Convictions and Consequences: Why We Broke Up With Our Printer

The following is the Letter From the Editor, written by Sara Kay, that will be appearing in our fourth hard copy magazine. We wouldn’t normally publish this online but, given the circumstances, we wanted to take the opportunity to make our position clear.

How is it chaos always manages to arrive at the eleventh hour? It wasn’t a Hey, we’re just getting started on issue four and we’ve got two months to spare disruption we experienced, it was a We’re supposed to get our proof in just a few days kind of clusterfuck with this issue.

We deeply apologize if your copy arrived to you late, but we feel the reason it was delayed was worth it. Allow me to explain.

On a recent Friday afternoon my phone pinged with an Instagram tag from someone named Hanna. The photo was of Bentson Printing’s business card. They’re the shop that produced our first three magazines. As I read the caption I found myself mumbling, “Nooooo. No. Nooooo. No. No.”

We immediately tried to call Tadd Bentson to hear his side of the story, but his shop was already closed for the weekend. The following Monday morning we showed up in person to chat. Here’s what he clarified for us:

  • Tadd received a phone call from Hanna inquiring about a print job. She asked if Bentson was ok working with a trans organization and Tadd said no. (There is a discrepancy here—according to Hanna’s account he said yes—but Tadd’s own answer speaks for itself.)
  • Hanna ordered fliers to advertise a transgender support group. Tadd printed them. When she picked them up and paid, Tadd let it be known he wasn’t comfortable printing that kind of material. Hanna asked if he would prefer not to get business from the queer community and he said another local printer would work better for that.
  • During our conversation with Tadd he added he has gay customers who are business owners which he’ll print business-related pieces for, but he isn’t comfortable printing things that “promote the gay agenda.” He brought it up twice, and listed other types of material he won’t print: “pornography, how to build a bomb, how to exploit children.”

He also will no longer be printing our magazines.

I’d become a pretty big fan of Bentson Printing in the relatively short time we worked together. We’ve greatly appreciated their help and expertise bringing our first three magazines into existence. And, in a very odd way, I appreciate Tadd’s conviction to his beliefs. I was really worried on that Monday morning he would contradict Hanna’s story (on more than that one point) and we wouldn’t know who to believe, but his responses to our questions made it very easy for us to decide we would do business elsewhere.

The vast majority of each workday Sierra and I spend our time trying to figure how to run a small business, not writing or taking photos. We haven’t been telling anywhere near the amount and variety of Tacoma stories we’d like to, including those about the LGBTQ+ community. They’re coming, though. We promise.

Though I’m pretty embarrassed we missed our deadline, the good news is Bentson won’t have to feel uncomfortable when those stories get printed. We’ve partnered up with Print NW, who we made sure will be happy to print those stories and welcomes queer business.

You, our reader, are of course also welcome to continue to consume our content or not, now that you know clearly where we stand. It’s everyone’s right. I do hope you’ll stick around though, because there are a whole lot more Tacoma stories to tell. We’re just getting started.

– Sara Kay

We spent a long time debating what, if anything, to say about this after the whole thing went down. Bentson has since received some blowback from the community, including losing other customers. There have also been a fair number of counter arguments in support of Bentson’s position.

When we decided to publish this online I had planned to address these arguments to try and explain our position. I decided this quote made a better point than I ever could, though. 

“We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” – James Baldwin

– Sierra Hartman

  1. I’ll be sticking around for sure! I’m an annual subscriber—and even more proud of that now.

    I’ve got no room for bigotry and hate. I’m so happy you took a stand.

  2. Thank you for following up and getting the story. I’m an annual sub and I’ll be renewing.

  3. As a transgender Tacoma person, thank you. I also now know when I seek out local businesses, who not to give my money to.

  4. This is a great story with a great lesson about a founding principle of our nation. Freedom of Association. You should be allowed to choose who you hang with. Who you do business with, both as a customer and a seller. If this principle cost you a little money in lost sales as a printer, or in extra costs as a publisher, you should be allowed to make the determination on your own if it’s worth it.

    Where you might loose some people is at the end of the article, with the James Baldwin quote. This quote conflates some issues, to the point that it turns not only allies, but some of our own. There is nothing about not wanting to do business with someone that would be rooted in anyones oppression (this article even lists two other publishing choices), and the whole term ‘denying my humanity’ is so vague as meaningless other than to evoke an emotional response. Trying to undermine your right to exist is a real threat (although not in this instance), but the first two are not. This idea that we need people to celebrate us, and anything less is bigotry and hate, is very anti-freedom.

    1. Phil is trying to turn this into a scenario where everyone gets to choose who they do business with, so Bentson can refuse to do business with gay people. Nope. Don’t accept this blurring of issues. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is not legal or ok.
      And, the James Baldwin quote is great. Businesses who deny service based on sexual orientation are saying those people are lesser, not deserving of equal treatment or standing in society. The lunch-counter owners surely told the black sit-in protesters that they could buy their sandwiches elsewhere. They’re Bentson’s role models, apparently.

  5. I actually work for PRINT NW. It is awesome to work for such an amazing company. I am proud you picked us. Damned proud!!!

  6. Well, I’m an old (quite), widow, white woman. Pretty damn straight. I love your posts and I will continue to read them with zeal. I really don’t care if you are gay, straight, pink, purple, black, brown or fuchsia. I don’t care if you are left wing or right wing (that is a lie, I do care). Just keep on doing what you are doing. I’ll keep reading what I’m reading.

  7. Sad that people are still so closed minded. I work for Print NW and proud to said we are a very diverse group of wonder people. Welcome to our family, look forward to working with you and reading your publications.

  8. Well, I appreciate the story of switching printers. Mr. Bentson is straight and forthright with his views. The article will I suspect cause some business loss, and others to ask for his services. I had a piece printed there years ago, and the shop was considerate, did good work, and met all deadlines. He acknowledged his personal position on gender qualification for buying printing, and you listened and believed him. I stand with Grit City’s viewpoint, but acknowledge the conflicts between religion and emerging information. The Pope tossed Gallalio out for suggesting the world was round, and Amerca houses a flat earth association. There are many views. Would an anti-gay agenda person accept surgery from a brilliant only one who can save his/her life? I suspect most would. Would a gay person choose a heterosexual surgeon and the best surgeon in Washington State? Confusion rages on deeply personal issues.

    Democrats throwout legislators who choose no abortion over “right to choose.” Republicans ridicule right to choose, and Libertarians simply squabble about all litmus test issues and then ask their spouses what to do. Alt-Right is racist and knows it. I’m tired of writing this screed. Keep publishing Grit City. It might be the last salute to working people we’ll have as Seattle sweeps down from the north to gentrify the gentry.

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