The Gay Revolution Will Be Tweeted: Why the HRC Flag and Other Social Justice Memes Matter


I changed my Facebook picture to the Human Right Campaign (HRC) red equal sign two days ago. So did many, many of my Facebook friends. Who cares? This lesbian cares. While posting an update on social media may be a small act for some, trending social media memes around social justice issues can have a huge impact.

For example, the viral HRC symbol caused several conversations among my Facebook friends. As a gay woman I have many gay friends, and as a feminist I follow many people engaged with feminist media. Two conversations broke out on my Facebook feed: 1) HRC doesn't stand for transgender rights and 2) the concern HRC has co-opted the color red to signify gay marriage overshadowing the role of the color in the history of AIDS activism. Of course many simply changed their profile picture and stated their support for same-sex marriage in a status update. 

These were the conversations on my Facebook feed, but then I’m an out lesbian feminist. What might the response be if I were a closeted 14-year-old boy living in Arkansas who chose to stand up for marriage equality by changing my profile picture to the HRC symbol? 

There is growing, revolutionary potential to share ideas socially through online media. Media technologist Deanna Zandt explains in her guide to social networking, “Share This”:

"We're living through the emergence of a complementary form of information distribution through social technology tools, one that has the potential to shift and, in many cases, dissolve the information hierarchies that have existed for thousands of years. The Web is just now starting to realize some of its disruptive potential, and the digitization of our social networks give us a huge amount of potential to shift power dynamics away from those hierarchical constraints."

Would you please consider some of the top trending stories on PolicyMic this week: We saw both a video illustrating how men can NOT rape women, trend and another story explaining how lack of access to abortion was classified as "torture" by the United Nations.  (Interesting to consider in a time when North Dakota is essentially banning abortion!) I would not discount the power of these trending stories in drawing attention to violence against women and the lack of access to abortion nationally and internationally.

Maybe you should be protesting in D.C. to support the human right to marry one's same-sex partner. Maybe you can write an op-ed to publish in your local paper in support of the inclusion of transgender rights in this national conversation. I hope you do! I know I’m not just changing my profile picture. 

While I understand the concern that changing a profile picture alone or tweeting your support for same-sex marriage is not enough, I firmly disagree with the notion that these actions mean nothing. Some who take these small actions risk being bullied or worse by standing up for same-sex marriage. In a time when social media presents revolutionary possibility, trending for social justice can hold powerful potential for breaking open social consciousness and creating space for important dialogue and change.