Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Did My T-Shirt Mess Up Your Freedoms?
Alert Reader Karen points out that one half of a lesbian couple had to turn her "Marriage is So Gay" shirt inside out at Dollywood. That would be Dolly Parton, a gay icon, by the way. Clearly, she did not personally run the sensitivity seminars for the staff at this place, or she'd laugh in the face of someone suggesting that this was an appropriate course of action. At least, I hope so.
Karen's question is, "So if this shirt had been one of those 'man + woman = marriage' shirts, would that have been considered offensive as well?"
Probably not, even though that shirt is offensive, because it's coming from a place of bigotry. But those values are, in many ways, more mainstream, despite the fact that 53% of Americans support gay marriage. That fact notwithstanding, the number of self-identified evangelicals to self-identified queers is 10:1.
I have the same "marriage is so gay" shirt that the woman in question had to turn inside out. I have definitely noticed that people sometimes seem uncomfortable when I wear it, but I've never been asked to change, and I honestly don't care. I like making people uncomfortable sometimes. But these ladies had their kids with them, and didn't want to cause a scene, I get that. I'm glad they're doing something about it now - they're asking the park "to implement policies that are inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people; conduct staff sensitivity training; and issue a public statement indicating that the park is inclusive of all families." Word.
The park's policy as of now is to ask people "with clothing or tattoos that could be considered offensive to change clothes or cover up." You know what I think is offensive? Asking people to hide their self-expression because someone at this park gets to decide what is acceptable, and what a family looks like, and what a person should put on their body. If you don't like tattoos, don't get one. But we seem to have this whole cultural idea that it's more important to protect people from seeing anything unpleasant than it is to allow people to express themselves. Aren't we supposed to be the land of the free? My tattoo or nose ring or whatever hurts you literally not at all, so just get over it, okay? And if my t-shirt slogan means you have to have a conversation with your kids, will the world cave in? Or if you have to have a conversation with yourself?
"But Jess! What if someone is wearing a 'God Hates Fags' shirt or sending their kids to school in a shirt that says 'Islam is of the Devil'?"
Look, I do think there's something of a difference here. Those messages of hate speech are just that, hate speech, and they are explicitly designed to make people feel unsafe and unwelcome. But I don't think they should be illegal either, we have to be able to deal with idiots productively. The shirts themselves aren't the problem here, it's the bigoted asshole fucks behind the shirts, and we need to get past them and their fabulous signs and talk about how we can make society so safe and accepting of everyone that fringe shitheels like these folks don't even register on our radar anymore.
We need to quit policing each others' bodies and what we put on them. Your swinging fist is your business until it hits my nose. Wear what you want, I may or may not like it, and you shouldn't care if I do.