Saturday, October 15, 2005

Red-Ribbon Tee



It was April 25, 1993 and many of my friends from North Carolina had traveled to Washington, DC, to attend the National Gay and Lesbian March on Washington for Equal Rights. We rode the Metro in from Northern Virginia, and there were so many gay men and lesbians on the train that it felt like we were the majority for a day. There is an implicit nature to that feeling…a safety in numbers, perhaps, or just the knowledge that the person across from you knows what you know. Despite our comfort as displayed by our political buttons, hats, and clever signs, the feeling was not mutual. It was obvious that the new minority of people who didn’t know what we know were suddenly fidgeting in their seats, uncomfortable with so many of us who were different from them. I remember wanting to teach them that it is OK, that we are love and compassion and friendship and nothing to fear, but I also remember knowing that some will not hear our message no matter how we try to show our full spectrum of existence. Instead, some of these folks would be filled with the newschannel’s image of men in leather chaps, pendulously topless lesbians and radical fairies standing nude on the Mall. Yes, they are part of us too…but they are not all of us. We are stronger than the fringe on a rug…we are woven of many different colors and textures and love binds us, not difference, not threat, not hatred.

When we gathered to march with the North Carolina contingent of the parade, we were able to buy t-shirts to represent our state. After years and years of representation by Jesse Helms, the most overtly homophobic senator in US history, we had a chance to show our compassion for ourselves and for those of us who were living and dying of AIDS in our state, the US and the world. The shirts were an instant classic for me: North Carolina was printed with the word North lined up over Carolina so that the "o" in North and the "a" in Carolina formed a red ribbon. I do not know who designed our shirts for that day, but the person was pure genius in my opinion.

When I first saw the shirt, I remember seeing it through tears as I remembered my friends who had died by then. I was proud to place the shirt over my head and torso to show my solidarity of compassion and to show the world that not all North Carolinians were represented by the man who said "No" as a matter of course. For once, we could say "Yes". Yes, we care and yes, we are.

Even though this shirt is now going on 13 years old, I still wear it proudly when I can. I particularly like to wear it when I am in other states or in other cultures. I guess I hope that people will ask me about the design or of my home in North Carolina, so that I can proudly say that we are aware of the struggle that the world is facing with AIDS even now. Are we?

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2 Comments:

Blogger Erin said...

I love this shirt, I love the story behind it, and I really really like the guy who wears it too!

*hug*
~E

10/16/2005 10:20:00 PM  
Blogger Laurie said...

You know, that really is an extraordinarily nice design. I'm glad to find someone else who hasn't given up on admitting that they're from North Carolina. Remember the "I'm from North Carolina and I don't support Jesse Helms" bumper stickers?

10/17/2005 08:35:00 PM  

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