Defending your right…

Gay rights equal gun rights poster
Personal dislikes.
Some odd posters have been popping up around Seattle.

I first read about them in a local alt-weekly’s news blog. The story has slowly been picking up steam. The QR code on the posters lead to a gun-rights web site, but the owner of the web site denies any knowledge of the posters. Reporters tracked down the photographer who took the picture for a gun rights campaign, and he says no one asked his permission to re-use the work, but as a pro-gun person, he is delighted that the image is being used. Those reports describe the photo poster as a picture of one woman holding another, but the shorter girl looks youthful enough that I think a better description of the photo might be “young woman embracing a teenage girl.”

No one has been able to locate the artist of the cartoony image on the second poster. The image is credited to a “Dale Nixon,” but that’s a pseudonym that many artists have used over the years when they don’t want their name attached to a piece of work they did for hire. It is even more clear that the cartoon was drawn for a father-son campaign, originally.

That’s one of the things that annoys me about the posters, and which makes me think these are not created by someone who is terribly sympathetic to the gay rights cause.

Annoyed isn’t the right word. First I was disturbed, and as I thought about it a little longer, deeply creeped out that someone would think that a good way to pitch a political message at gay couples would be to include images that hint at pedophilia. Really? I’ve spent decades having to explain that gay people are no more likely to be pedophiles than straight people, decades explaining that I was not sexually abused as a child and why it’s offensive the people assume that, and so on, and you think a good way to make me sympathetic to your cause is to imply that all middle-aged gay men are dating teen-agers? Look at that male couple in the poster! Tell me in all seriousness that the guy on the right isn’t a “kid.”

Marriage rights equal gun rights poster
Arm yourself, especially if your partner is 20 years younger than you!
It could be simply a case of cluelessness, of course. Someone wanted some images to go on the poster, and was just trying to find something that might pass as a same-sex couple with a gun or three. It would certainly not be the first time someone armed with some page layout software did something incredibly dumb unintentionally.

And I’ve gotten into enough discussions with certain kinds of conservative-minded (though they always describe themselves as “libertarian”) gay men who can’t understand why so many out gay people are much more sympathetic to liberal causes. No matter how many examples you give them of how anti-gay most conservative organizations, policies, and politicians are (and how steeped in unconscious bigotry and entitlement most libertarian messages and casual conversations are), they don’t get it. And they’ve been in enough of these debates that they are paranoically defensive about any of their statements. Putting up anonymous posters would not be unexpected from them.

The neighborhood where these have popped up isn’t just well-known as the “gayborhood,” it is so incredibly deep blue politically, and known to be a hot bed of liberal activism, that it’s hard to believe anyone thinks there’s a significantly number of people who haven’t already thought about the issue of the right to bear arms. These posters use very tired, old arguments that everyone who has thought about either the issue of guns or hate crimes has processed and come to an conclusion on long, long ago. Neither the posters or the web site they lead to have anything there that is going to change anyone’s mind.

Anyone at all. The only people who buy the arguments on the linked web site are people who already agree with them.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve pointed out many times that I sometimes confound my fellow liberals because I think gun control means hitting what you aim at, even though I’m in favor of universal background checks, holding gun owners responsible for what happens when they don’t secure a gun or “forget” to report a stolen gun. It’s not their opinion on the right to keep and bear arms I’m concerned with in these posters. I’m disturbed and creeped out by the use of father/son and mother/daughter images to represent gay couples. I’m annoyed at the implication that violence is an expected outcome of gaining equality. I’m annoyed and disappointed at the second poster’s implication that brandishing guns is the proper response to verbal harassment (“not going to take sh*t from the homophobes”). I’m irritated that the person drawing these false equivalencies hasn’t thought through to the obvious conclusion: marriage rights are like gun rights, and if marriage requires a license, why doesn’t gun ownership require one?

Some people think the posters are meant to scare people, to imply that hate crimes are rampant in the city. Instead of putting up anti-gay posters, such as the “no homo zone” posters in the news elsewhere last year, put up these things that on the surface seem to be pro-gay, but actually are meant to make gay couples feel less safe—a reverse-psychology form of intimidation. I don’t think that’s the most likely explanation.

As the adage says, never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

2 thoughts on “Defending your right…

  1. I think your final line sums up the likely cause. I agree that the two guys holding guns looks like it was stolen from a father-gun campaign. The “lesbian” couple looks like a photo for a mother-daughter pro-gun campaign (I wouldn’t be surprised if the photographer confirmed this). I’m guessing that there just aren’t a lot of photos out there that fit the bill of “Gays holding guns” (I just google-imaged this and yeah– not much that works).

    What irritates me is the passion+laziness that the posters project. The person/group behind them obviously feels strongly enough to go to the expense and effort– yet they are too disfunctional or lazy to just do a photo shoot for this (and avoid copyright infringment). To bring this around to writing, I rage about writers who put so much effort into writing a novel…but can’t spend a few minutes to confirm details or understand how key elements in their books (usually guns, ironically) work. A key plot point in your mystery revolves around Japanese culture? Why not run it by someone at your local sushi restaurant– rather than exclusively using your knowledge obtained from countless Kurosawa films? But they don’t and I aggravate.

    Guns…don’t get me started. How many films and books have people firing guns (usually BIG GUNS) in closed areas? No one reacts to the sound, the smell. If you’ve ever been to an indoor range, with full ear protection, you know what that’s like. Nrrgh. On a slow day, anyone can walk into a gun range and rent a firearm and usually there will be someone perfectly happy to give you one-on-one help on the range (they are eager to get new people excited about guns!). It’s not that hard!

    1. Growing up I was always around rifles and always shooting outdoors. So the first time I was in an indoor firing range (in my late teens) and heard a handgun fired indoors, I was totally unprepared for how much louder the handguns seemed than any rifles I’d ever fired. I understand the physics of why the sound is more intense, but it was such a shock.

      And don’t get me started on how a handgun kicks completely differently than a rifle. Or the stupid ways people in some movies hold the handguns they shoot. Really? You think you’re going to hit something that way? You think your wrist is going to be any use for the next twenty minutes after that?

      Sorry, I’m starting to rant…

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