Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Y'know what's driving me bananas? Those equal signs.

And there are a few reasons for it, some of which are summarized nicely here, and some of which are also summarized nicely here. HRC is not without its flaws.

And one of which, the one that really caught me off guard, is this: When I have seen brave queer (often trans) friends try to address the problems with HRC* on Facebook in the last day and a half or so, they have, with only one exception, been basically told to lighten up. And they have been told that by people who would like to think they are allies.

When people you are trying to help say they feel hurt by your actions, you have more or less three choices:

  • Listen and change your behavior (obviously valid), 
  • disagree to yourself and don't change your behavior (definitely valid in some cases but maybe less than people are inclined to do it), 
  • disagree out loud that the people who feel hurt have any reason to feel that way (rarely helpful to anyone). 

I feel lucky not to know most of the folks I've seen behave in the third way, but the main reason I am that "lucky" is that I am a big coward who got off Facebook for a bit rather than address it, because I did not want to be jumped on in the ways I saw my friends jumped on. And I want people to like me, to not think of me as judging their attempts at sweet gestures.

By the way, in case you were wondering how I feel about marriage equality, it's like this: I think equality generally is critical. I think if we live in a culture that privileges certain relationships (and we do), people need equal access to those privileges. I think marriage equality is, in fact, critical for some people, and I do not always think you know whether you're one of those people until the problems start. I think marriage equality is a weird but true benchmark of the acceptability of certain kinds of queer relationships, and I think one of the many reasons one of my past relationships failed is that my partner was convinced no one would ever accept us because marriage equality seemed so unlikely.

I also think we have bigger social justice fish to fry — like, way bigger. And that marriage equality, while critical for some folks (though quite possibly not, say, me), is not going to solve all our problems. And I think it might behoove us all, particularly those saying "one step at a time," to think a little about our end game.

One step toward what?

Regardless of your identities, what is the biggest dream you can dream, social-justice-wise? Is it affording middle-class LGB types the exact same things our middle-class straight friends aspire to? Is it opening the doors to privileging a way wider spectrum of relationships and arrangements, or none of them? Health care for everyone? Is it some perfect anarchy? Some perfect libertarian ideal? A view of a more involved state, a less involved state? An unstate? An end to poverty? Or violence? Or slavery? Or families?

I don't know all of what I'm going for, but I bet it's more radical than some of you would guess, and I will for sure be thinking about how to frame it here.

And really, I want to know what you are going for, as you fight the good fight with your dollars and your words — and your Facebook profile pictures. Comment anonymously if you must, but pleeeeeeeeease comment? Please?

*Do those of you using the equal sign all know you're using essentially a corporate logo? If so, that's fine; people wear corporate logos all the time. But if not, I thought you'd want to know.


Genny said...

After reading Heath's status about the red equal sign and the HRC (and all the nasty comments about the Boy Scouts that followed?!), I made the decision to not change my facebook picture. I do, of course, support marriage for all ... but hopefully my LGBTQ friends know I support them without using - as you said - a corporate logo as my profile picture. Am I totally off base with this thinking?

bzzzzgrrrl said...

Nope. You sound pretty perfect in your thinking to me.

thisnik said...

Yes, yes, yes. Thank you for this. And what is my largest dream? This crazy notion that we can all be ourselves without being shamed and silenced about it. That respect is recognized as a human right, not a privilege reserved for white, cis, hetero, monogamous, vanilla, young, able-bodied, skinny, Christian men.

Anonymous said...

OMG I LOVE YOU SO MUCH! I was thinking something similar and then I was questioning my own motives. As in, "OMG AM I A HOMOPHOBE? I DON'T WANT TO CHANGE MY PROFILE PIC!"

So, I examined my own distaste for it, and it is this. I think that the solidarity is oftentimes the kind that we do as a knee jerk because it feels good. It feels good in the way that white women liking Oprah feels good.

Here I am, straight-ole-me, and I have an equals profile pic. And I feel GOOD about it because ... this is something I support.

It's too easy to support that though.

