The group planning a "straight pride parade" in Boston next month said Tuesday that Needham-based TripAdvisor and more than a dozen other companies "hate the straight" because the businesses have refused to sponsor the parade.
The group, Super Happy Fun America, contends that heterosexual people are not the beneficiaries of dominant culture but rather victims of "inequities." Super Happy Fun America's president, John Hugo, ran for Congress last year and lost to Rep. Katherine Clark by 52 points.
Super Happy Fun America previously claimed to be "in negotiations" with 15 companies, including Lyft, Bank of America, GrubHub, Gillette and Ben & Jerry's. On its website, the group listed the businesses, along with their logos, as "prospective corporate sponsors."
Each of the businesses declined to sponsor the parade; Super Happy Fun America posted many of the companies' cease-and-desist letters on Tuesday.
TripAdvisor's letter stands out for its inclusion of songs that LGBTQ+ people have adopted as anthems. The full text of the letter appears below, with annotations to explain the references.
Dear Mr. Hugo,
I am writing on behalf of TripAdvisor LLC concerning Super Fun Happy America’s [sic] unauthorized use of TripAdvisor’s logo, as displayed on your website at superhappyfunamerica.com/2019/07/09/corporate-sponsors/. I’m Coming Out and saying this clearly: you are infringing upon TripAdvisor’s intellectual property rights. Further, your statement that you are “in negotiations” with TripAdvisor as a “potential sponsor” is completely false.
I’m Coming Out: Diana Ross’s 1980 hit was written by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards. Rodgers said in a 2013 interview with the Daily Mail that “we had written it because of her gay following,” but he pitched it to Ross as nothing more than “her ‘coming-out’ song to start her gigs.”
To be precise, your use of the TripAdvisor trademark and our Beautiful logo infringes TripAdvisor’s trademark and trade name rights. TripAdvisor’s trademarks are protected in many countries around the world and Over The Rainbow, including in the United States under Registration Nos. 2727627, 3171193, 4612678 and 4454774. We have become a well-known brand for our reviews of hotels, restaurants, experiences and even the occasional YMCA, but we weren’t Born This Way – we obtained that recognition through significant advertising and promotion since as early as 2000. As a result of the breadth of the services it provides and its widespread renown, TripAdvisor enjoys substantial rights in its mark and name.
YMCA: Here’s what David Hodo, the Village People’s “construction worker,” told Spin magazine in 2008: “‘YMCA’ certainly has a gay origin. That’s what [producer Jacques Morali] was thinking when he wrote it, because our first album [1977’s Village People] was possibly the gayest album ever. I mean, look at us. We were a gay group. So was the song written to celebrate gay men at the YMCA? Yes. Absolutely. And gay people love it.”
Born This Way: No less than Elton John proclaimed Lady Gaga’s hit “the new gay anthem” when it came out in 2010. Lynn Neary recently explored the full history of the song’s status in NPR’s “American Anthem” series.
Contrary to your claims, TripAdvisor is not “in negotiations” with your organization for sponsorship of its “Straight Pride Parade.” Similarly, we have not authorized you to use our name or logo in any way. You Need To Calm Down – you are not sponsored by, associated or affiliated with TripAdvisor in any way, and thus, your use of our marks could confuse the public as to an affiliation with TripAdvisor. These inaccurate statements, which I trust do not show your True Colors, infringe on TripAdvisor’s rights under the Lanham Act, and impinge upon our Freedom! to decide with what organizations we want to associate our brand. Have A Little Respect and remove those statements. TripAdvisor and I Will Survive without being associated with your event.
You Need To Calm Down: There’s an ongoing debate about whether Taylor Swift’s recent release qualifies as a gay anthem or is an example of cultural appropriation. These pieces in Esquire, the Atlantic, Vox and the Daily Beast will get you caught up.
True Colors: Cyndi Lauper has become a prominent LGBTQ+ ally since “True Colors” was a hit in 1986. She is the co-founder of True Colors United, a nonprofit that works to end homelessness among LGBTQ+ people. Lauper told Billboard magazine in 2017 that she has been moved by “people who were disenfranchised from their families and their homes, and their jobs, and their friends when they came out and how they felt suicidal, and then they heard ‘True Colors.’ and it kind of saved their lives.”
