Fame Neal’s favorite shirt says “COOCH.”
The Cs and H are scrawled in curvy, marker-thick font and the Os have been replaced by pink-frosted doughnuts that’d make Homer Simpson say “mmm.” Underneath the letters are the words they stand for: “Courageously Overcoming Obstacles + Challenges Homosexually.”
“I think it resonates with a lot of people,” Neal said.
The design is one of seven available for purchase through Neal’s T-shirt company, Lezcronymz, that launched online last month and uses loud logos and “off-color” acronyms to dispel gay stereotypes. Her target audience is LGBTQ women.
“What I wanted to do was really connect to LGBTQ youth, basically, because some individuals in my family were going through figuring out their gender identity,” Neal said. “So, I decided to create a T-shirt line that, for one, would help in-the-closet youth feel like they didn’t have to be there.”
As the co-owner of MarketHers, a business that equips LGBTQ women of color with a digital-marketing education, and with a background in nonprofits and youth programming, Neal has the resume to back her business goals.
Acronyms are newer territory; the idea came after a night out for drinks in the Gayborhood two years ago.
“I was with my best friend Stephanie Acevedo and we were sitting in my car, smoking some weed, and we started coming up with these lesbian acronyms just randomly off the tops of our heads,” Neal said. “We were cracking up all night and were like, ‘You know what? We should put these on T-shirts.’”
The acronyms, which have reached an inventory of 100, use words such as “DYKE,” which Neal has included to ally herself with the movement to reclaim what was once offensive language.
“You take the word dyke — originally it was meant to offend people in the gay community,” said Neal. “We’ve repurposed the word into the acronym: Dildos, Yahtzee, Kissing, Everything — random-ass shit. What I’m trying to do is repurpose a lot of stereotypes that were placed on us through acronyms, basically to take the power away from the word.”
Neal’s shirts also feature marijuana-friendly designs. A T-shirt that reads “HEMP” stands for “Happily Exploring Man-Free Panties.” Lezcronymz also posted a promotional photo of marijuana on Instagram as part of their “4:20” p.m. site launch on June 22.
Neal, who intends to donate a percentage of her sales to LGBTQ youth programming, is aware that the Lezcronymz’s slang and drug content may be controversial for prospective partners looking to raise awareness. But she has a plan.
“When it comes to working with the different schools and youth, we’re going to have a blind process where you don’t have to identify yourself with our company in order to be a recipient of the benefit itself,” Neil said. “We do understand that Lezcronymz is a bit off-color and it is a bit much, so you can receive the funding from us without actually saying, ‘Hey, we’re partnering with Lezcronyms.’”
Eventually, Neal hopes to supply her T-shirts for LGBTQ youth events in the city and to collaborate on hosting get-togethers and contests as a way of creating safe spaces for LGBTQ youth. A brick-and-mortar store is also in the works for next year, she said.
For now, Neal just wants her shirts to catch as many eyes as possible.
“Visibility is the whole point of my shirts and that’s why they’re so: What the hell does that say?” Neal said. “Not everyone is OK with being visibly gay, but I think it’s important for those who feel comfortable to show that pride, because you never know who you’re going to pass who might want encouragement.”