Stand on the corner of Christopher and Gay in New York City today, and you might notice something different. The signs that read Christopher Street and Gay Street still remain, but ten more have been installed below them in colorful letters, adding ‘Lesbian,’ ‘Bisexual,’ ‘Transsexual,’ ‘Queer,’ ‘Intersex,’ ‘Asexual,’ ‘Non-Binary,’ ‘Pansexual,’ ‘Two Spirit,’ ‘+,’ and ‘#Acceptance’ streets.
This change was implemented on 17 June by Mastercard as an expression of the company’s support for the LGBTQ+ community during World Pride month. The effort was sanctioned by the city’s Human Rights Commission and crafted by the company that makes signs for New York City.
“Inclusion and acceptance are what we believe in as a company and promote within our company’s culture. We fully stand by this belief,” Cheryl Guerin, executive vice-president, North America marketing and communications, at Mastercard, said in a release. “As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, we want to remind everyone that inclusion and acceptance matter. We have made progress, but there is still work to do to ensure that everyone has a way to express their true selves. A day with 100% acceptance would truly be priceless.”
This year’s New York City Pride parade comes 50 years after the birth of the gay rights movement at the Stonewall Inn, across from Christopher Park, where LGBTQ+ people rebelled against police abuse and harassment. Homosexuality was criminal in 1969, and a state-sanctioned street sign showing solidarity would have been unthinkable. Today, you can see Mastercard’s colorful mark of support as you wait at the intersection.
But it doesn’t stop there. At a panel discussion with the New York City Human Rights Commission, Mastercard unveiled a new product: the True Name card. This allows LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly those who are transgender or non-binary, to obtain a debit, credit, or prepaid card with their preferred name on it.
Mastercard isn't alone in its deeper support. Beer brand Carling recently unveiled the second phase of its Made Local campaign, with a TV spot and longer-form documentary centred on LGBTQ+ inclusive football team Black Country Fusion FC. And back in 2017, Condé Nast boldly launched Them, a brand specifically aimed at the LBGTQ community, masterminded by Teen Vogue digital editorial director Phillip Picardi.
“We are allies of the LGBTQIA+ community, which means if we see a need or if this community is not being served in the most inclusive way, we want to be a force for change to help address and alleviate unnecessary pain points,” Randall Tucker, chief diversity and inclusion officer for Mastercard, said in a statement. “This translates not only for our Mastercard employee community, but for our cardholders and the communities in which we operate more broadly. Our vision is that every card should be for everyone.”
In doing this, Mastercard is working to ameliorate a genuine hardship felt by the LGBTQ+ community. According to the company’s data, nearly one out of every three individuals who have shown IDs with a name or gender that did not match their presentation reported negative experiences, such as being harassed, denied services, and/or attacked. It can be a complex, laborious and expensive process to get your name or gender legally changed, and until then, the disconnect between the card and the person holding it is a source of stress and anxiety.
While the company pushes to get the True Name card into the market, Mastercard is boldly calling on other companies to make it the industry standard. There is still much fighting to be done on the frontier of civil rights and social acceptance. But acts of symbolism and material accommodation such as the #Acceptance initiative and True Name card are a good step forward.
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