Spreading The Message Of Equality, One Bumper Sticker At A Time

Note: This is a guest post from one of Gaywheels’ newest contributors, Randy Stern. It was originally published on his blog, RandyStern.net.

As motorists, we have a tendency to individualize our rides. It’s the American way.

Our nation is one of the few countries where our vehicles are personalized with stickers, cling placards, and badges. Through these identifying marks, we advertise our educational history, faith, favorite sports team, sense of humor, and politics.

In the past decade, we’ve seen a shift in how LGBT motorists personalize their vehicles. In the 1980s and 1990s, some folks slapped pink triangles onto their vehicles, but it was the six-color rainbow flag – now, the de facto banner of the LGBT community – that became the most visible symbol on our cars, trucks and SUVs. It has survived many permutations: strips, cutout shapes, metallic finishes, etc. And of course, it has inspired the flags of our vibrant subcommunities, like the Leather Pride flag, the Bisexual Pride flag, the International Bear Brotherhood flag.

In the early 21st century, though, the rainbow flag has nearly been supplanted by something more iconic. The new sticker of choice is simple, non-threatening, and very political: the Human Rights Campaign logo.

In 1980, HRC began as an advocacy organization representing the LGBT community. Its logo is a yellow equal sign on a medium-dark blue background. Designed for HRC’s rebranding in 1995, that logo has become one of the most popular symbols of our community.

You can see it on cars, trucks, SUVs, crossovers, motorcycles, bicycles, and backpacks. In fact, there seem to be more HRC stickers on display than ever before. Even our heterosexual allies have them on their vehicles.

But this raises an interesting question: does the HRC logo speak to us as a symbol of our community? You’d be surprised how many LGBT people are either unaware of what the HRC does, or disagree with the organization’s agenda.

Then too, some people consider the HRC logo too overtly political. Those folks often prefer displaying a variation of the rainbow flag — either the original, or one of its variants. In the subculture I inhabit – that of bears – our earth-toned, seven striped flag doesn’t even register with most of the straight passersby who see it on other cars. For the rest, however, it’s an attention-grabber, alerting us to check out the driver as we cruise by.

But for many, many others, the HRC logo is a perfect blend of the personal and political. As we motor along to work, to the grocery store, and the gym, that blue square with the yellow equal sign is now the most prominent way to let the drivers both gay and straight, from the left and the right, know that we’re here.

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