It’s the most wonderful time of the year: GayMU Week.
But after four years at this school — and unfortunately seeing just as much backlash as support — there’s always one tradition I’m not too fond of.
I can’t fully support the “gay? fine by me.” T-shirts.
Before you stop reading this column and start drafting a hate email, allow me to explain.
First of all, it’s a rhetorical problem. While the intent is clearly positive, words are still influential. Saying “fine by me” connotes tolerance instead of acceptance, and is a very passive thing to say. Instead of being a supporter of something — in this case, LGBTQIQAP+ rights — you are simply “fine” with it. There’s no activism.
Also, by only printing “gay,” it brings up the issue of inclusion since other sexual minorities aren’t represented. It creates a hierarchy, making “gay” more important or acceptable than “bisexual” or “transgender.”
Apart from me being a picky editor, there are other points to bring up. Being homosexual, bisexual, transgender or otherwise isn’t a choice. I’m sure the wearers of these shirts agree with that. However, they’re saying that they’re “fine” with something you can’t control.
You’d never see “blue eyes? fine by me.” Or worse, you’d never see “black? fine by me.” That’s because, like your sexual orientation, eye color and race are biological. They aren’t things you should have to be “fine” with.
Something such as “I support the legalization of same-sex marriage” would suffice, and quite possibly have a larger impact on someone reading it. There’s no way we could look back on that and think, “how silly.” That’s because it’s a clear explanation of the cause. No one can fight that. You don’t need to commodify your message in order to get people to understand or support it.
I also wonder why we even need some sort of gimmick in order to not only express our personal beliefs, but get others to see why they matter.
Trends and commodification are temporary, but basic equality is a simple concept that will last forever.
You can compare this to rape culture. The incredible poets Belissa Escobedo and Rhiannon McGavin, both high school students, said it best when they talked about the “consent is sexy” movement: “Consent is not sexy. Lingerie is sexy. Consent is a basic human right.” Rape is a serious subject and so is the cause attempting to stop it.
Marriage for those who are non-heterosexual is also a basic human right, and just as serious. So are equal rights in the workplace, school or everywhere.
We don’t need to create a catchy slogan to let people know this, especially one that’s so passive.
I know all of this is probably seen as counterproductive. I will say that Madison Equality and other organizations do a great job trying to normalize LGBTQIQAP+ and represent it on this campus.
But regardless, I’ve already prepared myself for messages like, “Why are you complaining about the supporters instead of the haters?”
The issue is that all activists should fix and nail down how they get their messages across. I’d rather have one that’s air-tight and well thought out than one with rhetorical holes and future problems.
In order to educate others, you have to educate yourself.
Corey Tierney is a senior media arts and design major. Contact Corey at firstname.lastname@example.org.