My friend list is a sea of equals signs. But like, it's not HARD to put an equals sign up. In fact, most of your FB friends will laud you. In my Seattle friend circle, it's not counter-cultural to put up an equals sign as your profile pic in freakin' 2013. Everyone agrees with you.

(I displayed an equals sign in my cubicle in Alabama in 2005 as a wink and nod to my colleagues. Those who got it *got it* and those who didn't, simply didn't.)

Anyway, I wish we could get on with it already. Grant marriage equality and move on.

The trafficking of girls is what really gets to me lately. Sex tourism. Modern day slavery. It's sick and it's real and nobody talks about it. That's what gets me fired up.

Yes, you know my real name. We worked together in D.C. :)

bzzzzgrrrl said...

OMG I LOVE YOU too, Anonymous. I think your white women liking Oprah line is amazing.

And thanks, all those of you who've commented already. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I have to remind myself sometimes, however, that my reality in Seattle is not the same as in many other parts of the country.

Gays are much more equal here in everyone's mind. (I'm not talking about law constructs. And the Supreme Court case is about equality under the law.)

In many places around here, there is equality beyond the level of tolerance.

Equality as in, "Whether or not I tolerate you has nothing to do with your sexual orientation."

Equality as in, "I don't have to pretend to like you because you belong to a minority group and I don't want to appear X-ist."

Social equality means that I can say "that guy is an asshole," if he truly is an asshole.

I don't have to worry about his subgroup. I don't have to be extra nice to those who belong to the subgroup to prove that I'm not anti-that-subgroup.

As a white woman, I knew I was accepted by the black community when I could be an equal opportunity hater.

This sounds negative, but it's not. It's a positive thing!

It's almost like society goes through phases.

Phase one: Sub group is discriminated against. Not accepted.

Phase two: Sub group is better represented in media. Media paves the way for equality in the work place.

Phase three: The majority of people in an area are progressively minded and make a big show of accepting this sub group and paying them lots of compliments.

Phase four: TRUE EQUALITY. People are people. Not sub group people.

Anonymous said...

Oh and I just *got* your headline! OMG hahahaha I was thinking of doing that last night, too!

Carrie said...

My mother and her transgender wife both are using the red equal sign as their profile pics and I am doing so in support of them. I donated to HRC as a wedding gift at their request. I was not aware that there was controversy in the LGBT community about the work HRC does.
For my Moms marriage equality is critical.
Personally I am more worried for them about the fact that 2 or more transgendered people are killed every month in this country. We watched an episode of Real Sports that had a transgender woman basketball player who is 6'6" and well muscled and who still has to have extra security to protect her from violence.
I want to be able to say to people I do not support companies that give money to organizations that support violence against gay people and not have them say "so what?"
My end game involves people not being judged based on who they love or on the steps they take to become themselves more fully.

bzh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bzh said...

I didn't post the HRC logo because, well, I don't typically show my support by doing that kind of thing.

Had I posted it, however, I would have intended it as a meaningful show of solidarity involving an issue important to many of my friends. I would have been naive to the politics, perhaps just naive in general, and genuinely well-intentioned.

If someone had asked me to reconsider because HRC doesn't fit their definition of the right kind of human rights organization, I probably would have taken it down out of embarrassment and shame. I would have tried not to feel judged, but I probably wouldn't have succeeded.

After reading a bit about the bitterness and resentment caused by well-meaning people doing what they thought was supportive and right, I'm feeling pretty smart for not getting involved this time.

And that feels pretty crummy.

Rick said...

If I'm understanding your post correctly, some of your friends are pointing out on Facebook that the red HRC symbol everyone is using for their profile pics is a corporate logo (and they're not a well behaved corporation at that) and your friends are getting criticized for it? If that's the case, I think your friends are picking the wrong time to point this out. Most people who are changing the profile pictures have no idea what the HRC is, but they do know that the red equal sign symbol has been transformed to mean "support for marriage equality." The HRC has been erased from the equation (no mathematical pun intended) and all that's been left is love and support. So the last thing someone wants is someone else calling foul on their gesture of support. This is a crucial time for marriage equality and I think Facebook solidarity has been overwhelming and at times even moving. As a straight guy who's changed his profile picture to the red equal sign, I'm constantly amazed and proud that some of my more conservative friends have changed their profile pictures and gone public with their support of marriage equality. Also, as an aside, I think Facebook is the last place someone should critique anyone or anything because nine times out of ten it ends in a fight. Hell, I unfriended someone last year because they said some disparaging remarks about Apple and I covet my iPhone. :) All that being said, I'm glad you brought the HRC's practices to my attention. I think a blog like this is the perfect place for you to point this out - not a 100 character status update. Anyway, that's my two cents.

