Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Message on sign:
February 1, 2011
Other signs on the Quad: none

Interpretations/discussions of message

People interpreted the meaning of the sign in different ways:

- it is a homophobic attack on gays

- I am being defensive, countering accusations I am gay

- it means just what it says, that I am not gay

- I just want attention

Surprisingly no one thought the sign might be a desperate attempt on my part to repress homosexual tendencies in myself.

A man from Saudi Arabia thought I might be looking for a job or for a girlfriend. He said that in Saudi Arabia men and women get around the prohibition on pre-marital romantic relationships, the penalty for which can be death, by taking out want ads in the newspaper or putting up "Apartment for Rent" signs and indicating their phone number.

I made the point that the sign is less about sexuality and more about pointing out limitations of public discourse. Most agreed that if the sign read "I am gay", no one would have found that offensive or controversial. One man said in Seattle you could have a sign "I am not heterosexual" or even "I am heterophobic" and not generate controversy. 

Two women found the sign offensive and homophobic and said it was "creating an unsafe environment for gays" and that I was "playing with people's emotions." When I asked, "Doesn't the media play with people's emotions every day?" they replied, "Well, congratulations for adding to that." The difference, however, between me and the media is that I stand by--literally--what I say and can be approached and questioned and criticized, whereas the media allows no such feedback and rests complacent in its immunity from criticism.

One gay man said the sign did not offend him in the least.


On March 2 a girl came up and told me she had heard I was against gay marriage. Our conversation went approximately like this:
She: I heard you were against gay marriage.
Me: I never spoke to anyone about gay marriage.
She: You have to understand that in this environment when that issue is discussed, when you stand with a sign saying "I AM NOT GAY" people assume that you are against gay marriage.
Me: But I'm standing right here. Anyone who wants to can come up and ask me what I mean.
Her friend: I saw you many times while passing on the Quad but I didn't think that I could go up and ask you something or talk about the signs with you.

There is an interesting discussion of this sign on a reddit thread here.

For a complete transcript of discussions with people about this sign (or at least as complete as memory would allow), see here, February 1.

No comments:

Post a Comment