Since we put the idea out there, we’ve got some feedback, and since we started the crowdsourcing, even more. Everyone wants to know exactly what the point is, and what we hope to accomplish. And until today, I didn’t know myself. I had some ideas, but it wasn’t crystalizing for me. I had the theory, but not the deep-down emotional reason to do it. That changed today when I grabbed a random shirt from the shelf and put it on.
Upon unfolding, I realized I’d grabbed my shirt with “SUPPORT SAME SEX MARRIAGE” on it. I picked it up two years ago at a march. I don’t really think of it as a political shirt any more. I wear it because I like having things I enjoy on my belly. Dinosaurs. The Violent Femmes. Daleks. Equal rights.
And like my love for those things, my politics is a very personal thing for me. Private, even. Yes, I use my facebook to point out lies and slander, but I use it precisely because it is semi-anonymous. I’m a shy guy, and face to face, I don’t talk politics. It’s not something I want to bring into the social arena, because I don’t want to judge or pressure my friends. My politics are mine and I don’t expect them to be anyone else’s.
Activism is my job; I don’t usually meet people at marches or anything. And I don’t march for my friends either. Some people do both of those things, and that’s great, but I go for I guess perhaps more theoretical reasons. I don’t march for refugees because I know any refugees and have seen the damage done to them, because I don’t and I haven’t. I don’t march for gay marriage because I love my gay friends and want them to have what others do, because really, I know like one gay guy and I hardly ever see them (hey buddy!).
As a result, I typically forget that my politics HAS any kind of human dimension. Which is why I completely randomly put on, and then forgot I was wearing, my SAME SEX MARRIAGE shirt last year, when I was going out to hang out with Darrin and Stefan. They happen to be gay, but I’d also forgotten that. On the way into the restaurant, I was suddenly panicked and embarrassed. I didn’t want to look like a try-hard, desperately trying to show off how politically correct I was. I didn’t want Darrin and Stefan to feel like I was going to make them part of my political identity, my awesome gay friends to prove how liberal I was. I put on a coat and put it out of my mind.
But later on, I relaxed and forgetting my shirt, took off my coat. And a bit later Stefan saw my shirt, and he smiled. And Stefan, when he smiles, he smiles with his whole face, his whole body and his whole heart, because he’s that kind of guy, the kind of guy with nothing but a giant heart full of love beneath his chest. And with that warm smile still spread on his face, he said “I like your shirt”.
And that was that, but I remember it, because it brought home what that shirt could do. Not change the world or even change a vote, but just say to somebody else, be they friend or stranger, that they are welcome. That I welcome you. That, astoundingly, I don’t want to burn you, or imprison you, or discriminate against you.
We all get that same kind of buzz out of shirts and badges. We see someone wearing an Invader Zim shirt and we feel “hah, I have kinship, because I share that passion.” And it’s more important when it’s something small or weird that feels like nobody else knows but you. And it’s HUGELY important when there are great masses of people doing everything they can to exclude you, or silence you, or discriminate against you, or destroy you, or just let you know, casually, how much they despise you. In that kind of environment, wearing a little sign that says “I welcome you” can make all the difference in the world. It can put a smile on someone’s face.
We’ve already made $400 on the kickstarter, which is great. A huge amount of that is down to one woman in particular, who saw what we are doing and I think had the same kind of reaction as Stefan did that day. Saw a sign saying “you are welcome” in a world that wants her gone. So she put in a very large amount of money, because those signs are just that important. And thanks to her passion and Stefan’s smile, I finally get it.
I know we need to do this. And I know why we’re doing it. To wave the flag that says “You are welcome here” in a world that wants you gone.
You can throw some funding at us to get us over the line here.