Freedom!: George Michael was not publicly out when “Freedom! ‘90” was a hit in 1990. But as Rolling Stone magazine explained last month, “the gifted, soulful and charismatic former Wham! frontman had long been a white-hot sex symbol, role model and trendsetter for gay men and other LGBTQ individuals across the world.”
A Little Respect: Erasure lead singer Andy Bell was openly gay when “A Little Respect” was a hit in 1988. He told the Guardian in 2015 that “if I had been a closet gay, Erasure could have been much bigger, but I’m proud I wore my heart on my sleeve from the start.”
I Will Survive: This summer marks the 40th anniversary of “Disco Demolition Night,” an event staged by the Chicago White Sox that some consider racist and homophobic because it stoked hatred of music that was popular in black and gay dance clubs. WBUR’s “Only A Game” revisited the episode on a recent show. The journal Popular Music noted in 2007 that the “historic eruption at Chicago’s Comiskey Park came just weeks after the chart reign of Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive,’ today a classic emblem of gay culture in the post-Stonewall and AIDS eras and arguably disco’s greatest anthem.”
There is nothing Vogue or acceptable about making false claims about others merely to support your own cause. If I Could Turn Back Time, I would tell you not to use our name in the first place. But now that you have, TripAdvisor demands that you remove all uses of our name, mark and logo from your website (and anywhere else you might use it) within 24 hours and not use them again. In other words, Black Me Out with an “X” on the above webpage. You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) disappointment that you thought this might be an acceptable way to do business.
Vogue: The 1990 Madonna hit became popular in Harlem drag balls, according to Rolling Stone. But even before then, the “underground art form of voguing … was pioneered by queer black and Latino youth in 1980s New York,” WBUR’s Quincy Walters reported last year, in a piece about “Vogue Hour” events in Roxbury.
If I Could Turn Back Time: Stephen Daw offered this explanation in a 2018 Billboard magazine article: “Ever since the early days of her career, pop icon Cher has become an unequivocal gay icon. Whether it’s her constant support of her transgender son, Chaz Bono, her flamboyant and fabulous costumery, or even her Oscar-nominated starring role as a lesbian in the film Silkwood (which also starred her fellow ‘Mamma Mia’ co-star Meryl Streep), the ‘Turn Back Time’ singer has cemented her place in gay history.”
You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real): The 1978 Sylvester hit was “a song of freedom,” the singer’s biographer, Joshua Gamson, told NPR last year. “You’ve come out of the closet. It’s been difficult. Many people [at the time] have moved out of their homes of origin, their families of origin, with great pain, and moved to a more liberated place, like San Francisco. And then … this person comes out into public life that sounds like what you were feeling when you made yourself free.”
TripAdvisor is willing to resolve this matter amicably, today, on the above terms. That said, if you Don’t Stop Me Now by taking the requisite actions, TripAdvisor reserves all rights to take whatever enforcement actions it deems appropriate, including – if necessary – taking legal action against Super Fun Happy America, its principals, affiliates, or those acting in concert with you. Finally, I likely am not Dancing On My Own here, as I suspect the above arguments apply to most or all of the companies listed on the above webpage.
Don't Stop Me Now: This wasn’t one of the biggest hits for Queen and flamboyant frontman Freddie Mercury. But as Rolling Stone’s Jerry Portwood puts it, “with lyrics like, ‘That’s why they call me Mister Fahrenheit/I’m trav’ling at the speed of light/I wanna make a supersonic man out of you,’ it sounds like the boys are ready to let it all hang out.”
Dancing On My Own: Calum Scott scored a hit in the United Kingdom with his cover of Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own” in 2016. He was previously a contestant on “Britain’s Got Talent.” Scott told the Scottish Sun, “I purposely didn’t change the pronouns in ‘Dancing On My Own,’ so that it was from a gay man’s perspective.”
Please know and Believe that we take this matter seriously and look forward to your prompt compliance.
Believe: Music producer Rob Dickins recalled the origin of Cher’s “Believe” in an interview with PinkNews last year: “Without really thinking, I said to her: ‘Gay men adore you; they don’t really like the records you’re making, but they love you. Now, wouldn’t it be a great idea to make a record where they could love the record and love you?‘”
Vice President, Associate General Counsel
Correction: An earlier version of this story got Queen frontman Freddie Mercury's first name wrong. We regret the error.
This article was originally published on July 23, 2019.