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Target hits the LGBT market, with much-improved aim

Some praise retailer for Pride month support; others want local commitment

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Target, gay news, Washington Blade
A Target contingent in D.C.’s Capital Pride parade. (Photo courtesy Target)

Fifty years after Stonewall, LGBT people who listen to a song, stream a series, or read a book have more positive images to draw upon than ever before.

But where are our faces in the ads that sell us those things—or, for that matter, pretty much everything? Rarely seen is the same-sex couple sizing up choices at a car dealership, passing around a tube of toothpaste during their morning routine, or sharing a smooch as anniversary rings are exchanged.

“There’s just a very small group of companies that make an effort to educate themselves, and to progress… to show us as we are, or appeal directly to the LGBT consumer,” says Todd Evans, of Rivendell Media.

As Rivendell’s president and CEO, it’s Evans’ job to place advertisements for the National LGBT Media Association. (This publication is among its members.)

Absolut Vodka and Wells Fargo, Evans notes, are on the short list of high-profile corporations that market to the LGBT community with creative content that depicts lives being lived in something other than heterosexual accordance.

Include Target on that list, says Evans, who points to the general merchandise retailer as an example of a company committed to LGBT-specific marketing and products.

“This is a group that has wanted to educate themselves,” says Evans, recalling, “years ago, Target faced a boycott for [indirectly] donating to an anti-LGBT politician. They rose to the occasion by not only stopping that, but becoming LGBT-friendly.”

In July 2010, Target became a, well, target of backlash, after donating $150,000 to MN Forward, a group that proclaimed to function as a champion of Minnesota’s economy, but also funded campaign ads for Tom Emmer—the Republican candidate for governor who, The Minnesota Independent reported, “authored a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage and civil unions” in 2007, while a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives.

As reported by Minnesota’s MPR News in an Aug. 20, 2010 article, Gregg Steinhafel, CEO of Target (whose headquarters is located in Minneapolis), apologized for the financial contribution—but only after, MPR noted, “Democrats, gay rights groups and others called for a boycott of the company.”

Steinhafel’s Aug. 5, 2010 letter to Target employees asserted the company’s commitment to “fostering an environment that supports and respects the rights and beliefs of all individuals,” and pledged to bring together “a group of companies and partner organizations for a dialogue focused on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, including GLBT issues.”

Making good on that diversity pledge, ironically, raised the hackles of the anti-LGBT American Family Association, which has been boycotting Target since April 2016 for, it alleges, endangering “women and children by allowing men to frequent women’s facilities”—a dog whistle reference to Target’s policy allowing transgender people to use changing rooms and bathrooms in accordance with their identity.

Whether the product of public embarrassment, genuine enlightenment or a little bit of both, Target, says Evans, “went from the verge of a boycott” during its MN Forward days “to really embracing their LGBT customers, and speaking directly to them.”

Target got its feet wet with 2012-2016 ads in Out magazine and The Advocate, then, in 2017, Evans said the retailer “expanded those national buys to a number of local markets, including Dallas, New York City, Miami, Boston, Orlando, Salt Lake City, and Denver. They also started carrying Pride merchandise every June, which shows they really educated themselves about the market, and the best way to reach it.”

One series of ads featured individuals of, Evans notes, “every shape and color. It really speaks to Pride itself, and being accepted. They even end it with the hashtag ‘takepride.’ I don’t think you can ask for anything better.”

Danielle Schumann, Corporate Public Relations Lead at Target, declined numerous requests for an interview, instead referring this reporter to links within the corporate.target.com destination.

Therein, Caroline Wagna, Target VP and Chief Culture, Diversity & Inclusion Officer, proclaims, “In order to continue to be a place where people want to come and spend their money, we have to be connected to who our potential customers are across the board, and in order to stay relevant as a business, we have to be sure our guests are seeing experiences, products, and services that reflect who they are.”

This year, corporate.target.com notes, Pride month was observed in the form of more than 90 Pride-themed items created by working “closely with Target’s Pride Business Council—an HQ-based team member resource group—to create an assortment that is inclusive.” Those items were made available in 350 of Target’s 1,868 U.S. stores.

A perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2019 Corporate Equality Index and “presenting partnership” status with GLAAD’s Spirit Day—described by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation as “the world’s largest and most visible LGBTQ anti-bullying-campaign”— are among demonstrations of solidarity touted by Target, which also made a $100,000 Pride month contribution to GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network), and said that in 2019, Target team members would “be on tap to volunteer at more than 30 Pride events across the country, including this year’s World Pride in New York City.”

In a case of funding Peter by shortchanging Paul, Evans notes, “This year, Target didn’t advertise at all” with the print publications he represents—a stark departure from their Pride month advertising of the past. “But I did notice they were a World Pride Stonewall 50 Platinum sponsor. I think this year, a lot of people’s budgets went to that.”

Attempts to engage Target on the local level have been unsuccessful, says Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News, a member of the National LGBT Media Association.

“We’ve reached out to them on numerous occasions, and the response has been zero,” says Segal. “They have a store very close to the gayborhood here. I also see them advertising in neighborhood and community newspapers in Philadelphia, so you could say they are, at the very least, ignoring our community.”

Community engagement, says Segal, pays dividends. “Various companies in the Philadelphia area that advertise with us and make their presence known feel the strength of the LGBT market coming into their doors,” he notes. “We hear this by their reps calling us and telling us that, or about a congratulatory letter written from an LGBT customer.”

Less impressive was the response to the outreach of PGN senior advertising media consultant Joe Bean, who has 23 years of experience in media sales and says he’s “used to going for big accounts.” Bean noticed the then-new local Target was placing recruitment ads in “all the other papers similar to ours in circulation,” including the local Spanish language publication.

“I kept calling and calling,” Bean recalls. “I got to the person who had jurisdiction over recruitment, who didn’t have to go through corporate in Minneapolis. But my efforts fell on deaf ears. They should be encompassing everyone, especially in a city like Philadelphia, which has a large LGBTQ footprint.”

For Evans, despite gains, “There is a lot of misinformation out there,” on the part of corporate buyers.

“The media habits of other niche markets differ drastically than that of the LGBT shopper, yet many corporations are using the same formula,” says Evans. “Digital is king in Hispanic media, and for the African-American market, it’s mobile. LGBTs, we use our phones for breaking news and for finding Mr. Right or Mr. Right now, but almost all digital and editorial news content comes from the print product. Face it. There is no Telemundo for the gays. There is no CNN for our people. They go local. It’s all about trust.”

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Business

Study: One in ten LGBT workers experienced discrimination at work

LGBTQ employees of color were more likely to report being denied jobs and verbal harassment at work as opposed their white counterparts

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bullying in the workforce, gay news, Washington Blade

LOS ANGELES – A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds an estimated 46% of LGBT workers have experienced unfair treatment at work at some point in their lives, including being fired, not hired, or harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  

An estimated 9% of LGBT employees reported experiences of discrimination in the past year, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which extended employment non-discrimination protections to LGBT people nationwide. Approximately 11% of LGBT employees of color reported being fired or not hired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in the last year.

Using survey data collected in May 2021 from 935 LGBT adults in the workforce, researchers examined lifetime, five-year, and past-year discrimination among LGBT employees.

Results show that over half (57%) of LGBT employees who experienced discrimination or harassment at work reported that the unfair treatment was motivated by religious beliefs, including 64% of LGBT employees of color and 49% of white LGBT employees.

“Employment discrimination and harassment against LGBT people remain persistent and pervasive in 2021,” said lead author Brad Sears, Founding Executive Director at the Williams Institute. “Passing the Equality Act would ensure that LGBT people—particularly transgender people and LGBT people of color—are allowed to participate fully in the workplace as well as other public settings.”

ADDITIONAL FINDINGS:

Discrimination

  • 30% of LGBT employees reported experiencing at least one form of employment discrimination (being fired or not hired) because of their sexual orientation or gender identity at some point in their lives.
  • 29% of LGBT employees of color reported not being hired compared to 18% of white LGBT employees.

Harassment

  • 38% of LGBT employees reported experiencing at least one form of harassment (including verbal, physical, or sexual harassment) at work because of their sexual orientation or gender identity at some point in their lives.
  • LGBT employees of color were significantly more likely to experience verbal harassment than white employees.
    • 36% of LGBT employees of color reported experiencing verbal harassment compared to 26% of white LGBT employees.

