In this political climate, where extreme polarization has led to lines being drawn in the strangest places, a new, liberal- and lesbian-owned company based just outside Nashville is challenging the far-right's assumed ownership of concepts like patriotism! Great Democracy Tees has created a line of unisex t-shirts bearing messages conveying bleeding-heart liberal ideals paired with the stars and stripes. Their mottos is: it's time to #takebacktheflag.

Great Democracy Tees Sabrina Torres (social media maven) and Jennifer Sheridan (documentary filmmaker) believe that we've allowed the far-right to hijack the ideals of patriotism and liberty for far too long.

“Driving through our new, rural neighborhood recently," Torres said, “we realized that, for years now, especially during the Trump administration and the rise of white supremacy, a lot of us have become really uncomfortable—nervous even—whenever we see someone displaying the American flag."

Sabrina Torres, co-founder, wearing Great Democracy Tees

“We knew a lot of other people who felt like we did," Sheridan added. “We felt as if conservatives—especially those who are openly racist and/or homophobic, had somehow commandeered the flag, and anyone who displayed it could now be associated with those positions. As a result, many liberals are so uncomfortable they don't risk displaying the flag at all, for fear of being mistaken as being aligned with far-right conservatives.

This is our country, too," Torres declared. “It's incredibly sad, this symbol that should inspire hope and reflect the promise of our country, makes a lot of us feel just the opposite right now when we see it displayed in front of someone's house."

They decided to do something about it, creating products that allow liberals, such as those in their LGBTQ+ community, to show pride in what this country could be, while still displaying their liberal values. “

Model wearing Great Democracy Tees

That's when we had an idea: what if we found a way help to take back the flag?" Sheridan asked rhetorically. “A way to claim it again, align it with a pro-liberal, pro-science, pro-human voice?"

“We started to talk about ideals that we hoped people would think about when they saw the flag: civil rights, equality, democracy, and hope for the future of our country," Sheridan continued. “How to get that kind of thinking out into our communities, all across the country, in an everyday way? T-shirts seemed like a logical choice that would makes sense for a lot of people."

“We've created an online store where every unisex t-shirt we offer has a liberal message and an American flag (even if it's just a small one), to help re-establish the view that you can be someone who loves the flag AND the promise of the United States, someone who believes in liberty and justice and 'love and compassion for all'," Torres added.

Model wearing Great Democracy Tees

Above and beyond championing a message, the couple is giving back from the proceeds of their sales. “We don't just want to put out t-shirts that talk about issues that are important," Sheridan explained, “we want to help fight to make things right, too, so we'll be donating $1 from every shirt sale to the ACLU."

Model wearing Great Democracy Tees

We have a long way to go in reclaiming our country's values from the far-right, they know, but we can't do it without publicly confronting their “ownership" of those parts of the national conversation.

“In the end, they're just t-shirts, but we hope our designs can help in a few ways. One, the message tells people about an issue that is important to you, and where you stand. Maybe it will even help start a discussion," said Torres. “And two, because every shirt from Great Democracy Tees incorporates not just an issue you care about but also the stars and stripes in some way, you're identifying yourself as what we like to call a 'flag-loving liberal'."

Model wearing Great Democracy Tees

Why shouldn't we take back the flag?" Sheridan concluded. “The flag really does belong to everyone, including those of us on the left. The flag + our views = our American values. And we think these values are important for all of us to be able to talk about and take action on. These are things to be proud of. It makes us who we are."

Model wearing Great Democracy Tees

Visit Great Democracy Tees to view their product line: you might just find a new way to proclaim to your corner of the world that your values are true American values.

Both Sheridan and Torres have previously been featured in O&AN. Click on their names for more!

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Like many of the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe films, LGBTQ+ fans awaited the release of Thor: Love and Thunder in open anticipation of the inclusivity that both Marvel and Disney had promised. However, the fans were only setting themselves up for disappointment when the film was finally released.

Despite passionate assurances from studio heads to key actors, Thor: Love and Thunder was NOT spectacularly gay. It wasn’t even that good…

Premiere Night Promises

A bolt of lightning cuts across a rainbow on a dark and stormy night.

Lightning bold across the sky

Photo by Bill D.

Standing on the red carpet at the London Premiere of the film, director and actor Taika Waititi and fellow cast members Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson were offered up the inevitable question: “How gay is the film?

Amidst some laughter from the crowds, Waititi gestured towards Portman to respond. The actress (who plays Thor’s love interest, Jane Foster, throughout the franchise) raised the microphone to her lips and thought for a moment, before delivering a quiet yet fateful: “So gay!

Barely a moment had passed before the gathered fans went wild and Taika Waititi gave his own verdict: “Super gay!”. Tessa Thompson made no statement on the ‘gayness’ of the film, instead opting to swing her microphone around suggestively. As more cheers erupted, a second round of “super gay” slipped out of Waititi’s mouth, before he urged the fans to enjoy the film.

