Thursday, March 05, 2009

Button Reading

Most of my time spent in "public" at the two campuses of my University is spent with some portion of my brain-space occupied with a level of stupefaction at what surrounds me. This is contributed to, at least in part, by how much larger the larger of the two campuses here is when compared to the size of my undergraduate university, but most of its my preternatural ability towards shaking my head and saying "the kids these days...dagnabbit..." (I once tried to refer to this as my "old man problem," but was thankfully warned by whoever I said it to that it implied something entirely different from what I intended). This stupefaction is generally received as elitism or my cultural position as a "hater" ("I don't even know you, and I hate your guts..."), but I think I'm at least occasionally spurred towards a more nuanced stance (though I have gotten good mileage out of sharing what Jack labelled me as back around Xmas: a "recreational cynic")...

So I was just on a crowded elevator in my University library. I noticed that once young woman had a button on her backpack (well she had several, but this is the one that caught my notice), which was the rainbow field emblem commonly associated with gay culture and gay rights. Though it wasn't simply the rainbow, but also had printed, in big all-capital letters over the rainbow field, "ALLY". This seems problematic to me (though I'm quite inexpert in such things, so I don't really know (I suppose that's why it's become blogworthy)), in that the button itself already announces an alliance with the cause (given that Florida also just recently passed a referendum banning civil unions, it seems to me that merely announcing ones sexual orientation is still a viable political act in its own right).

"ALLY" also says, then, so far as I can tell, "BUT I'M NOT GAY," which strikes me as significantly less useful to the cause/alliance of gay rights. Of course, given that the above-mentioned referendum did pass with flying colors (not nearly so close as California's), it certainly does mean something to be a straight person who is in alliance with gay rights. And maybe my viewpoint to it is skewed by the experience growing up in a predominantly conservative suburb, where to argue in favor of gay rights was to be labelled gay yourself (this actually happened--and in junior high I was much more worried about such labels as I would be now), but it seems to me that this "BUT I'M NOT GAY" undermines the argument: if the bigots think you're gay for being in alliance with gay rights, then, dammit, you should be proud to be considered so; admitting that you're straight only strengthens their argument.

So I guess it's just a conflict between the intended audience of such a button and its actual audience? But it just seems like a case where the button-wearing person is so close but yet still oh so far from a truer alliance. I just don't see, if I had asked this woman what "ALLY" meant, how she could have answered without saying "I'm not gay," which is direct conflict with the "I am gay" statement of the rainbow field.


Blogger Jack said...

Maybe she was just a gay woman named Allyson.

3/05/2009 8:52 PM  

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