When I was asked to participate in the NOH8 campaign for my city, I have to admit, I was hesitant. I have never been involved in a professional photo shoot. Well, I did sit for some art photos a little while back, but my face is seldom revealed, and that’s a whole other blog. Eventually, I was persuaded by the fact this endeavor is part of a larger fundraising campaign for the Matthew Shepard Foundation, an LGBT charity that is near and preciously dear to my heart. What better campaign running mate for No Hate than Erase Hate? As I entered the photo shoot, my mind is cognizant of the impetus behind the NOH8 movement. That, and thanks to my lovely partner’s vocalizations, that stupid song about being too sexy for my shirt and something about a catwalk.
Created by photographer, Adam Bouska, NOH8 began as a silent protest against the State of California’s passage of Proposition 8, the Marriage Protection Act passed in November of 2008 that added a constitutional provision to the state’s Declaration of Rights: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” This is nothing new really. A majority of our 50 state union have such defense of marriage acts that walk hand-in-hetero-hand with the federal DOMA. What is uniquely frustrating about Prop 8, is that the majority electorate felt compelled to take away the minority marriage rights of same-sex couples and overturn the California Supreme Court’s earlier ruling of In re Marriage Cases that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.
Now, I have blogged many times on my views about state’s rights and gay marriage, so I won’t elaborate here. In short, it’s my opinion that until there is some sort of federal recognition of the inalienable rights granted me by the Constitution of the United States, it doesn’t matter what happens in individual states. I agree that it’s wonderful for those of you who live in Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont, and Washington, DC, but whatever you do, don’t come to Colorado and wipe out on the slopes without your durable power of attorney with medical consent. Because if you are looking for next of kin rights, a same-sex marriage certificate will get you about as much use as a WalMart in Aspen. As my partner and I never travel without ours, it sadly reminds me of talking to a certain dog breeder in Alabama. He asked, “You got them papers…cause that bitch ain’t near as valuable without ‘em.” (No offense, honey, I was referring to me.)
I was told our NOH8 photographer, Norman Dillon, is a genius. I went to his website and right on the front page is proof…Ms. Nina Flowers in all her photographic glory. I’m a huge fan of drag racing, and I’m not talking about Bandimere Speedway. Norman’s studio is an old turn of the 20th century dairy converted into artist in residence lofts. Having a love for tradition with a flare for the modern, I began to feel more at ease. My partner is with me, of course. I wouldn’t participate in anything that celebrates love without her. We have survived longer than the infectious seven-year itch because we know exactly where to scratch…and yes, at times, claw. Norman’s wife, of effervescent personality, applies the NOH8 paint. All the while, we discuss blogs, politics, art, and Norman’s new Human Faces Project. The first in the series will be “speak your truth” and then at some point, “what is your fear”, which prompted an entire conversation about clowns. Norman, if you are reading, count me in.
I stood dressed in white t-shirt in front of a stark, white backdrop signifying freedom, cleanliness, and purity of subject matter…if not subject. Duct tape was placed across my mouth silencing my vocalizations, but never my voice as a picture is an emotive scream into infinity. As you can tell by the photo above, Norman was able to tap into some of that frustration I channel into my writing. What is wrong with this country, this world? Majorities are allowed to vote on the rights of minorities, elected state officials are allowed to publicly denounce the rights of students to attend higher education because of their sexuality, governors are allowed to revoke employment discrimination rights from gay citizens, US Senate candidates are allowed to incontestably compare gay marriage to beastiality…and that’s just this week! Don’t get me started on health reform, poverty, war, and homelessness!
This was an extremely moving experience and I encourage all those charitable organizations who have the opportunity to participate, to do so. I have heard rumor that the NOH8 brand is in the process of copyright protection, and fundraising events like the one I participated in are are no longer encouraged until the mechanism of permitted use is established. To this I say while entrepreneurialism is part of the American dream and should be celebrated, please remember the emotions upon which this potentially lucrative product was cultivated. California’s Proposition 8 further exposed the intolerance, ignorance, and sightlessness of the nation. Don’t allow the good intentions of publicists and attorneys to distort the vision. The American people should own their hate, but the love and the passion behind the non-profit mechanisms of change should be given freely.