Unbeknownst to the queer-friendly auto giant, General Motors has already paved the way for legalizing same-sex matrimony
DETROIT — We’re immersed in a neo queer revolution. Across the U.S., our LGBT family has galvanized.
Recently in Dallas, we’ve seen angry protests against First Baptist Church, the Catholics, California voters, Cinemark screenings of "Milk" and no-trannies-allowed bars.
We should be damn proud of our family.
And maybe this is the Melissa Etheridge Kool-Aid that’s talking, but let’s consider alternatives to angry rallies.
Perhaps we could harness our "label queen" superpowers and — without permission — seize control over GM’s corporate queer image. Every time you see a GM product — Cadillac, Chevy, Saab, Pontiac, Buick, GMC, Saturn and Hummer — just say the words "gay marriage."
This week, General Motors invited Dallas Voice to attend the 2009 Detroit Auto Show. Even though I was an auto show virgin, it was obvious that this year was seriously fucked up.
There was no getting around it: After jet-setting into Capitol Hill, GM’s ass was still beet red from that bailout spanking.
Beneath the promising alternative-fuel veneer of their 2010-12 line, you could taste a hint of "We’re scared shitless." And in Detroit — a city that’s been white-knuckling it for a long time — there’s no shortage of economic fear.
GM’s already earned some major queer props. Their PR outreach has been courting the LGBT market since the dawn of Y2K. And at the Motor City auto show, GM proudly rolled out their queer employees — designers, trend watchers, technical writers, marketing peeps: This global conglomerate hires some of the best and brightest queer minds.
And let’s put it out there: Some auto companies (Porsche) still pretend gays aren’t buying their cars.
It’s all about shifting away from the piston and toward the lithium-ion batteries.
Out of the 17 newbies, GM’s launching two biggie hybrids: the 2010 Chevy Volt and the jaw-droppingly snazzy 2012 Cadillac Converj.
With it’s low-sloping roofline, the five-door hatchback Volt (around $40,000), is Chevy’s first plug-in hybrid. The electric motor will power the car up for up to 40 miles. The gas engine is a generator that kicks in and recharges the batteries when they’re near empty.
When the Cadillac Converj rolled out, it was like Posh Spice just made a surprise entrance. The unveiling was breathtaking. The Converj (probably gonna hit the $100K mark) kinda looks like a CTS coupe. But this hybrid is the epitome of sleek styling. If someone asked Bobby Trendy, he’d say the Converj was, "Luxurious!"
My first real auto show experience was a breakfast powwow titled "Adapting to the State of Business," where GM’s diversity spokesperson Roderick D. Gillum, talked about the auto giant’s commitment to social responsibility. He mentioned civil rights crusader and GM board member Leon Sullivan, who played such an integral part in the success of the anti-apartheid movement — the man who helped GM realize that voluntarily withdrawing from doing business with South Africa was a bold and phenomenal change.
And when apartheid finally crumbled, South Africa’s rebirth ended not just racial discrimination, it abolished all discrimination, which gave same-sex couples the right to legally marry and enjoy the same full, equal marriage rights as their hetero brothers and sisters.
Yep, as fucked up as South Africa once was, their new constitutional bill of rights is light-years ahead of ours.
At GM’s diversity powwow, Dallas Voice asked if Sullivan’s legacy in South Africa is still alive in the U.S., and if GM supported same-sex marriage rights in America?
A mild gay panic-attack erupted, and someone from the back of the room quickly trotted out GM’s Corporate Equality Index rating and the fact the company offers benefits for same-sex partners. As the Asians and African-Americans in the room scratched their heads, the Q&A sharply shifted direction and GM’s social responsibility to same-sex marriage was purposefully left unanswered.
After that, this Dallas Voice reporter started feeling like the gay "Roger & Me" dude of the Detroit Auto Show. The marriage question just made people more nervous. And the last thing I wanted to do was mess with a company that’s trying so hard to get it right.
Initially, I wanted GM to publicly say that they support full, equal same-sex marriage rights in the U.S. — just like the gays they helped in South Africa. However, during this crisis-management situation, GM can’t afford to do anything so publicly risky. But after three days, I couldn’t let it go — all that gay protest anger was bubbling inside.
Then it dawned on me.
GM has already helped make gay marriage a reality — in South Africa. And for three days, everywhere I looked those initials hovered over me: GM.
Because of South Africa, GM supports gay marriage whether they realize it or not.
I don’t need them to say it. We can just usurp their approval by using the initials of their company — let’s always remind them that they first did it in South Africa, and now they’re going to help us in the U.S.
This is the deal: Every time you see a GM car, just say, "That’s a gay marriage car."
Go ahead — flaunt the GM logo; place the words "gay marriage" beneath it. Make the letters GM as ubiquitous as rainbow flags, pink triangles and HRC bumper stickers. And if someone says "General Motors," correct them and say, "Oh, you mean ‘gay marriage."
On this journey for full, equal rights, GM has met us halfway. Now let’s just take advantage all of their corporate branding, their beautiful advertising and lovely fuel-efficient cars, and mold it into our new Gay Marriage brand.
During this corporate crisis, GM has no choice. To say they don’t support full equal marriage rights or that they disapprove of gays using their brand as a Pride marriage badge …. Well, that would be grounds for a corporate divorce.
GAYER THAN PINK INK
One of GM’s brightest queer superstars is the vivacious British import Christopher Webb, manager of GM’s color trends. Does Webb look familiar? He appeared on "Project Runway 5," when the designers recycled Saturn car parts into fashion.
And Webb’s been to Dallas. He’s the hotshot whom Mary Kay Inc. tapped to design the new shade of pink for Mary Kay’s 2006 Cadillac.
Webb’s a brilliant walking encyclopedia — an expert about tinting, pigments, vacuumized flakes and hand-sprayed substrates. His passion for color is mesmerizing. I’d describe something as "looks silvery." Webb would say "liquid mercury" "gunmetal" or "chrome."
Remember his name. Webb’s this close to being the next Tim Gunn.
MEET GM’S TRANS PIONEER
One of General Motors most valuable employees is Steven Hanses, pictured, a senior product-assembly-document processor, who’s been with the company since 1984.
This native Detroiter is out as transgender at work, but Hanses (also known as Thora Lars) doesn’t "cross" at the office. He says some co-workers have met Thora outside of work, "And they have been remarkably good to me."
Hanses also works on the board of GM Plus, the company’s LGBT affinity group. Last year, he brought GM sponsorship to the Southern Comfort Conference, the largest transgender gathering in the country, which happens in September in Atlanta. At the 2008 conference, the GM logo was on SCC billboards, programs and on the sleeves and shoulders in the fishing competitions. You go, Thora!
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 16, 2009.