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate BZH's comment.

I also realized, thanks to this blog post and comments, that my opinion was too rash in one regard.

Changing one's profile pic to an equals sign *is* a show of solidarity and is daring for some people because their friend group may include people who disagree with them.

Nearly everyone I know thinks that gays should be allowed to marry and a majority of people I know wonder why we're still talking about this. Hell, I live in a district with a very openly pro-gay-rights congressman, and he wins 90% of the vote. So, I can't name anyone who would be on the other side of this debate.


So while this debate seems very 90's and 00's to me, my reality is not America's reality.

Heidi Carrington Heath said...

As a dear friend of CM, and also a queer femme, I need to clear a few things up here.

Those of you who are straight and commenting on this post about how hurt your feelings are or would be because LGBTQ folks are calling you out about the HRC logo need to again realize this is NOT about you. It is about those of us who are part of the oppressed minority in question here. And if multiple voices are telling you the HRC and its corporate branded logo are problematic (despite your good intentions), perhaps you should listen to us? Telling us how we are "wrong" is not being a good ally. It is as if you think we should all shut up and simply be grateful you are supporting us. Sorry folks, that's not how being a genuine ally or building authentic community works.

Carrie, I am REALLY sad to hear your moms requested HRC donations as wedding gifts. HRC has historically and continues to throw trans* folks under the bus at every turn. They were the leading voice on ENDA the last time it had a real shot at passing. They led the charge to drop transgender and gender identity protections from the bill, because "it was more politically savvy." I personally wrote multiple letters to the editor, I was so appalled. You are absolutely right. Marriage equality IS a trans* issue. It's too bad the HRC said otherwise and insisted a transgender flag be removed outside of SCOTUS, because "marriage equality is not a transgender issue." Some basic google searching should give you and your family all of the info you need about how HRC is no friend of the trans*, gender non-conforming, or working class LGBTQ folks.

One final note? There are at least 10 separate options I've seen people use that are ready made profile pictures and NOT a logo for the big, gay organization for rich, white, gender conforming people. It's an extra 2 minutes of your time to use one of them. Just sayin...

bzh said...

Now I wish I'd kept my mouth shut here, too.

Next time.

Cindi Knox said...

I've done a few posts on this, and I got pushback only from straight allies. I also got pushback for asking allies to spend more time listening to those who object than telling people to get on message. I think people want issues to be simple. They're not: they're complex and entangled. And when we reveal the complexity, people feel overwhelmed or overburdened. They didn't sign on for a multidimensional challenge; they just wanted to change their photo in solidarity, like when they changed to cartoon characters, or dogs, or whatever the meme-of-the-week is.

But staying clean and out of the mess is essentially cheering from the stands and calling one's self part of the team. It feels good, but lacks commitment.

Rick said...

I too now feel like bzh and wish I had stayed out of this conversation. And I can't help but feel like Heidi's comments were directed at me so I just want to clarify my position. I never said it was wrong for people to point out that the HRC is a brand, I said a Facebook status update was the wrong place to do it. If someone sent me a private message and told me about the HRC, instead of publicly embarrassing me, I would've happily changed my Facebook to another form of support. Or as I pointed out, a blog like this, is a great place to spread awareness and not offend your supporters. But for me personally, not one person on Facebook brought the HRC to my attention. In fact, at the end of the day, I saw several posts of thanks from my gay and lesbian friends, for people posting the the HRC's equal sign, as a sign of support. And again, that's all it was to most people. A sign of solidarity. The other thing I said was not that it was wrong to tell people about the HRC, but that it was ill timing for someone to do it, in the midst of a day of support. And I still believe that. But I agree with you that it's a LGBTQ issue, but it will remain just an issue, if you don't get the support of EVERYONE, gay, straight or otherwise. You need everyone's vote. You need solidarity. So if you're hostile and antagonistic, you're going to lose supporters, people I assume you want to turn out for a vote. That's my second two cents.

bzzzzgrrrl said...

