12 Apr 2007

“It’s not a choice. It’s the way we’re built.”

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A New York Time Styly article by Alec Williams discusses a perceived link between certain automotive choices and sexual orientation.

Cars are no more straight or gay than cellphones, office chairs or weed whackers. But in recent years that truism has not stopped a perception among some motorists that certain cars can, in the right context, be statements about a driver’s sexual orientation.

Ramone Johnson is a gay journalist and former Saturn engineer who compiles an annual “Top 10 Gay Cars” list for About.com, which is owned by The New York Times Company. Mr. Johnson said that “traditionally we are used to being defined by others.” Driving a stylish car can be a way of “taking control back” and saying “this is who I am,” he said.

Mr. Johnson maintains that “soft lines” and a “vibrant personality” — say like those on a Volkswagen New Beetle — are typical attributes of a gay man’s car, and fashion-forward red gauges and other styling cues, for example, make the Pontiac G6 more of a gay car than its sibling, the Grand Am, because the features express a taste for freedom and fun.

Neither automobile manufacturers nor dealers compile statistics on the sexual orientation of buyers.

Frank Markus, who is gay and the technical director for Motor Trend magazine, said auto companies tend to associate gay consumers with higher disposable incomes since fewer have children (one reason many are free to opt for less practical cars, like two-seaters or convertibles, as well). Tellingly, when the American Family Association, a conservative Christian group, pressured the Ford Motor Company to pull advertising from gay publications like The Advocate in 2005, the ads were for Land Rover and Jaguar, two high-end brands owned by Ford.

Subaru has been the most prominent company to embrace the gay market. As long ago as 2000, the automaker created advertising campaigns around Martina Navratilova, the gay tennis star, and also used a sales slogan that was a subtle gay-rights message: “It’s not a choice. It’s the way we’re built.” Little wonder that many lesbians refer to their Outbacks as “Lesbarus.”

Read the whole thing.


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