned and operated” business to be part of the movement toward inclusivity. They also don’t have to be solely or predominantly gay-focused in their company identity either. What is important is that all companies try to infuse aspects of the gay sexual experience into their brand’s ethos. I love seeing a company that thoughtfully creates products, content and partnerships that speak to a wide range of identities and, specifically, that doesn’t wait to roll them out just during Pride month. Sure, the community appreciates the shout-out and gesture, but sustained visibility comes from continuous brand representation all year round, whether that be through marketing, R&D, or internally via hiring queer creatives for their input.
With the rise of gay representation in mainstream media, the saying “we’re here, we’re queer and we’re not going anywhere” has never held more weight. Adding to this pivotal time in gay culture is the 50th year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which marks the start of the gay rights movement by black, transgender and drag performers in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Our industry has a wonderfully diverse crop of progressive businesses that are loud and proud in their attentiveness of LGBTQI+ person’s health, wellness and pleasure needs. As long as businesses, such as yours, continue to champion the acceptance of the gay community then I think the relationship of our industry and gay culture will continue to have a successful and profitable future ahead. To all my LGBTQI+ friends and family out there, and to our allies and businesses that support us, Happy PRIDE Month!