A Kentucky food truck is getting heat, and it’s not from the hot BBQ they serve up. After deciding to sell t-shirts, the owner advertised his merchandise. He hoped to strum up sales, not knowing his “offensive” shirt would stir controversy.
Jamie Smith owns a successful mobile food truck business called Belle’s Smokin BBQ. It’s based in Williamstown, Kentucky, but Smith has traveled all over the state, bringing his food to crowds for years. He also sells t-shirts, but sales were struggling.
In two years, Smith only sold about 100 shirts. He decided to advertise on Facebook, hoping to increase sales. But, criticism is what he initially got after some social media users deemed one shirt “offensive,” saying it had an insensitive and hateful message plastered across the front.
“I support LGBTQ,” the shirt read, but what followed set some people off. “Liberty, Guns, Bible, Trump, and BBQ,” the message continued under the letters that usually stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning or queer. The play on the acronym didn’t go over well with some supporters of the LGBTQ community.
“We are going to stock up on some Swag. Hat and shirts. Let me know what yall want via text message. We are going to have our traditional Belles shirts, trucker hats. We will also have our LGBTQ shirts as well,” the post on Belle’s business page, featuring a photo of the LGBTQ shirt, read in part.
It went viral before being taken down. “Thank you all for your comments and your polite phone calls,” a follow-up post said, appearing to have a pinch of sarcasm. “This wasn’t intended to offend. It’s a simple ACRONYM. THAT’S ALL.” But, social media users weren’t reassured.
“It was multiple deliberate decisions to make light or a joke of what the acronym actually stands for,” one commenter alleged. “Simple BIGOTRY… sad commentary for a business… good luck going broke!” another said, while yet another critic added, “Congratulations on wrecking your own business by posting your ignorance. Surprised you can ring up your customers.”
For every critic, there was at least one supporter, though. “No need for an apology. The real hate is those who hate and threaten. Grow up and get a sense of humor. I will be ordering shirts,” one person wrote. Another added, “I think it’s hilarious! Laughter is the best medicine in life,” and yet another chimed in to say, “Some of us still have a sense of humor and don’t run around with bandaids on our feelings every second. Keep making good food and you’ll be fine.”
Those who were offended shared the sentiment that the “LGBTQ” acronym was “already taken” and claimed it was insulting to replace it with words the community allegedly doesn’t support, such as “Bible” and “Trump.” However, there are members of the LGBTQ community who don’t take offense to those things. Some even identify as Christian and voted for Donald Trump.
As for the acronym already being “taken,” there are quite a few notable issues with that argument. “You generally can’t copyright a name or an acronym,” an Intellectual Property litigation attorney explained. “A word or acronym is too short for copyright protection. It may be possible to TRADEMARK the acronym.” However, that still presents a problem.
“To trademark an acronym, you must use the acronym to identify its goods or services. Additionally, the acronym must be distinct to qualify; a generic acronym will likely be rejected by the United States Patent and Trademark Office,” the attorney said. In other words, the LGBTQ community doesn’t have legal rights to the acronym. But, should they still be able to lay some claim to it, demanding others respect it as “theirs”? That brings us to the next issue: It’s always changing, and some of us need a video to understand it.
LGB began replacing the term gay in the mid-to-late 1980s. LGBT or GLBT emerged in the 1990s when the T was added to promote the inclusion of transgenderism. The Q was then added around 1996. But, the initialisms were still not agreed on by everyone the community encompasses.
The result has been multiple variations including LGBTI, LGBTIQ, LGBT+, LGBTQIA, LGBTQIAPK, LGBTQIAGNC, LGBTTQQIAAP, and even LGBTIQCAPGNGFNBA — and there is still criticism and debate among the community over the “correct” acronym that they should use to represent themselves.
After Belle’s took down the post, they replaced it with an apology: “Belle’s Smoking BBQ apologizes if we have offended any groups, organizations or individuals with our shirts. We respect all beliefs and lifestyles and want no ill will towards anyone. We know each person has their own thoughts and beliefs but we are hurt that the people who are saying, ‘stop the hate’ are the ones coming at us with the harassing messages and threatening phone calls. Again we apologize for any hurt feelings and thank our supporters who truly know us.” But, they didn’t back down.
Belle’s continued to take t-shirt orders even though Jamie Smith doesn’t like the threats he received. With his shirts getting more attention than his BBQ, he sold out of all of them and has a backorder for more, which should teach those who are offended a lesson: If you don’t like the shirt, it’s wisest to just not buy it rather than give the “offensive” business and their “insensitive” merchandise free advertising with your outrage.