My Time in the NoH8 Line
It was all kinds of amazing. I’d wanted to get a NoH8 photo taken ever since I first saw Louisa Bacio’s – I had no idea that “regular” people could get them. I thought it was just for celebrities and such.
Boy, was I wrong.
Yesterday, Burbank opened its new headquarters with a photo shoot. It was scheduled to go from 1pm to 5pm; first come, first served, but they promised they’d get to everyone in line.
That should have been my first clue. And it was, to a certain extent – I made plans to get ready (after laundering my “white” shirts) and leave my house by 11:15am to get in line. Surely I’d be close to the front.
I got there at 11:45, and knew immediately where to go from the line of animated people wearing white shirts. I parked several blocks away, in the first spot I could grab, and went to join the adventure.
It was an amazingly diverse group. The two people directly in front of me were young lesbians, a tall, gorgeously round black woman and her younger, shorter, only slightly less round (and gorgeous) Latina girlfriend. They were affectionate in line; and as I looked up and down, listened to the chatter, I realized everyone who was there was with someone, and they were all affectionate.
Loving. Hugging and smooching, laughing, touching up each other’s makeup (or rad hair, for the guys), tugging on shirts. There were babies and old people and everything in between. If I had to guess, I’d say the median age was mid-30s, though every age group was represented.
They must have started shooting early; before 1pm came along, the line was moving and we were given model releases to fill out. The number on my page was 104; the line stretched long behind me. I’m guessing there were 500 people there, but that’s just a guess.
Once we were inside, there were stations with volunteers wearing red shirts ready to put the tattoo on. Ah, so much sense! Not hand-painted, which I can see would take forever. (Note: when someone changed their mind about where on their face to put the tattoo, the volunteers removed the first one by placing duct tape on it and rubbing it hard before peeling it off. I used baby oil when I got home – much easier!)
I nabbed a chair after getting tattooed, and alternatively read and people watched. There was a group wearing rainbow colored leis and waving a rainbow flag – it looked like maybe 8 or 9 family members. In another corner, two women in their early 40s I’d guess held a sign that mentioned they’d gotten married 3 times in 3 different states to each other; they were celebrating their 10th anniversary. A gal next to me had white boxing gloves – one of them had the NoH8 symbol on it, the other Just Love (except a bright red heart was in place of the word Love). People were friendly – groups formed, separated, formed again. The first 75 people seemed to go very slowly. Time ticked on.
Numbers were called and a group of us got up and moved to a different line – the one where we paid. Once we were in where the photographer was, things picked up.
The photographer was a slender young man with a businesslike camera and flash, a fan behind him and the appropriate reflectors behind him, a white backdrop in front. He posed us all – babies to grandmas – looking fierce, looking like love, looking like hope. I paid, got in another line, got my piece of duct tape over my mouth (glad I kept remembering that and didn’t bother with lipstick), and then it was my turn.
Sideways to the camera. Lean forward. Hand on hip, other hand in V sign over my head. Straight on, turn head, hands in prayer position. Lean forward. Great, girl. Hug, next.
It was over. Exhausted, I stripped the tape off my mouth, walked through the t-shirt shop without buying anything, and made the long walk back to my car. The silence on that walk was deafening; when I got in my car, it took me a few minutes to get my seatbelt on and get going.
I’d spent 4 hours in line, two minutes getting my photo taken, all to take a stand for equal rights for all people – gay, straight, black, brown, yellow, blue, green, transgender, bisexual, honey it doesn’t matter. If you’re human, you’re my equal. I did it for family, for friends lost and living, for love.
As I drove away, I realized that not once while I was waiting did I feel uncomfortable, out of my element, or threatened in any way (which can sometimes happen when you’re with that many strangers). I don’t know if it was the common cause that united us, or if it was just all that love and affection pouring over everyone that made a difference. But those people I spent four hours with? Those are my people. And they were all over whatever spectrum you want to judge them with. Age wise, sexuality wise, color wise. It may have exhausted me physically and mentally (I only got about 800 words written last night), but in hindsight?
It sent my spirit soaring.