There's a lot of stuff on here I have not yet responded to — in some cases because I fear damaging relationships with people I love, in some cases because I fear not being able to be clear enough, in some cases because I fear being presumed to speak for a community, when really, I just want to speak for myself, in some cases because this very quickly became the most (legitimately) viewed post I've ever written, and that feels like a responsibility.

And then I read this on Facebook, and it seemed so apt I felt like finally, finally I had a handle I could begin to get a grip on. So I start with this, from Kim Katrin Crosby:

Hurt people hurt people. Sometimes we have insulated ourselves so much due the pain we have experienced that we don't recognize how we are contributing to and/or perpetuating the same kind of violence we have experienced. Corporate media teaches us to seek power at the expense of other. I think its audre lorde who reminds us that we have to consciously study how to be tender with each other to reclaim what has in some cases been lost.
We judge ourselves by our intentions and other by their actions. When it comes to changing our interactions, we have to remember to treat others the way they want to be treated. Our intentions are crafted personally, but our actions are felt communally. We need to be able to examine critiques of our actions regardless of how kind our intentions are.
My granny used to say there is many a slip between the cup and the lip, meaning that there is a lot that happens between thought and action. Let us examine our actions together so we can be better at creating a community of practice around love.

My mom says just what her Granny said. They're both right.

I'll try to come back here in case any of you are still reading, still checking in, and address some of what has been posted here publicly and what has been said to me privately. I'm not opposed to keeping the conversation going, even when it terrifies me.

I will try to keep all that good Kim Katrin Crosby stuff in mind.

bzzzzgrrrl said...

My first observation is this:
9 people have so far commented here.

I believe that they break down thusly, in order of when the first representative of the group first posted:

-5 straight-identified folks I know personally
-2 queer-identified folks I do not know personally
-1 queer-identified person I know personally

If you are among those first 17 comments and I do not reflect you here, please let me know.

(The comments I have received privately on this post have come almost exclusively from queer-identified folks I know personally, who mostly did not comment on this post. I can think of one straight person who commented to me privately, and, I might add, very kindly, after posting here.)

Because I think these numbers are important, I'll wait for possible corrections before I talk at all about why they're important to me.

Rev. said...

Here are my thoughts:

Rev. said...

Here are my thoughts:

bzzzzgrrrl said...

Continuing with my series of responses to things people have said, publicly and privately:

A couple of people have suggested that I seem to be surrounded by queer folks, mostly ones who think like me. Just to clear that up:
-I identify as queer, but understand that not every LGBTQ person agrees with me on anything, let alone everything.
-I am blessed to have a small handful of wonderful, supportive queer friends. It has taken me years of active looking to find the very small queer crowds I now sometimes run with.
-By far, most of the people in my life, of all levels of wonderfulness, are not queer. By far, most of my dear friends/colleagues/nemeses/neighbors/family/people I buy from/people I read/people I see on the street/people I see in the movies are straight. I have not in any way "surrounded myself" with queer people, let alone queer people who think or act like I do — if that's possible for anyone, it is impossible for me. Straight people are most of the people I love, hate, ignore, see, support, gain support from...
-Several of the people I saw change their pics to HRC logos were LGBTQ themselves. None of the people I saw argue about how people who were troubled should lighten up were.

bzzzzgrrrl said...

More in the series:

I get that at some point, this should be its own post. Honestly, I was terrified to make this post when I made it. I am more terrified to do it again. I'm looking at ways to be braver, but for now, this is what I can do.

bzzzzgrrrl said...

