WATCH: With the help of advertising, gays are (finally) the new normal

Screen shot 2015-11-18 at 10.19.48 AMI had an ex-mother-in-law with whom I often sowed family discord by challenging on her ideas about relationships. She claimed to be gay-friendly and supportive of her son (my ex), but I knew it wasn’t in her heart. One time, when the ex and I met her and her husband for lunch in Orlando, Fla., she noted that they had been at Disney World earlier, on what happened to be Gay Day. (That was the reason my ex and I were there; you’d think she’d have known that.) She clucked her tongue that, while “I have no problem with gay people,” she thought it was “inappropriate” how gays at the park “throw their sexuality in your face. I don’t like public displays of affection in any context!” she whined.

“Oh?” I said. “You’re holding your husband’s hand as we speak. And when we saw you in the parking lot, you gave your son a big hug and kiss. Clearly, you don’t mind public displays of affection; you just don’t like seeing the kinds that offend you. That makes you a hypocrite.”

It was a pretty quiet lunch after that.

What infuriates me about that kind of casual bigotry is how it presumes gay people should stay in the closet; that heterosexuality can be public, but not homosexuality; that it is something to be embarrassed by. “Do you believe his son brought his boyfriend to the funeral and they held hands during the service!?” I heard a woman say once after a funeral. It never occurred to this bigot that the son needed his boyfriend’s support, that he had lost his father and needed comfort; it also never occurred to the person that the entire family might actually be supportive of the gay son and like the boyfriend. The speaker was offended on behalf of the family, never thinking that — perhaps — not everyone was as virulent a homophobe as she was.

This is what the right is really contending with now: Not that openness will lead to recruitment, but that it will make it more difficult to demonize people who are different. If your kids know gay people who are cool, and seem well adjusted, it makes teaching them bigotry all that more difficult.

And finally the mainstream media is catching on.

Of course, locally, our own Todd and Cooper Smith-Koch became celebs when their print ad with their children for JCPenney went viral, causing claims of “pandering” to gays. There have been many ads in recent years that include gays, though sometimes comically.

But a new TV spot from Kohl’s department store — it’s below — does exactly what my ex-mother-in-law, and the woman at the funeral, couldn’t do: Imagine gay people (of different races, even!) as part of a happy, comfortable family dynamic.

The imagery is subtle. A matriarch is beginning to prepare Thanksgiving dinner as the family members start to arrive — daughter and son-in-law with the grandkids; maybe a divorced daughter; then a strapping young man in the company of an African-America man; eventually, an older black couple shows up. Everyone’s helping out — cooking, cleaning, setting the table. There’s laughter and hugs … including an apparently affectionate toast with the gay couple, both sets of parents looking on, smiling.

Just a typical American family.

And that’s what the right, and bigots, can’t stand. The idea that real America families are diverse is anathema to them. They operate in a universe where everyone conforms to a fake ideal. And that fake ideal was largely spread to them through the osmosis of advertising, which seeks to recreate a world that consumers can see themselves as a part of. That used to be a segregated world; I remember how McDonald’s commercials would often have black people, or white people … but almost always in separate spots. The black ads even had a more “urban” version of the jingle. Everyone likes McDonald’s!” the message was … just so long as they stick to their own. Now, though, advertisers want more eyes, more dollars, more inclusiveness. Hence the Kohl’s ad.

This is becoming the new normal. It’s especially heartening that it arrives around the holidays, when family, togetherness and love are at the top of people’s minds. (The spot is even called “Celebrate Togetherness.”) Of course, it’s something the gay media has tried (successfully, I think) to illustrate for decades. We appreciate everyone catching up. Now go out and buy shit.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: New JCPenney Black Friday commercial with Dallas talent

Recognize any of the folks in this ad? You should. I spotted at least three: Doug Miller (far left front), Denise Lee (next to Doug) and Bruce DuBose (right rear). Of course, it’s also for one of our favorite retailers, JCPenney, which is not only local but gay-friendly.

