25,000 photos and counting. That’s the impact of the NOH8 campaign, brainchild of Adam Bouska, a celebrity photographer who has turned duct tape and a temporary tattoo into the defining iconography of the marriage equality movement. In 3 years, Bouska has added unexpected celebrities (Cindy McCain? What?) to the legions of real people who strike a pose and add their faces to the library of those who refuse to live in a society where they, their friends, parents, siblings, and children will be discriminated against.
Today, N0H8 had an open photoshoot in Chicago and on the invitation of a friend I went to add my face to the collage. The official photos won’t be available for a few months, but the joy and energy in the hotel ballroom was something I can share with you now.
I was struck by the diversity, in every identifiable way, of the crowd, and the celebratory buzz in the air. When a young mother finally got her adorable fat baby to smile, the whole crowd literally cheered. There were pets included, families, siblings, friends, and veterans sporting dogtags. I cried at least twice. Here are some of my favorite moments:
When we left the hotel, a tourist dad asked me what “H 8″ stood for. I hesitated and replied “It stands for ‘hate’, there’s an event in the W Hotel,” and then walked right on by. I was reluctant to tell him the cause for which we had just stood in line for an hour and a half to support. I wasn’t afraid of him, but I was afraid of confrontation, and that is not a good thing. The duct tape we wore in the photos is representative of being de-voiced, deprived of your ability to fully express yourself and your love, and here I was de-voicing myself to this stranger.
It’s that split second of fear, of paranoia, of hesitation, that is indicative of how much work we have left to do on behalf of LGBTQ rights. We should never be afraid to say that total equality is a cause we’re working towards. That’s something to be proud of.
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