As Una Nowling was going through her transition to be a woman, friends and family sent her cards to show their support. Many were store-bought with general notes of encouragement, but none of the mass-produced messages said the word “trans” or “transition.”
But that was before Hallmark Cards launched its small line of “transgender/transitioning” greetings.
“For me these cards say, ‘I may not be able to express myself very well, but here’s something that kind of says what I feel,’” said Nowling, director of transgender studies for the Transgender Institute in Kansas City. “I think that’s a significant positive.”
The cards were introduced in 2015, but a recent tweet thrust them into the internet limelight. The tweet pictured a card with a yellow and green butterfly spreading its wings with the simple statement: “You’re becoming who you’ve always been.”
Inside the card: “Isn’t that wonderful?”
Librarian Renata Sancken’s tweet in May has racked up more than 22,000 retweets, with many users praising the Kansas City-based card company.
Hallmark released cards for same-sex relationships in 2008, seven years before the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage a right across all 50 states. It also partners with Kansas City-based Mid-America Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
“These cards embody visual and verbal elements from insights and feedback we have gathered from the LGBT community in order to make them authentic and relevant,” Hallmark’s JiaoJiao Shen said in an email.
Shen could not comment on whether sales have increased because of the tweet.
Hallmark offers 30 items in its LGBT collection, including cards celebrating same-sex marriages and Mother’s Day cards thanking more than one mom. Two of these cards specifically address the trans community. (The other says in bold, gold letters: “You are Trans-tastic.”) Shen could not comment on whether Hallmark will be making more.
“Hallmark is always keeping a pulse on what consumers want, as well as cultural and societal trends to help guide our product offerings,” Shen said.
Nowling said she would like to see cards for people who identify as non-gender binary — neither male nor female — as well.
But even as LGBT cards become more readily available and people’s awareness of LGBT issues expands, Nowling said it still takes courage to go to a store to actually buy such a card.
“My wife has bought me a card, and she has been questioned at the counter, ‘Oh you got the wrong one. This one is meant for another woman,’” Nowling said. “She clenched her teeth and said, ‘I know exactly what I am doing.’”
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality in Washington, D.C., said she has seen an uptick in marketing directed at trans people. The nonprofit has seen more companies proclaiming that their businesses are trans-friendly and instituting fair employment policies. She cited Target’s transgender bathroom policy and Starbucks’ commitment to employment inclusion as examples.
“It’s not surprising that Hallmark is finding more and more people that are transitioning and are looking for a card that fits that need,” said Keisling. “If there’s going to be a birthday card and a bar mitzvah card, then why not a card to celebrate a loved one’s transition?”
Jacob Gedetsis: 816-234-4416, @jacobgedetsis