Instead of backing down & removing the "controversial" shirts from their public display windows, American Apparel has stepped up, offering free t-shirts to any organization in the DC area working for LGBT rights & marriage equality. I just so happen to be employed by such an organization, & on Wednesday, our much-anticipated box of 20 black & white "Legalize Gay" shirts - all mediums - rolled in via USPS. Thanks, American Apparel!
First, I'm happy that a medium tee fits across my chest. Because, you know, sometimes things don't. And by "sometimes," I mean, "I haven't worn a medium anything since I was 15." But more importantly, I am more stoked than a vegan in a veggie patch to be able to wear my new "Legalize Gay" shirt proudly across DC.
I would probably be more excited to wear it - & also more afraid of getting beaten up - if I were still living in Ohio, where there are more bigots & fewer loud-&-proud stores like Dupont's Lambda Rising, which features crotch-bulging mannequins in teeny-tiny undies on display on Connecticut Avenue. Here in the District, same-sex couples are free to engage in the same nauseating public displays of affection as straight couples, which means I am able to be an equal-opportunity vomiter & eye-roller. But really: Here in my adopted city, gay is not a dirty word - a fact that makes me quite happy.
But yesterday, wearing my new shirt through Cleveland Park as I ran my errands, I watched through sunglassed eyes as passersby took note of my note of my tee's message & then either smiled or looked disdainful. Two people told me they liked my shirt (including a withered old rockstar who told me I was beautiful); one mother blatantly shot me the stink-eye as she sheparded her kids around me. And I later realized that the bank teller I'd been chatting with seemed to think I was hitting on her, which was probably a result of the toxic comibination of the shirt, my unfortunate habit of stranger-talking (inherited from my grandmother) & the shirt & the fact that she was hot. [Note: I've always been a loud ally, which sometimes means I'm mistaken for a lesbian, to which I say, "Whatevs" & "So what if I were?"]
OK, so not every gay person has it emblazoned across his or her chest at all times, I get it. But wearing my new tee yesterday was an interesting reminder of how difficult it can still be to be gay today, even in a city as LGBT-friendly as DC - there are still those close-minded enough to think that being gay is some sort of disease worth shielding children from or that attempted friendly conversation on the part of a lesbian means she's putting the moves on you. And that's just the beginning.
The only way to "legalize gay" is for citizens to speak up & make it happen, to say that we won't sit back & accept the fact that our country still treats gay, lesbian, bisexual & transgender people as second-class citizens. No civil rights movement ever succeeded without the help of allies - women needed men, black needed whites, & now, gay people need straight people. So gay or straight, do your part to make it happen:
- Donate to Equality California to help repeal Proposition 8.
- Ask Congress to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell and allow LGBT servicemembers to serve openly in the military.
- Send a "Postcard to the President" urging him to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which refuses to recognize same-sex marriages on a federal level.
- Ask Congress to agree upon on a strong conference version of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which would allow federal authorities to step in when local law enforcement can't or won't prosecute hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Encourage your Members of Congress to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would make it illegal to hire, fire, demote or refuse to promote someone based solely on sexual orientation or gender identity.