Ten years ago I found the NOH8 Campaign online and shortly after, I joined Twitter and found out even more plus found more people who were part of the community. I was new to social media but I quickly saw that what Adam Bouska, Jeff Parshley, and the whole team were doing was more than just taking photos. It was a bold statement at a time when marriage equality was non-existent in most places and had been overturned in others.
NOH8 organized a march on Washington and I wasn’t even used to traveling much back then but I knew I HAD to be there. I booked a flight, made sure to connect with a few people on Twitter so I wouldn’t be all alone when I got there, and proudly headed off to our capital to be sure my voice (and our voices) were heard. That was a huge turning point for me and an enormous push for me to use my voice for causes I believed in. When I got there, met all of these people, and spent the weekend hearing stories, sharing stories, marching, being harassed by protesters, and making friends I am so proud to know; I realized just how important this cause was.
At the time of the march, I don’t even think I had taken my first NOH8 photo but since then, I think I’ve taken about ten in total. I’ve made sure that if I’m in the same city they are doing a shoot in, I’m there. Over time, the photos have meant more and more to me. It’s about marriage equality but it’s also about all equality for our brothers and sisters who need more of a voice. The entire LGBTQIA community needs to be heard, to be seen, to make themselves known and that’s what I’m doing every time a take a photo, post a photo, bring friends with me to have their photos taken.
We have seen recently that there are people who want to erase certain groups, to reverse the progress we’ve made and that is why the NOH8 Campaign is just as important today as it was ten years ago. In my own personal life, I experienced slurs and prejudice in my work place which wasn’t handled properly by superiors and really not handled at all. I live in NYC but I realized even I could have my voice silenced by the powers that be and that did not sit well with me.
As I think about the past ten years, the photo shoots, the events, the progress, I think the most important thing has been the people I’ve met online from all over the world. They have shared their stories with me, their concerns, their issues. I hope I have been able to offer some advice or at least an empathetic ear that made them feel a little better or helped them to find solutions, a little courage, and some comfort.
I want to thank Adam, Jeff, and everyone at NOH8 for all they have done, do, and will do. I don’t think there are words to express how incredibly grateful I am to have been given the boost of courage I received from simply being associated in any way with this cause and I promise to continue to lend my voice, to proudly display my photos, and to continue to bring my friends along for the experience.
To the friends (Straight, gay, queer, etc) who have joined me: I am forever grateful for your love and support. This campaign has allowed so many to stand next to people they love in support and show just how united we can be no matter what else is going on in the world.
I look forward to another amazing ten years and more!!!
Please feel free to share your own NOH8 stories here!