Rebranding: Gay = Equality,
Rainbow = Blue
Rainbow = Blue
Gay, the word we fought so hard and long to be adopted as our chosen group designation, has been made obsolete by Gay Inc and the expanding network of state orgs. Why did we picket the NY Times for years over their refusal to describe us as gay, only to run away from the word in our political battles of the new century?
Witness the creation in the past 10-12 years of statewide groups omitting gay from their names, and instead pretty much uniformly substituting equality, sometimes fairness, or in New York, pride, for gay.
One reason why I feel so little connection to Equality California, and the like, starts with the name. As a veteran gay community organizer, I still see the need and value to always putting gay visibility as the central value to our battles, and the equality mentality simply doesn't engage my gay sensibility. What equality for Gay Inc really equals is blandness, a muting of our eccentric and colorful nature as queers.
Then there's the ugly predominance of dark blue in the imagery of the equality orgs. Though the pink triangle and the rainbow flag have been overused and overmarketed, on occasion, they are easily recognizable brands of ID that we have worn with pride for decades. However, they're too problematic for equality orgs, who studiously avoid using the well established symbols.
The hope in the bright array of colors of the rainbow and pink triangle have been consiged to the dustbin of homosexual history. A rebranding of the gay community, the LGBT movement, and our shared symbols occurred I don't recall receiving an invitation to vote on that.
I'm not saying if the state orgs evolved to say gay in their namea and incorporated at least the rainbow flag in signage, that we'd have more tangible political achievements in hand. But if we did, it would represent a first step in a re-engagement with the large portion of the LGBT community that doesn't bond to empty equality and fairness arguments.
Putting gay and rainbow imagery back into our community's branding could also go far in better engaging the wider straight American public, that is comfortable discussing gay issues without first being re-educated with de-gayed equality lingo or somber blue designs.
Here are prime examples of logos and and signage that don't speak to my gay identity:
At the 2000 MOW, the HRC had a sign that read:
"Support Fair-Minded Leaders."
Our love. We dare not speak its name.
The college kids at my university have eliminated the word gay from every student organization name. University officials deliberately named a new student "Pride Center" without using the words gay or lesbian, possibly to make it harder for antigay donors to find it with Google.
When I grew up, unless you were gay, the word gay only meant bright and happy. College kids today tell me that when they grew up, the word gay only meant lame and stupid, as defined by "South Park" 4th grade cartoon characters. As a result, many younger people are trying to dodge the important issue of self-identification by "rejecting all labels" and by supporting the "post-gay" movement. I believe this only further diminishes previously hard won gay rights.
I am old enough to recall when the terms "gay pride" and "gay women" were widely used until the 1970s when lesbian separatists got mad at sexist gay men and insisted on saying "gay and lesbian liberation." After AIDS decimated gay men in the 1980s, it became the "lesbian, gay and bisexual rights movement." The post-gay "queer" movement in the 1990s tried and failed to eliminate the increasingly long acronym for the "LGBTQQI Pride movement." In the 2000s, this acronym was widely dropped as a compromise for inclusiveness.
I once asked the late homophile activist Jack Nichols (1938-2005) if this changing terminology was important to him as a pioneering gay activist. He very wisely pointed out how both younger and older generations waste too much time complaining about each other than in working together on a common goal. Nichols observed how the arrogance of youth naturally causes them to dismiss the wisdom of their elders. Equally, elder leaders are too often stuck in doing things the same old way to appreciate creative ideas from the younger generations.
I agree. I'm constantly chastised by transgender and bisexual people and sometimes even gay men for saying "gay marriage" and "gay rights." Some have even taken up calling certain gays "cisgender gay" or "cis gay" for short to denote non-transgender LGBs.
It's a process of defining to exclusion--defining oneself by defining what you are not and defining what others are not.
There's nothing inclusive about people who refuse to identify as gay taking it upon themselves to redefine what gay is supposed to mean for everyone else.
I just don't want our movement to go down in the history books as the Equality Movement, or to have our marches go down as the Equality Marches. It erases us.
I guess I'm a post-lesbian separatism gay woman, because lesbian has always sounded archaic to me. I came out in the mid-90s, and it never occurred to me to come out as anything other than gay.
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