Thursday, September 21, 2023

Labels On Dr. Bronner’s Soap? Yes. But None for the Non-Binary CEO David Bronner.


David Bronner, CEO of the iconic Dr. Bronner’s soap empire came out as “about 25 percent girl” on October 11th, National Coming Out Day.

In a blog post shared on the Dr. Bronner’s website, Bronner, who now goes by the pronouns he and they, said they thought it would be a good idea to celebrate the fact they consider themself non-binary on the national day of celebration.

“I was in a fair amount of denial about this until a dramatic LSD and MDMA mediated initiation into spirit world in Amsterdam in a gay trance club called Mazzo, in the winter of ‘95,” Bronner, whose official title with the company is Cosmic Engagement Officer, wrote in the post.

“In that experience, I realized that I wasn’t ‘straight,’ ‘gay,’ or ‘man’, or ‘woman’—but incarnate soul here to serve and get down, and that my toxic insecure aggressive masculinity was doing violence to my own feminine nature and soul, as well as my partner at the time,” Bronner wrote.

David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner's Soap
David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner’s Soap, comes out as non-binary | Courtesy

According to Bronner, it was a gradual process to accepting that they were “on a spectrum” of gender and orientation, “and while I identify as ‘relatively straight /masculine’ I also feel ‘relatively queer and feminine,'” they wrote.

“In medicine space and at Burning Man, I celebrate this dimension of myself, cross-dressing my costume and appearance, expressing my androgynous nature and inner woman. Like RuPaul says, we’re born naked and all the rest is drag… and unfortunately a lot of us are born with a patriarchal straitjacket costume that does so much damage to those of us who aren’t in the gender hetero-normative binary, and we’re shamed and socialized early by peers and parents to not be ‘gay or girlie,’ or to dress and express as such. Dress and costume allow us to embody and express aspects of our personality that otherwise might be under-expressed and repressed. This is my experience,” said Bronner.

Bronner says genderqueer and they pronouns weren’t common back then, so he flirted with identifying as bisexual but didn’t find himself attracted to men. They say they explored their queer/androgynous side through time in gay bars and raves, at Pride parades, at Burning Man, and through books, including the 1991 anthology Leatherfolk edited by Mark Thompson, which was compiled during the height of the homophobic panic reaction to AIDS.

“I was impressed in particular by the first person essay A View from a Sling by Geoffrey Mains, and then the interview with the legendary Fakir Musafara, who wasn’t himself gay or leather-identified, but charged altered states/spiritual modes of consciousness through incredible piercing rituals, indigenous and otherwise, and felt the gay leather subculture most understood what he was going for,” says Bronner.

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Bronner’s soap labels are iconic | Courtesy

“I’ve charged these states myself through psychedelic medicines, and similarly have a lot of admiration for the Leather S&M community as relayed in these essays: the deep surrender into the mysterious beyond, accessed by harnessing the power of intense hardcore erotic play like Tantric masters. S&M or piercing rituals aren’t my thing but I have huge admiration for those who charge this path with integrity and passion,” they wrote.

Bronner credits their “non-binary, kink-positive, and sexual-in-all-directions poly friend Ariel Vegosen,” for helping them on their path of exploration. Bronner says their 25-year-old non-binary child Maya “has shown me so much in rocking their truth and path in life.” Bronner also credits their bisexual wife Mia, who they say “continues to inspire me every day.”

“It’s important to add that my experience is mine—and not to conflate gay, or women, with feminine,” Bronner says. “Many gay men and straight women rock a stronger masculine energy than I do.”

Emmanuel Bronner | Courtesy Dr. Bronner’s

Bronner dedicated their coming out to Kaleb Vaughn, a trans Black “soul Brother” who they say “blazed into our lives like a shooting star,” before taking his life due to “the demons our vicious world unleashed on him.”

“May our world soon recognize and celebrate the incredible beauty of all like him,” Bronner wrote. “By sharing my journey here and embracing “he/they” pronouns, I hope to contribute in a tiny way to helping bring about that more accepting and loving reality.”

Dr. Bronner’s soap is the top-selling natural soap brand in the U.S. It was founded in 1948 by David’s grandfather, Emanuel Bronner, a third-generation master soapmaker from a German-Jewish soapmaking family. Bronner was an eccentric who used every inch of the soap bottle labels as a mechanism to share his “all-one” message of peace and love.

Now run by David and their brother Michael along with other family members, the soap company has leveraged its labels to address a number of causes including animal rights, the legalization of hemp, and the therapeutic benefits of psychedelic substances. A public benefits corporation, Dr. Bronner’s donates to a number of causes every year, offers generous employee benefits, and has championed for Fair Trade and organic ingredients.


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