This symbol and several variants of it began appearing on social media sites on Monday night, in anticipation of the arguments before the Supreme Court over California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Opponents and naysayers are quick to point out that posting this image to one’s Facebook profile is pointless, for despite the thousands (if not millions) of people who changed their photo, the symbol itself is unlikely to overturn any law or change the opinion of any lawmaker or Supreme Court justice. They are quick to ridicule this form of “Facebook activism”, noting that expressing symbols such as these on social media does not compare to championing civil rights “on the streets” and does not adequately put one’s “skin in the game”. But by deriding those who choose this form of self-expression, opponents and naysayers entirely miss the point.
Let me be clear – we all know that this symbol will not change America overnight. We all know that this image will not overturn laws, rewrite constitutions, alter history instantly, or sway the minds of politicians or judges. We are very well aware of what this symbol cannot and will not do.
But this is a powerful symbol. For thousands of LGBT men and women out there, it is a symbol that they are not alone. It’s a sign of love and solidarity from fellow LGBT individuals. It’s a symbol of love from those in the straight community that support the rights of their LGBT family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and fellow Americans. It is a sign of hope that the future of marriage equality is bright even if the recognition of this right does not come today, tomorrow, or even three months from now. It is an acknowledgment that we are here. It is a representation of changing attitudes, changing tides, and changing times. This image is a beacon of hope to all the young gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals living in fear, who feel they are alone, that out there in the world are people who at the very least support them, and at the most are championing their fundamental rights as citizens. No… rather their fundamental rights as human beings instead of second class citizens.
For those in the LGBT community, this symbol is a recognition of what has been a long time coming. For those in the straight community who support their LGBT brothers and sisters, it is a way of freely and unabashedly demonstrating their support without coercion or pretense. No my friends, this is not an empty gesture; this is a recognition of just how far we have come… and how much farther we have to go to ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to marry the one they love.