Well, well, well. Here you are, a one-time fervent “Cuomosexual'' now stuck with a t-shirt loudly proclaiming yourself a person who identifies as being sexually aroused by disgraced New York governor Andrew Cuomo. It's an uncomfortable and perhaps even embarrassing predicament to be in, but it’s not unheard of. In fact, according to several clothing buyers and resellers VICE spoke to in the New York area, this happens all the time.
Cuomo had emerged as a political superstar in 2020 due to his effective response to the pandemic, with a bestselling memoir and celebratory posters created in his honor—not to mention a wave of merch touting fans’ cuomosexuality. Over the past year, however, deeper questions and scandal emerged. On Tuesday, he resigned from office, after a months-long investigation concluded that 11 accusations of sexual harassment that had been made against the governor were credible. His excuses were various and pathetic, including an 85-page statement published via his lawyers that included images of him holding and kissing various people and excusing his behavior as merely inherent to his Italian culture. All of which is to say: While a Cuomosexual shirt may have once been a bit of well-intentioned cringe, now they could be seen as a mega yikes.
The high-end fashion brand Lingua Franca, which once sold sweaters hand-stitched with “Cuomosexual” or “Cuomo for President,” is now offering free restitching of those pieces for customers, posting this announcement with a sweater that reads “Believe Survivors.” It wouldn’t be a shock if owners of Cuomosexual tees were trying to get rid of them ASAP, though, and as a matter of fact there’s precedent for this.
Brooke Bjorneboe, a store manager at a Buffalo Exchange in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, told me that any time a public figure or entity is outed for offensive or abusive behavior, their store gets a spike in customers attempting to sell merchandise related to that person to the store. “As soon as it becomes problematic, people try to sell it,” she told me. “It happens with sports teams when someone on the team did something wrong. When the SoulCycle CEO did something wrong, we got a bunch of SoulCycle shirts.”
Bjorneboe said she fully expects a large influx of Cuomo-related horny shirts over the coming weeks. She hasn’t seen any yet, but she expects them to hit the store’s sell counter soon. Just don’t expect to get any cash for the shirt.
“We would just pass on it,” she said. “Just hand it back to them.” Turning down politically leaning items or items connected to a canceled celeb or organizations is store policy, she said, though people are free to stop by and donate them. (Buffalo Exchange sends their donated items to various charities or Green Tree Textiles, a company that recycles old clothing.)
According to Jessica Pruitt, an associate manager in marketing for Buffalo Exchange, buyers are trained to be in tune with what’s happening socially or politically, to stay neutral, and to not purchase any of those garments. This is for a number of reasons. “Whether or not someone would be offended, I just dont think it’s something that would sell in the store,” she told me. “Our buyers are trained to buy what people are shopping for right now. Also, we want our store to be safe and inclusive for everyone, so we work to not buy things that are offensive.”
An area manager for Buffalo Exchange in the New York region I spoke to recalled working in a Philadelphia store and seeing a spike in customers looking to pawn off their Michael Vick jerseys after his illegal dog fighting ring came to light. When shirts like that come in, Pruitt explained, they simply don’t sell. “We don’t want things on the racks that would ruin someone’s day,” she said. “It should be a fun experience.”
Bjorneboe, in Williamsburg, shared similar anecdotes. She said a “Hillary is My Best Friend” shirt, with what she called “Walmart graphics” that show the former Secretary of State and presidential nominee surrounded by donkeys and wearing American flag-sunglasses, has been in the store for weeks.
So where will the Cuomosexual merch go, if not the racks of typical resale shops? Stores specializing in older, donated clothing items—like L Train Vintage, a small chain with multiple stores in New York, and Vintage Thrift Shop near Gramercy Park—told me they expect shirts like that to show up on their racks in years to come. Will Beck, assistant manager at Vintage Thrift Shop, predicts a Cuomosexual shirt will pass through “10-15 years down the road.” That said, the likelihood is these shirts will end up in a dumpster. “It seems people just wear t-shirts out, though,” he said.
Either way, the shirt is understandably prompting a good deal of soul-searching among former Cuomo fans. The New York Times spoke to some of them, including one woman who said purchasing the shirt represented a “moment in time” when the former governor quelled her pandemic fears. “He really made us think that we were going to be OK,” she said. “In spite of having very mixed feelings about him and his family, I definitely was a ‘Cuomosexual’ in that moment.” One seller told the NYT, “I have family members that were sexually assaulted, friends that were. So I take that very seriously. I have no interest in promoting or being associated with that type of behavior.”
Here’s the thing: People you like sometimes turn out to be bad. The term “milkshake duck” is defined by this unavoidable truth. It sucks when something or someone you loved ends up being a huge disappointment. That anyone had to endure harassment from Cuomo, see him celebrated and sexualized, and then have their accusation disregarded as simply spicy meatball behavior is pretty abhorrent.
It’s my hope his resignation brings them some comfort. And as far as owners of any Cuomosexual merch, listen, it happens. Fans of various punk and emo bands know this well. Even so, resellers are prepared to kindly give you a no ❤️ .