As a young man living in Israel and the son of a Holocaust survivor, I saw up close the impact of conflict and hate, division and difference being obstacles to living in a peaceful, progressive society. Now we must redouble our efforts in the face of growing, seemingly insurmountable opposition from the incoming Trump administration and the potential to lose so much ground we have made for all Americans. This came very close to home immediately after the election for me and my business, Love & Pride.
I have been an outspoken ally to the LGBTQ community all my life, eventually founding Love & Pride to use my passion and talent as a designer to promote education and better understanding of LGBTQ people. Channeling my life's work into my activism has been incredibly rewarding, and our recent expansion to have a visible presence in stores around the country is something I have been working for and so proud of since we launched last June.
But immediately after the presidential election, we found ourselves in the crosshairs of the anti-LGBTQ group One Million Moms, following the airing of a phenomenal -- and inclusive -- advertisement by one of our partner businesses, Zales.
You can see the ad here:
In just 30 seconds this ad captures the true spirit of many kinds of love -- all beautiful, all moving, all valid. Except to the One Million Moms.
One Million Moms is an anti-LGBTQ group that is an arm of the American Family Association, which is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and it attacked Zales and Love & Pride for our desire to reach diverse consumers with a message of unconditional love. You can see for yourself here.
When the group unleashed its attack, I was shocked but not surprised. Since the election of Donald Trump, all kinds of bigots feel more empowered to lash out at LGBTQ people, women, people of color, and others. I can now empathize with how that feels, as this attack was directed at the very heart of my passion and work. Love & Pride has been in business well over a decade, and this is the first time we have been targeted in such a manner. This despite the fact that we have very vocally supported groups like Marriage Equality USA and the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
I am heartened by the support and positive attention we have seen online and privately from consumers across the country. The response to the ad online has been overwhelmingly positive, and I am thrilled that thousands of people are thanking Zales for the ad's inclusivity and message of love and hope. If we ever needed an uplifting message, now is the time.
The Love & Pride collection has always been about love, peace, hope, pride, and equality, and our goal has always been to bring people together. And this is not simply about LGBTQ people.
I currently have a collection of jewelry from Israel celebrating Christianity, as well as a collection in another major mall chain celebrating the inner beauty of women.
Make no mistake, I do this not as a political statement but as an artist and designer who cares about our world and cares about all people. But I have learned that it is inherently political to show support for some, and in this intensely politicized climate in America I understand that my work and actions are seen that way by some. So be it.
For me, jewelry is and always will be meant as a way to commemorate beautiful moments in our lives and a way to express love and affection. I feel very strongly that the response by One Million Moms is both hateful and divisive. Now more than ever we must work for a world that has less division, respects diversity and allows all people to express their love for each other.
If that is threatening to those who oppose us, they are in for a big surprise as our communities and our allies rise to the coming challenges ahead and continue to work together for a more equitable and diverse world where hate dies and love thrives.
UDI BEHR is the founder of Love & Pride.