Religious Motivation

  • Of employees who experienced discrimination or harassment at some point in their lives, 64% of LGBT employees of color said that religion was a motivating factor compared to 49% of white LGBT employees.

Avoiding Discrimination

  • Half (50%) of LGBT employees said that they are not open about being LGBT to their current supervisor and one-quarter (26%) are not out to any of their co-workers. 
  • Many LGBT employees reported engaging in “covering” behaviors to avoid harassment or discrimination at work, such as changing their physical appearance and avoiding talking about their families or social lives at work.
    • For example, 36% of transgender employees said that they changed their physical appearance and 28% said they changed their bathroom use at work to avoid discrimination and harassment.

Read the report

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Business

Time to dust off your pre-pandemic budget

We can no longer rely on closures to restrict us from spending money

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With pandemic restrictions lifting, we’ll all be spending more on going out in 2021 than we did last year.

D.C.’s first ‘mostly open’ weekend shows there is a year’s worth of socializing built up. It was amazing to feel the energy of the District roar back to life. From long lines outside bars to literal dancing in the streets – this is the city we all came to love. Now that the physical hangover may have subsided, you should prepare for the financial hangover. If you were lucky to keep your full pay and position through the pandemic, data tells us most of you were paying down debt.

The first thing everyone needs to do is dust off that old pre-pandemic budget. Sadly (or really luckily), we can no longer rely on health restrictions to naturally restrict us from spending. If you need a refresher, start with your post-tax income. From there, subtract ‘fixed’ or required expenses, like rent, and the balance is what you get to play with. Some may ask why I don’t use gross income (aka the before tax income) like many financial institutions do for credit applications. Frankly, it’s because net income (aka the money you actually receive) is the most practical number to budget daily life with. It’s what you can tangibly use to live.

Now as you develop your budget, return to using an app like Mint to take some of the work out of it. If you prefer to retain some level of privacy, many banks offer their own version of ‘spending trends’ that you can use to put together a more simple budget. This time the challenge is a bit different – we are all ‘restarting’ our social lives. So instead of having to ‘cut’ things, we can better prioritize what we actually want to do. Still – it is not easy or fun to have to choose, but every dollar you don’t spend today, will be there for the next rainy day.

Finally, so many of our friends and family lost their jobs or had their wages cut during the pandemic. Expanded unemployment benefits helped, but anyone trying to budget for life in D.C. knows that choices had to be made and often rent/utilities took a back seat to eating. Luckily, a state-run, but federal program will help people pay back rent and utilities, so they can focus on getting back to work. In D.C., this is called StayDC, but each jurisdiction offers a similar program.

Be prepared to do a little homework, you will need proof of income (or lack thereof) and documentation of the late payments. Finally, your landlord will need to complete separate forms, but it is in their best interest to receive those funds, so don’t let them drag their feet. The program will cover back rent to April 2021, three months of future rent, and past utilities. Do not delay, nor feel any shame by participating – this is the key to your long term success and, frankly, is a drop in the bucket compared to other spending priorities.

I hope this helps and I wish everyone a much more fun and prosperous 2021.

Information contained herein is for informational purposes only and should not be considered investment advice or recommendations. Advice may only be provided after entering into an advisory agreement with an advisor.

Alex Graham is a Principal at Graham Capital Wealth Management, a registered Investment Advisor located on K Street.

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Business

Gay D.C. business owner to run 100-mile ultramarathon

Brandt Ricca to raise money for Capital Pride, LGBTQ businesses

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Brandt Ricca (Photo by Jonathan Thorpe/jthorpephoto)

Brandt Ricca will begin a non-stop 100-mile ultramarathon at 6 a.m. on Oct. 7 while most D.C. residents will still be sipping their morning coffee.

In a year of isolation and economic downturn, Ricca decided to run 100 miles in two days to benefit local, LGBTQ-owned businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Ricca, who’s lived in D.C. for 10 years, is donating the money he raises to the Capital Pride Alliance and Equality Chamber of Commerce, where he has been a member since 2018.

The gay entrepreneur and owner of the D.C.-based business Nora Lee by Brandt Ricca understands first-hand how the ongoing pandemic affects small businesses, particularly LGBTQ-owned companies.

“I definitely want to give back to the community and local colleagues, especially because Capitol Pride has been now canceled two years in a row,” Ricca said.

