Yes. That’s me.
It was never exactly a secret but I never exactly declared it from the rooftops. As this photo racked up millions of notes on Tumblr, starred on reddit and spread like a virus across the digital world, I never made any real effort to claim it.
It was a photo of me holding a sign that I thought was funny. I had never expected it to be posted online, let alone receive the minor infamy it did. I didn’t expect to become the poster-girl (literally or figuratively). But through whatever happenstance, that is precisely what happened and while I wasn’t ashamed of it, I didn’t plan on posting it on my LinkedIn account anytime soon.
The truth is that this movement for equality has dominated a fair portion of my life. I’ve worked really hard–both as an activist and as a human being–to stand up for what I know to be right: being gay should never mean being less.
Standing up for gay rights is fairly commonplace today but very recently, sticking your neck out was an actual risk that often came with real consequences. My efforts are insignificant in comparison to so many equality activists of past and present but they are significant to me, and for that reason I didn’t want my presence in this movement to be boiled down to a GIF that would read as offensive to some people. I thought those same people might assert that this image discredited me from being a part of real, productive conversation and change–and that’s exactly where I have always wanted to be.
Yesterday, many speakers and commentators rightfully asserted that this victory was not theoretical or ideological–it was peoples lives. Many individuals and politicians have long made LGBT rights a “political issue” or a “special interest issue” when it always has been and always will be a universal HUMAN issue.
When the aforementioned photo was taken, it was ‘Day of Decision’ 2009 and we had all learned just hours before that Proposition 8 would be upheld in California. It was not a political loss–it was a personal loss: it meant that so many Californians could no longer exercise their constitutionally protected ‘pursuit of happiness’, it meant that plans had to be put on hold, families could not be recognized, it meant (in that one moment at least) hate had taken the day.
In retrospect, perhaps this is precisely why a silly photo resonated with so many people–because it was light but defiant, funny but in-your-face and declared to the bigots (in a terribly non-PC fashion) that this fight was not theirs to win, that equality was not theirs to take.
Through a photo, I unintentionally became one of the peddlers of that message. If in doing so, I gave anybody a cause for hope or a reason to laugh, I’d do it all over again–intentionally this time and with a name tag on.
Yesterday, almost exactly four years since that photo was taken, I returned to the same streets we had defiantly took to in 2009–this time to celebrate a victory. There is (no doubt) a lot more work to do and I certainly don’t plan on stopping because if I’ve learned anything in the past 4 years, it is that even in the face of overwhelming ignorance, intolerance and bigotry; hard work, hope and a bit of humor can eventually win the day.