Check it out after the jump.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

JCPenney taps Girl in a Coma’s brand new “Heatwave” cover for July national ad campaign

To get in the summertime groove, Girl in a Coma just released their cover of the classic “Heatwave.” Personally, as a big Martha and the Vandellas fan, this made my day and am adding to my summer playlists. But the bigger news is that North Texas-based retailer JCPenney has picked up the song for its July national ad campaign. Whether by coincidence or design, this should reinforce the company’s support of the LGBT population. But they pretty much have won the community over already.

“Heatwave” is now available on iTunes.

—  Rich Lopez

“Gay is Okay” rapper Adair Lion, beauty queen fiancee, to receive first Equality Texas Ally Award

Equality Texas just announced the honorees for its firs- ever Ally Awards. Earlier this month, I spoke with rapper Adair Lion about his viral song and video “Gay is Okay,” which garnered a whole lot of buzz. Now comes word he will receive the Equality Texas Ally Individual of the Year Award alongside his fiancee, Miss West Texas Kaylee Anne Keith, whose platform includes bullying prevention. Lion is in good company. JCPenney was named Business of the Year and the POTUS (and VPOTUS) were named Civic Leaders of the Year.

I called Lion for his response. He was both nervous and thrilled.

“I don’t know what to wear,” he said at first. But he finds himself rather amazed by the honor and his fellow winners.

“Isn’t that awesome? I feel ecstatic especially since this is the first time for the awards. I’m so honored and it’s really crazy,” he said.

It also meant a great deal to share it with his fiancee. He felt Keith may have crashed-and-burned with her LGBT-friendly platform at the Miss Texas pageant, but he’s more proud that she stayed true to her platform where others advised her not to.

“She really stuck out her neck in an area of Texas where this talk is still a bit taboo. To stand up for the community in West Texas, people would tell her not to push this platform. It could have been great or disastrous for her. It worked in Miss West Texas though, but not so much in Miss Texas. But I’m so proud of her and this award is like a validation of that. The dialogue needs to be open for everyone — rappers, beauty queens, artists — and this won’t be taboo anymore. When morality changes, that’s when the laws change. We’re seeing that now.”

The Ally Awards will take place June 22 at the Vendome. Read the full press release here.

—  Rich Lopez

JCPenney returns to Dallas retail

It has been an irony on the level of the Big Tobacco office building being smoke-free or the beef industry lobbying group having vegetarian options on its cafeteria menu. JCPenney, once the ruler of catalogue sales and a retail captain, is based in North Texas but has not had a Dallas store since the one in NorthPark Center closed in the late 1990s.

Well, it’s back. And with a lot of style.

The new store, which officially opened at Skillman Road and Northwest Highway last weekend, is part of a huge new complex that includes a gigantic Wal-Mart that probably warrants its own congressman. The JCP store isn’t as big, but it is fairly fancy.

JCP has always been a mid-range seller that doesn’t compete with fellow Dallas-based icon Neiman Marcus but brags that is does offer style for less. (It’s VP in charge of design, Geoffrey Henning, is a longtime supporter and designer for DIFFA.) The new store — clean and fresh as a newly minted penny — lives up to the promise.

JCP staffers brag that the store is now the exclusive retailer for what they say is the most recognized name in women’s fashion, Liz Claiborne, though the designs have been updated from the 1970s-era when the brand became famous. Credit uber-gay Isaac Mizrahi, its comparatively new creative director, with turning things around. There are a number of exclusive deals and in-house labels at JCP, including a juniors line from the Olsen Twins, but the new venue is most excited about its MNG by Mango store-within-a-store, which does fast fashions for women. Another innovation: An in-house salon where you can get your hair cut or an entire makeover if you need it, then continue on with your bargain shopping.

The men’s department is smaller than the women’s, but the J. Ferrar line of clothes, pictured, is worth a look, and if you’re a fragrance junkie, an in-store Sephora shop.

For shopaholics like me, it’s always fun to browse at a new store, not only to see what’s new (lots of fall fashions are already out, despite the 99-degree temperatures this week) but also to take advantage of the bargains and enjoy the enthusiasm of a fresh staff in a beautiful space. And JCPenney doesn’t scrimp on the sales, coupons and discounts. It’s a great place to check out something new and save money doing it.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones