Posing for My Family by Chase HardinTuesday, August 10th, 2010
Why did I pose for the NOH8 Campaign? For my family. Armed only with this photo, a picture that simply implored the world to reject hate, I came out to my extended family with the following e-mail.
I'm sending out this picture to family in hopes that it might help everyone better understand me and what the photo stands for.
For those of you who don't know, I'm one of countless gay teenagers who struggle to find acceptance in an intolerant world. While I myself have never been faced with individual discrimination or violence, I cannot remain silent while my friends and loved ones fight for basic human rights.
I come from a conservative family, and in many circumstances, this can mean anger, intolerance, and ultimately broken families. But today, I'm imploring you to understand what being gay means to me. Much of this world doesn't accept or approve of me. I hope and pray that you can learn to accept me for what I am, and what my creator made me.
This picture was purchased by me and my best friend, Kelsey, to help fund the fight against California's Proposition 8. When Proposition 8 passed, the gay community felt the bitter cold of being considered second-class citizens. It's likely that this doesn't mean anything to you, since it probably doesn't effect you. But it does effect me.
Proposition 8 in California and Proposition 102 in Arizona prevent me from marrying the person I love, and legalize the idea that I am a second-class citizen who does not deserve the same rights as everyone else. If you were apathetic or even supportive of Proposition 8, I ask you to reconsider for me - so long as these laws exist, my love is considered invalid and inferior. I'm not asking you to change your religious views or your lifestyle. I'm simply asking you to allow me the same legal rights you enjoy.
The next time you cast your ballot, I hope you keep me in mind. To be able to marry the one you love is something everyone can empathize with. I hope that you would not deny me the opportunity.
I love all of you.
I'd like to thank the NOH8 Campaign and everyone involved with it. It means more than you can possibly imagine. The reason this will work is because the strategy isn't fighting hate. It's spreading love. Love those who don't understand, and they'll soon love you in return. Don't give up, never give in, and keep spreading your love.
*****UPDATE: Several months after we originally shared Chase's story here on our website, he shared the following with us.*****
When I first submitted my article, you expressed interest in how my e-mail was received. That was a rather dull story in comparison to the response I received for simply taking the photo and having it posted on the site. My experience was dull, considering the messages and comments I received about it. I thought you guys should know.
Someone strange added me on Facebook. Like a good kid, I listened to the dire warnings from parents who warn of impending doom should I add a person I don’t know to my Friends. But this person persisted. Three times I rejected him, but four times he sent a friend request. Against better judgment, I clicked “Add” and sent him a message.
“Do I know you, broski?”
The following conversation terrified me. We didn’t know each other. He lived in a faraway state, and at first glance, we had nothing in common. But he’d sought me out. And it didn’t take long to find out why.
After posing in a NOH8 photoshoot, I’d posted a few links on my profile, sent out my picture to family, and wrote a quick article for the website. I didn’t consider it much of a story, but I’d been asked to write my tale and so I wrote. Apparently my story meant more than I knew.
My friends sent messages and texts, congratulating me as if I’d won something. I was told repeatedly how brave I was, and that my actions should be emulated. I quickly grew confused.
The guy who added my on Facebook would say, “I guess I simply feel as though I want to become someone as strong as you were; to do what you did, and say what you said…”
And when I read that line, I knew I had to write to you again. These pictures are so much more than a protest against Proposition 8. They’re hope.
Even if Prop 8 is permanently struck down, the photos must continue. They are a message of acceptance and tolerance that reach across the globe to those who are too afraid to speak out.
The strongest person in the world is usually the one that goes unnoticed. When a wrong exists, there are those who stand up and refuse to accept it. They are the giants, the leaders, and the heroes.
But the current circumstances of the gay community are a unique wrong. It puts gay people in a strange position that, at the end of the day, makes them more of a hero than they know. Courage is a rare commodity, but the gay community possesses an abundance of it that is difficult for most to comprehend. What makes us so courageous? It is the simple decision to carry on in a world that doesn’t accept us.
There are great heroes among us – those who fight the wrongs and refuse to accept a choice that history will surely judge unkindly. But the true heroes, the strongest among us, are the ones who do not move along, but continue to struggle. A photograph is a meager offering of hope from me; the true source of hope is from those who have the courage to accept themselves, when the world around them is telling them not to.