Why can’t responding to a question about your sexual orientation be just as simple as answering, ‘yep,’ wondered Kori Ashton, owner of local WordPress web design firm, WebTegrity. As a result of pondering that very question a few years ago, and then gamely waiting for the perfect timing to arise, which turned out to be now, the positive-messaging pride wear T-shirt brand ‘yep Threads’ was born.
Kori and her wife, Becky, launched the yep Threads website on their son Andy’s first birthday, June 3. Then, they launched the KickStarter campaign a few days later, on June 7th. Starting with a low-key goal of raising $5,500, they’d raised more than $4,000 in the first two weeks and shipped T-shirts to 10 states and four countries. Then last Wednesday yepThreads blew past its original goal on June 24 and added a stretch goal of $6,500, offering to donate the $1,000 difference to Pride Center San Antonio, a local LGBTQ nonprofit.
Two days later, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage by a 5-4 vote, the yep Threads owners celebrated with a new T-shirt design — “yep, Love Won.”
The timing could not have been better.
“This is really the moment in history for a brand like this,” said Brian Lopez-Rosa, owner of Suburban Spaces Real Estate Group. "It has the potential to unite people through a single word. And with the SCOTUS vote and the subsequent media coverage, there’s almost no limit to how big this could get."
“It’s time to remove the stigma around coming out,” said Ashton. “I’m not much of a rainbow-wearing, pride-flag-waving gay person, but as a mom, wife, Texan (and yep—a lesbian!), I am so proud to be a part of something I hope will spark conversations and help give every coming-out story a happier ending.”
Yep Threads has since added a stretch goal, its last, to the Kickstarter campaign which officially ends July 6. The goal is to raise an additional $2,500 for Equality Texas, or an overall goal of $9,000. The KickStarter campaign is here. Or you can run in a virtual "Run for Pride" 5K/10K, which benefits yep Threads. Details here.
Ashton might call yep “a simple word for a great big cause,” a version of which is yep’s actual tagline. But it also has an important history in the LGBTQ movement. It’s the very word that comedian Ellen DeGeneres used in the Time magazine cover from 1997 that marked her coming out. “Yep, I’m gay” it simply stated. The message behind yep Threads is equally simple, says Ashton. It’s “Yep, we are who we are and we love who we love.”
“It’s a different kind of pride wear,” she says. “It’s not about demanding our equality. It’s more about normalizing the conversation. We don’t owe anyone an in-depth explanation of who we love.”
Ashton says the company's 11 T-shirt designs give supportive allies and family members a way to demonstrate solidarity. And the baby onesies even have a message: “yep, 2 moms” and “yep, 2 dads.” It was the onesies that caught the eye of AfterEllen.com a week after the website went live.
“Does a baby in your life need an amazing gay-friendly onesie? yep Threads is lesbian-owned and operated and while they have adult tees, it’s the kids’ stuff I’m dying over,” wrote columnist Trish Bendix on the AfterEllen site.
The item ran with a photo of the Ashton’s adorable son, Andy, taken by local photographer Abby Kennan:
Last week, Kori and Becky Ashton staged a photo shoot at the Pearl for yep Threads' new designs, featuring Kennan’s photography. Anyone who came to model for the campaign received a yep T-shirt. The photos from the shoot are warm and friendly and include gays and straight allies.
“I know I have awesome straight friends, but I had no clue they’d be so willing to pose for the world to see their hearts of support and encouragement,” Ashton said.
Ashton is a sixth-generation Texan whose faith background explains her lack of stridency around the low-key message "yep" conveys. In fact, there’s even a "yep, Y'all" design for added Southern charm.
“There’s something about having a child that will completely change your perspective in life,” Kori shared. “I’m hopeful that he will grow up in a world that is not prejudiced or hateful toward him because he has two moms.”
Frustration with the politics surrounding gay marriage, and the fact that Kori and Becky had to travel to Iowa five years ago to get married, and then pay to have their son legally adopted by Kori as his second mother, gave Ashton the impetus to start yep Threads now.
“Texas is our home and we want our marriage to be recognized here too,” said Becky. “Texans, as a whole, have such kind hearts and they’re so laid back. I don’t understand why that’s not represented more with our politicians.”
Last Friday, that changed with the Supreme Court decision. Kori and Becky Ashton, along with their son Andy, lined up at the Bexar County courthouse to be two of the first to realize marriage equality in San Antonio. Photos of the couple and their son made both the Rivard Report and the Express-News. And of course they were wearing their matching 'yep Love' T-shirts (see top image).
*Featured image: Kori (left) and Becky Ashton embrace and kiss after receiving their marriage license while holding their son, Andy. Photo by Scott Ball.