Brooklynite Crystal Hudson remembers being invited to a friend’s birthday party at 10 years old. Like Crystal, her friend was black. Crystal’s mother took her to a store to buy a birthday card, but finding the right one was frustrating.
“My mom took me up every single aisle of that store looking for a card with two black girls, and finally she just bought a card with two white girls. And we came home and she took out a marker and she just colored the girls brown,” Hudson told NBC Out.
As a gay woman, Hudson said she has had similar experiences finding cards for friends.
“When same-sex marriage was legalized by the Supreme Court, Hallmark and all these other big card companies started making wedding cards for the community, and everything was still heteronormative and white in my opinion,” she said. “So I still didn’t see people who actually looked like me being reflected in these cards.”
“For me, it was also just like, man, I’m certainly not the only gay person or LGBTQ-identified person out here looking for a greeting card, and I can’t believe we’ve been completely erased from an entire industry,” Hudson said.
Frustrated by the lack of representation, the 33-year-old created gaygreetings., an online greeting card store that centers on the LGBTQ community. Hudson launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 that raised $12,000 to get the project running.
“My mom came home and colored the card and did what she had to do, and it’s the same thing — I’m just going to make the cards, because clearly nobody else is making the cards,” she said.
Hudson, who works full time in marketing and advertising, developed cards that can’t be found in most stores — from a card that features an illustration of an open closet door that celebrates coming out, to a card that pledges to respect a loved one’s preferred pronouns.
Hudson said her biggest challenge is finding brick and mortar stores that will distribute them. Of all the store owners she has approached in Brooklyn, only one agreed to sell her cards.
“I have a very unique product, and some people are very open to that, and I obviously try to find stores that I think the product will fit into, but a lot of people also just aren’t necessarily interested,” she said.
But that isn’t stopping the proud Spelman College graduate, who has been selling most of her cards online. Hudson said she would like to create wedding cards that feature more than just two women in bridal gowns or two men in suits, which she said doesn’t reflect gender diversity within the LGBTQ community.
“Whatever variations, we look all different kinds of ways, and we present in all different types of ways,” she said.
Though the cards’ themes center around the LGBTQ community, Hudson said her cards are for everyone. One card, for example, is designed to communicate love for one’s siblings. On the outside, it says “SIBZ 4EVR,” and on the inside, it reads “No matter what.” She said the concept was inspired by the idea that someone could buy the card to show devotion for a brother or sister who is transgender, but it can also be given to a sibling who isn’t transgender.
Hudson said her fondness for greeting cards stems from childhood memories of her mother, a nurse and single working mom who always took the time to buy a card for her only child.
“That’s sort of where my passion comes from, is just recognizing that you can write a little message or note, and hopefully there’s a card you can find that speaks to whatever experiences you or the person you plan on giving the card to is going through,” she explained.
Hudson’s cards aren’t just greeting cards — she said they’re a voice for marginalized people who feel overlooked.
“Everything I do is centered around LGBTQ-identified people, people of color [and] women. All the vendors I work with generally fall into one or more of those categories,” Hudson said. “Those are the people that I’m trying to lift up.”
OutFront is a weekly NBC Out series profiling LGBTQ people who are making a positive difference in the community.