Thor: Love and Thunder’s LGBTQ+ Potential

Thor’s movie-goers were definitely hyped up for a gay extravaganza and they had a specific character in mind. The fan-favorite Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson, stumbled her way into the MCU during Thor’s third film, Ragnarok. The Asgardian warrior won many people over with her wit, sarcasm, and pure badassery.

After the events of Avengers: Endgame *spoilers*, Thor Odinson gives up his claim to the throne of Asgard and names Valkyrie as king in his stead. This left many fans excited to see what would become of the character, especially after certain revelations were made at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con:

“As a new king, she has to find her queen. So that’ll be her first order of business.”

With these words, Tessa Thompson threw her LGBTQ+ fans into a frenzy, with heavy expectations for the then-upcoming fourth installment of the Thor films. Indeed, in an interview with the LA Times, shortly before the film's release, Tessa Thompson was asked to comment on the sexuality of her character. She responded with several promising remarks, including “there’s a lot of folks that are righteously very hungry for that representation to exist in these movies, as am I”.

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

So, How Gay Was Thor 4?

To put it simply: not gay at all. Not only did Valkyrie end up without a fabulous new queen, her non-heteronormative sexuality only got the barest mention (a brief line about a previous, now dead, girlfriend). Valkyrie may have made bedroom eyes at some pretty ladies before an action scene spoils the moment, but that’s about as much as we get.

The film does get some credit for introducing a trans character in a minor yet significant role. Thor returns to his people (after a brief stint as a Guardian of the Galaxy) only to find out that the daughter of one of his closest (and deceased) friends is now a boy. The issue is, whether due to personal prejudice or some alien inability to grasp the concept of being transgender, it does take Thor a frustrating few moments to come to terms with the change. And to stop deadnaming.

In fact, the only concession to the queer community was Taika Waititi’s extraterrestrial character Korg finding a husband in one of the closing scenes. This heartfelt moment was somewhat underscored by the revelation that Korg’s entire species is male, meaning he had no other choice but to be ‘gay’.

This Is Not Marvel’s First Queerbaiting Attempt

Close up of an eye reflecting an unknown scene as a rainbow crosses the image.

Photo by Harry Q.

This is, by far, not the first time that LGBTQ+ fans have been sorely disappointed by the workings of Marvel and Disney. In fact, people across many social media platforms have been chiding expectant viewers for once again falling for classic queerbaiting tactics. “Being queerbaited by the MCU is like being a golden retriever with a human who always pretends to throw the ball”, one Tumblr user declared.

Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, was the perfect moment for the MCU to introduce its first lesbian lead. Larson’s character seemed to have an intense relationship with another woman, going so far as to help raise her child (before Larson’s Carol Danvers disappeared from Earth for 6 years). Despite leaning into several romantic tropes, the status of their relationship was never fully fleshed out. However, it was also the franchise’s first female-led superhero movie, so maybe they thought that introducing her as a lesbian would make the film too awesome.

The heavily anticipated Avengers: Endgame was also slated to introduce the MCU’s ‘first gay character'. While many fans were excited, particularly as this would be the second of Larson’s appearances on screen, the big gay build-up was a massive letdown. The film’s director Joe Russo made a cameo as a blip survivor mourning the loss of his husband. A five-second throw-away scene that had no impact on the outcome of the film. Big whoop...

Even when we did see a film with a gay lead, The Eternals, there were also ten other straight leads. At that point, it just seemed more like basic probability than an attempt at pushing LGBT+ superheroes into the spotlight.

Why Can’t Disney Let Marvel Be Gay?

The big problem with allowing a few characters to be anything other than cishet is that there are still many countries in the world that outlaw homosexuality. As much as we like to think that the MCU is being made for comic book fans, we all know the purpose of the films is to make money for Disney. And without certain markets in Asia and the Middle East, Disney wouldn’t be raking in up to (and over) one billion dollars per theatrical release.

Is There Any Hope For LGBTQ+ Fans In The MCU’s Future?

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the second in the much-loved Black Panther arc, will be released in cinemas this November. The studio has confirmed that the film will contain a queer character. Actress Michaela Coel will play Aneka, a warrior, and trainer of the king’s guard. Whether or not her diversity will stand out in the film (let alone endure for more than a 10-second scene that can be easily cut) remains to be seen.

Next year’s The Marvels film, starring Brie Larson, Iman Vellani, and Lashana Lynch may offer the MCU a chance to redeem itself in the eyes of its LGBT+ fans. The studios may feel it’s finally time to offer us the heartwarming lesbian relationship between Larson’s Carol Danvers and Lynch’s Maria Rambeau that seemed to be teased in the first Captain Marvel. Don’t raise your hopes too high, though, as you may yet end up as a stubborn golden retriever waiting for a cinematic universe to finally throw that rainbow ball.