Still more:

This will be considered radical by some, but I believe it to be true: I think it is very rare indeed for marginalized people not to understand the perspectives of people less marginalized than they, because I think they swim (as we all do) in those perspectives — and because knowing that is a survival strategy, sometimes literally.

I think people of color understand what it's like to be white. I think gay people understand what it's like to be straight. I think trans people understand what it's like to be cis.

I think people without privilege understand privilege, in general.

There are exceptions, particularly but not exclusively around intersectionality (I may know what it is to be a straight man, and a person of color may know what it is to be white, but that does not mean that a straight man of color understands my experience particularly better than I understand his, or vice versa).

bzzzzgrrrl said...

Rick, here: "it will remain just an issue, if you don't get the support of EVERYONE, gay, straight or otherwise. You need everyone's vote. You need solidarity."

...who is "you"?

Carrie said...

After reviewing some information I think my Moms asked for donations to Garden State Equality which has worked with HRC (thus my mixing them up, I ended up on mailing lists for both and it was several years ago). However, my Mom did change her profile pic to the red equal sign and I as I stated I did in solidarity with her. (although I used one of the cool variations and not the actual logo) We have both since changed back to photos. And again marriage equality is a critical issue for them. I can see how it isn't necessarily a critical issue for all gay people any more than marriage is critical for all straight people.

I am glad for information about who I have donated to. I try to research organizations before giving money to them. But, when I am specifically asked to donate and the cause is one I am not opposed to I don't over think it.

I am saddened by Heidi's reaction to hearing that my Moms asked for donations to an organization that is working to advance the cause of marriage equality and human rights. I get that there are issues with how they are going about it or what their agenda is but, I also understand that there is more than one way to promote a cause and not everyone of a particular group has to go about promoting their cause in the same way. Clearly there are many LGBTQ people who do not object to HRC. I respect that there are others who do object. I hope both groups can be respectful to each other.

My first and foremost cause in life has always been the environment. How Greenpeace goes about advocating for that cause and how Sea Shepard does the same thing are completely different and I can see good and bad in both of their methods. As far as I am concerned they both bring awareness to a cause I believe in. I have seen bitter arguments between the leadership of those two groups who can't seem to allow for the others methods and it makes me sad.

Rick said...

Heidi called marriage equality an LGBTQ issue. And I felt she was very hostile about my straight response to the HRC symbol. So when I said "you" I meant LGBTQ, but really I was calling her out specifically. And that if she is being hostile to straight supporters she could lose them. But I personally feel marriage equality is a human issue and everyone has the right to be married if they want to. And even if someone tells me it's not "my" issue, I'm still voting for it. Does that make sense?

bzzzzgrrrl said...

I don't want to speak for Heidi, so I hope she comes back, but I happen to know she's on vacation this week, so I'll take a crack at my interpretation of what she said.

I did not read her as saying marriage equality was an LGBTQ issue. She said (correctly), I thought, the subject of my post was not the hurt feelings of straight allies who were trying to show solidarity — my post (and my own hurt feelings) is about LGBTQ folks expressing, without anger, some concerns and being told they were making a big deal of something that was just nice. I think she's witnessed some of that same behavior, and finds it similarly peculiar.

I did not, for the record, ask anyone to remove their HRC logo, either here or on Facebook. I did provide a little extra information on what that logo represents to me and to some (obviously not all) LGBTQ folks, mostly here, but also in a couple of very private side conversations on FB. And got kind of a mixed bag of response, including folks who felt wounded by my words because I was not as happy as I ought to have been by other people's nice gesture.

So, in the interest of moving on in a spirit of legitimate open-heartedness: If someone like Heidi or me sees apparent displays of solidarity from people we believe to be genuinely committed to allyship in ways that we know to be hurtful to ourselves or others in our community, what ought we to do, specifically? Rick has said that Facebook is not the place for the discussion, even when Facebook is the place of the action. He's said that this blog post is a better forum. He may be right. Is it the only forum? Should I have engaged in private, direct chats with folks on FB — or in person? I felt like that would seem somehow more hurtful; maybe I was wrong. It for sure would have been more time-consuming. Is it better to say nothing in order not to hurt others' feelings?* Is it more important to chime in with some of the voices of queers who have told me they've been afraid to comment here, or is it more important to be sensitive to the mostly straight folks, most of whom have been supportive of me, who visit here regularly?

