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I used to live next door to an old lady who would give me jars full of jam and come over to my house to instruct me on what chores I needed to do for her that weekend.  Usually something like – untangling her wind-chimes, or getting a heavy blender out of her cabinet.  Nothing massively time consuming, but she needed some help, and she had a way of putting things.

We’d chat a bit, and would purse her lips just so if I ever said a cross word about anybody, or complained about something.  I’m kind of a negative person – I thrive on criticism, so I assume other people do, too.

“You can attract more flies with sugar than with salt,” she would say.  She also said you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken shit.  Silk purse / sow’s ear – that kind of thing.

She was just full of good things to say.

And she wasn’t trying to – you know – sugar coat things, so to speak… in the context of our conversations, she wasn’t being a wizened old Southern woman doling out little drops of time honored wisdom, or mucky truisms.  She was essentially telling me to stop being an ass.

I wish it had helped more when I was younger, and I don’t know that it’s helped all that much now that I’m (emotionally im)mature, but it gives me pause.

For example, on facebook the past couple of days, people have been changing their little facepictures into variations of the equality symbol, but in versions of pink and red, in order to signify their solidarity with the marriage equality movement.

Certain naysayers have naturally curled up and hissed that it wasn’t doing any good – that it was silly to post stupid pictures, that we’re preaching to the choir, etc.  I get their point – I do.  It’s just that … well, I don’t quite think they’re getting the point.


Well, I have a friend who seemed to know exactly what to say, so with his kind permission, I’ll let him take over for a bit.


I have seen much here on the faceplace about the red equal signs. I am humbled by the pervasiveness of the image and heartened by its presence on profiles where I might not have immediately expected to see it. One thing, however, has baffled me, though it probably should be no surprise. There are a number of folks (all good folks who I respect thus far) who have questioned the use of the symbol through this medium. ‘The Supreme Court doesn’t care what is on facebook’ is the gist of most of these complaints. I do not disagree with this gist; I just do not understand the point of bringing it up. It is true that changing your picture here on the faceplace is not a substitute for grassroots organizing or fundraising, but nobody I know is claiming that it is. It is a gesture of goodwill and support and that is nothing to scoff at.

I learned that in 2005 when I testified against the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in front of a Texas Senate committee. This was a particularly difficult day for me for several reasons. As a former staffer for a Texas Legislator many of the faces staring back at me as I approached the witness table were Senators and staffers that had been my colleagues and friends. The committee chair even employed a relative of mine and I was not yet out to my family. As I sat down my heart was in my throat and my eyes continuously darted around the Senate chamber for signs of the relative that could out me to my family. I was fucking terrified. I started to speak but my voice cracked and shook before I had even finished saying my name. The woman sitting next to me placed her hand on my knee under the table. She was (and remains) a complete stranger to me. I took a shaky breath and she gave my knee a reassuring squeeze. She was with me, she supported me, she was on my side. My fear subsided, my heart returned to my chest, my voice stopped shaking. I stopped looking around the room in fear. I looked directly at the chairman (who I knew personally) for the first time. Nothing about my testimony was groundbreaking but I was able to speak clearly about the impact of the amendment on my life. I was able to stand up for myself and stand with my community.

I guess my point here is that a very simple gesture can be profoundly powerful. Her gesture did not change the mind of a single Senator on that committee, but it made me a little braver that day and ever day since… and so has every single red equal sign I have seen on facebook.

We can disagree on the best way to fight for equality but we all agree that we need straight allies. If you aren’t sure who they are or where to find them… you can start by looking for the red equal sign. When you see it, ask for help.

End Quote.


How does this all hearken back to the old lady?

She would probably say “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to look at it, but you don’t need to go spoil everyone else’s fun.”  But – you know – she’d say something like “Pinch a pigs ear and you’re gonna make it scream” or what have you.  But the look in her eye, the mischievous smirk – she’d be saying if you have to take a shit all over someone else’s self-esteem, it won’t matter if you dipped your ass in honey.

So think about that the next time you have the opportunity to put someone down.  So you’re not a joiner – great!  So why don’t you just keep your mouth shut?

You’re gonna catch a fly.


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