Mike Rogers

Tape of Shame or Pride?

Filed By Mike Rogers | November 04, 2011 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: bicycle sticker, coming out of the closet, rainbow flag, rainbow sticker

When I moved from Manhattan to Washington I bought a bicycle. I have taken good care of it (and probably have not ridden it enough) so it's in good shape. I recently took it out for a ride and when I came home I put it in the corner of my living room photo-1.png(This is what people do in one-bedroom apartments in the city).

When I bought the bike, I put a rainbow sticker on the crossbar under the seat. In the mid 90's it seemed almost a requirement to put a rainbow sticker on moving vehicles. Car bumpers, bicycles, rollerblades... wherever you turned there was a rainbow flag basically saying "I'm gay."

So, as soon as I bought a car in DC I put a rainbow sticker on it, too. I wouldn't be seen driving around town without it. Could one really be an activist without one?

Fast forward to 2011. I took my bicycle out of the closet (so to speak) and set it up for a ride. I looked at the bike and something seemed almost wrong. The bike frame is black and just one thing stood out on the frame: the rainbow sticker on the crossbar. Today, the sticker almost seems out of place, serving the role of announcing "I'm gay" to every person I encounter.

Stop by the Saturday morning farmer's market, "I'm gay."
Lock the bike outside of Safeway while I run in for a few items, "I'm gay."
Take a ride to the barber, "I'm gay."
Ride over to the park and read under a tree, "I'm gay."

I thought about it and I wondered whether or not the very first thing I need to announce when I meet someone is "I'm gay." It's not that I'm hiding in a closet, it's more of a question of whether or not my sexual orientation is the thing I need to present before anything else - including my name.

I decided that it was time to move beyond the rainbow flag (esthetically, it looks better too) and I took a roll of black electrical tape and wrapped it around the crossbar. I am still as out as I was before and being gay is as much a part of me as it has been for my life. And that's the thing, it's a part of me, not all of me.

I'm perfectly capable of revealing who I am, I'd rather not leave the job to my bicycle.


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A straight friend of mine stuck the rainbow sticker with the slogan "Visibility Matters" to her bike basket. I think it has a point, and the flag always indicated to me that the person bearing it on their door/bike/car was at least LGBT-friendly if not LGBT themselves. That was always a silent moment of relief when meeting new people.

In the city, I'm not sure I'd bother (though I did in the 90s in DC.) But living in a smaller town in WV I feel I need a little more visibility, both politically and to just meet the other out members of the community. I had ordered a rainbow license plate frame from Cafe Press, which never showed up. I'm in the market for something like that for the new car, just to make a statement.

It's actually not as easy to get Pride stuff any more. I'd almost order just order a free HRC emblem for the car, but frankly, the visibility isn't worth the association.

The equal sign and the rainbow do not mean you are gay, they mean you are gay-friendly. My husband and I have an equal sign on our car although we live in San Francisco where pretty much everyone is supportive of gay civil rights and a huge proportion of the population is gay.

i have a few rainbow stickers and patches on my stuff, but sometimes i wonder if my queerness is the first thing i want to tell people about myself. i mean, i'm trans--- but i'm a human being first.

that said, i'm sick of being assumed heterosexual and cis all the time. after awhile, i start to feel erased. the pride stuff tells observant people not to assume too much about me (or, at least, that i'm a queer ally)--- and then we can just get on it.

Free expression takes any form you like.

If it does not fit the messenger, there is no message.

I think it is a good thing to have a rainbow/equal sign sticker on your bike. I live in Arlington (right across the Potomac River from DC), and ride all over the DC area wearing my HRC bike jersey. Haha, there is NO hiding when wearing a bright yellow and blue bike jersey! I have gotten a few people who slowed their cars down to say, "Hey, nice shirt!" and smiles or even a few conversations from other people on the trails, so it's been overwhelmingly positive.

I think it is important to have lgbt people who are out and open about themselves, as the positive visibility can affect those who struggle with homophobia or being in the closet (sometimes both).

This may be cheesy, but I like to say this while wearing my HRC jersey: "I'm Bi, and I Bi-cycle!"

I can identify strongly with the author's point. Being on a college campus, I face plenty of well-intentioned but insistent pressure from the formal gay advocacy organizations to label (literally) myself in that way: with rainbows, other shirts, stickers; I have even been criticized for not showing sufficient PDA with my boyfriend.

I am comfortable with who I am and am not going to hide it. But I strongly, strongly resist the idea that my gay identity is or should be the most visible or defining part of me. I know a lot of gays that like (and strive for) it, but I am so sick of being approached and treated like a "sassy gay friend" because of some rainbow paraphernalia. I liken it in some ways to conventionally attractive, busty blonde women not being taken seriously. Most gay guys are not overly flamboyant and just dyyyyying to give you a wardrobe overhaul; yet, that is more often than not the first thing people see when I'm wearing a rainbow.

I am comfortable openly supporting gay causes that I care about, but in the same way that I support a political party or candidate for office, I am certainly NOT going to make that the first thing that someone knows about me.

Yes! Yes! Wear it, proudly. I am a school teacher in Texas in a suburban school district. When I said I wanted to wear a rainbow flag to school I was told it was a political statement. At the same time, Christians are allowed to wear a cross which is a religious symbol, and worse a murder and torture instrument. I hired a lawyer and paid good money ($575) to wear my pin.

I wear it because I want students to know that there are gay people out there living lives boldly.

I also have two rainbow flags that fly from my car as part of a memorial to GLBT youth who have died either by hate crime or suicide by bullying. In my front window it explains that they fly in memory of GLBTQ. Youth. Another sign list several youth who have died.

We may not need it to support/out ourselves, but those who are being persecuted at home, in church, and at school, need to know we are out there for them.

Wear it proud. I wear my $575 pin with pride.