I don't actually have answers to all of those questions. I have some hunches about some of them. I have tried pretty hard to keep my tone calm and level and imformational; I know it's felt judgy and preachy to some of you anyway. Whaddya think?

*Someone once told me a good gauge was to think about whether a statement was nice, honest, or necessary, because things should be two out of three. Most of this blog meets the honest standard; I am not sure how much of it meets nice or necessary. It's mostly just goofy stories about me chasing squirrels or whatever. To me, when my scared, scared self wrote this post, it felt honest and necessary — and also nice, to some. Did it feel honest and necessary to you?

bzzzzgrrrl said...

Sorry, meant to include this in the comment above but forgot. Cindi Knox (welcome, Cindi), says, "But staying clean and out of the mess is essentially cheering from the stands and calling one's self part of the team. It feels good, but lacks commitment." I don't know that she's talking about me, but it for sure resonates with me just as if she is.

Rick said...

Yes, my statement is a bit paradoxical that Facebook is a place to rally support, yet not the place to be criticized for it. I'm repeating myself here, but my thought was that on a big day for marriage equality, when people are showing their support, they're not going to want to be told their way of showing support is actually detrimental to the cause. And again, no one came to me to tell me otherwise, I learned about this issue on this very blog, a day later. But if someone pulled me aside, privately, during that day, I probably would've happily changed my profile picture to a different sign of support. But I can easily see how others would get their feathers ruffled, especially in the form of a facebook comment versus a private message. And that's really my point.

And to answer your question, yes, if you see something is hurtful to your cause, point it out. But again, and I could be in the minority, but I think that day, the HRC symbol was not about an organization or a brand, it was about equality. The facebook profile pix transcended the brand to mean just the equality. And I doubt most people who changed their profile pix donated to the HRC that day. They just wanted to show their support and I think a lot of people, straight or gay, appreciated that gesture as well. Obviously some didn't. And again, if someone came to me and told me privately about the HRC, I would've changed my profile picture.

Oh and re-reading your last comment. Facebook can definitely be a place for discussion. But Facebook "discussions" often turn into bitter uncensored feuds, which is why I normally stay out of all things political and polarizing with my Facebook posts. The HRC symbol was my first attempt at making a statement, a show of solidarity. Marriage equality will still get my vote, but I don't think I'll be changing my Facebook profile pictures for any more causes any time soon.

Heidi Carrington Heath said...


As CM mentioned, I am on vacation this week. I am also very sick with a nasty cold or respiratory infection while I am on vacation, so trying to keep my stress level basically non-existent in an effort to heal/relax.

As a result, I have been staying away from some of these more politically charged convos for the week.

Rick, to be really clear, I wasn't intentionally targeting you specifically, but a broader cross-section of comments. My apologies if you somehow felt targeted. Not my intention! I promise. Also, CM is right. I did not mean to imply or otherwise indicate that marriage equality is only an LGBTQ issue (although that is the primary community in question in this discussion). I absolutely believe that marriage is a human right.

Carrie, I am sorry if I caused you distress, but felt like I needed to say that. I absolutely support your moms right to support whatever organization they choose. I think it feels a little backward to me that they chose arguably the worst major LGBTQ org on trans issues, but that's of course their choice. I won't continue to detail HRC's troubling relationship with the trans community here, and don't expect you (or your Moms) to change your minds. But I really do hope that if nothing else this has given you pause about how you might interact with them in the future given that they've clearly marginalized and otherwise not prioritized some of the basic needs of families like yours.

One thing I hope for on any issue is that amazing blog posts like this one will promote healthy dialogue on both sides of the issue. I think CM has managed to do just that. But I do admit that I have a fairly visceral reaction to the HRC. That certainly does come across in my posts.

Rick said...

Thanks Heidi for the post and the clarification. Sorry if I inferred anything unintended. You and me are good. :)

Feel better!