Out of the funds raised, 90 percent will go towards funding 20 small business grants through the Equality Chamber of Commerce and the remaining 10 percent will go towards supporting Capital Pride Alliance.  

Brandt, already an avid runner and self-described “fitness explorer,” decided after crowdsourcing ideas to pursue the 100-mile project. Ricca has been a frequent visitor at the Equinox Anthem Row in D.C. to prepare for the run.

“I was looking to do my next fitness endeavor, at the same time wanting to do something to get back to the fellow business owners in D.C.,” he said.

Applications for the 20 grants of various sizes for LGBTQ businesses are projected to open this summer through the Equality Chamber of Commerce, Ricca said. His goal is to raise $100,000 from individuals and companies. The grants will be distributed in October following the completion of the run.

Equality Chamber of Commerce Vice President Riah Gonzales-King is in the process of developing grants and additional summer educational programming to help young LGBTQ entrepreneurs and students start their businesses.

“So much of the culture centers around these businesses, many of which have been around for decades,” Gonzales-King said. “They’re pillars of the community — their owners are pillars in the community. And I think it’s time that we gave back.”

Helping LGBTQ entrepreneurs specifically at this time is essential, Ricca said, especially entrepreneurs in the creative and hospitality industry.

Ricca began training in February with the help of several exercise experts like Brian Mazza, a New York City fitness entrepreneur who ran 50 miles last December to raise awareness for male infertility stigma. The former Men’s Health headliner is guiding Ricca’s physical training, which has been a near-daily routine. Ricca was inspired by Mazza’s run in the first place.

Ricca reached out to Mazza over Instagram to get his assistance and training.

Mazza said Ricca reaching out over Instagram “meant the world.”

“I believe what he’s doing for his cause is remarkable,” Mazza said. “It’s important. I’m happy that he’s standing up for what he believes in and helping these businesses and helping individuals in general.”

Jacob Zemer, a coach and nutritionist, has designed a daily nutrition program for Ricca to prepare him for the run. Zemer and Mazza have been working together throughout the process to track Ricca’s health and progress.

The two fitness experts work with Ricca multiple times a day to monitor his diet, mileage, heart rate and pace monitoring. Both Mazza and Zemer said Ricca’a training has been successful.

“Brandt’s an excellent individual,” Zemer said. “He’s very easy to work with. He’s highly coachable, he’s a pleasure to talk to every day.”

Pacers Running will be sponsoring and designing Ricca’s 100-mile route throughout the D.C. region. The company is also working with Ricca to design specific shoes for the ultramarathon.

Pacers Running CEO Kathy Dalby won “Best Straight Ally” in the Washington Blade’s 2019 Best of Gay D.C.

“I really wanted someone local who could really guide me on a route,” Ricca said.

Elyse Braner, a community lead at Pacers Running and longtime friend to Ricca, said the local business was excited to collaborate with Brandt because of an alignment of values.

“As a community, inclusivity and diversity is extremely important to Pacers Running,” Braner said. “As a small business, we really appreciated that Brandt wanted to do an event that supported small businesses — specifically LGBTQ businesses.”

Originally an event-planning business, Nora Lee debuted in 2018 on the second annual Allison Gala, a fundraising event benefiting the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation, which Brandt created in memory of a family friend. He’s worked with a range of clients, including the Dupont Circle Hotel and Sotheby’s Real Estate.

Looking back at events on his website, he said he found himself bored with the photography. This led him to focus on creative marketing and decided to pivot his business model at the beginning of the pandemic. Now, Ricca provides photography and video shoots for clients.

“When COVID hit I decided to, like every business owner, I revisited my plan,” he said. “I really enjoyed the creative branding more in the photo shoot. So I decided to pivot strictly to just a full-on creative branding agency.”

The training for the 100-mile run has provided a stable routine for Ricca, which has helped him get through the pandemic, he said. Ricca is planning to create a campaign this summer inviting LGBTQ entrepreneurs to do their version of 100 miles, with the hope it will provide positive stability in their lives as it does in his.

“Obviously, people think I’m crazy for doing this,” Ricca said. “All the uncertainty out there right now – with business, with clients, with whatever; I needed an anchor. Something that was going to be a routine for me that I can control.”

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