The creators of the LGBTQ+ and Trans Pride flags have found a novel way to boycott Equinox over revelations one of its investors, Stephen Ross, held a fundraiser for Donald Trump: They want the company to stop using their banners.
The estate of the late creator of the rainbow Pride flag, Gilbert Baker, wrote a letter to the luxury gym chain on August 9 saying that Baker would "not look kindly on the use of the Rainbow Flag by Equinox Gyms, SoulCycle, or any other of Stephen Ross's businesses; whether it is used as decoration or as a marketing tool or in any other way."
"[W]e are dedicated to calling out companies who wave the Rainbow Flag with one hand and then donate money to the people who... are determined to bring us harm with the other," wrote Charles Beal, manager of the Gilbert Baker Estate.
Beal also said the issue is a personal one for him: not only as a representative for Baker but as an Equinox customer. He said he's "always loved" going to its gyms.
"Therefore it is with great sadness that I must now terminate my membership with Equinox," he continued. "Knowing that even a penny of the money of my membership fees would go to support the current president is unacceptable."
The Baker Estate's letter was issued after people across the U.S. vowed to boycott the chain over the revelations regarding Ross' fundraising. Ross, who serves as an investor in Equinox owner The Related Companies and a chairman on its board, organized a Hamptons event for Trump which reportedly brought in $13 million.
Although LGBTQ+ people weren't the only ones to protest the chain, the news particularly struck a nerve with queer and transgender people given the Trump administration's consistent efforts to rollback equality since 2017. According to the national media watchdog organization GLAAD, the president is responsible for 122 attacks on the LGBTQ+ community in his 938 days in office.
Thus, whenOut contacted Trans Pride flag creator Monica Helms about the Baker Estate's letter, she was happy to join in calling for Equinox to refrain from displaying her banner in the future. In a statement to Out, Helms says it's "hypocritical" and "outwardly hateful" to use any flag representing the LGBTQ+ community while donating to politicians who work against its best interests.
"I would hope that in the future you will not be using [Pride flags] in any of your promotions to lie to LGBTQ people so you can use their money to take away their rights," she said in a statement shared with Out.
Helms added that Baker was a "friend" and that he would have been "angry" about any association between his creation and the company. Baker died in his sleep at his New York City home on March 2017 and was commemorated upon his death as helping "define the modern LGBT movement" by California state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). He was 65.
Amid enduring backlash to Ross' ties to Trump, Equinox has distanced itself the executive. In a statement released Thursday, Executive Chairman Harvey Spevak clarified that Ross "does not run the company."
"The last week has been difficult for all. I am sorry for the impact it has had on our community -- and I'm sorry we haven't said more," he added.
Equinox and SoulCycle, which is also owned by The Related Companies, have pledged to donate $1 million to a handful of nonprofit organizations following the protests, including the New York-based ballroom advocacy group House Lives Matter.