GLAAD President on How the ‘Together’ Movement Can Unite Divided Communities (Op-Ed)

GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis explains why the ampersand symbol, worn by Sting, Colleen Atwood and others on Oscar night, was chosen as the new Together symbol to support marginalized communities. 

What’s in an &?

In these first weeks of the Trump administration, the attacks against Americans have been so quick and harsh that turning on the news can feel like whiplash. One day Muslim Americans are being targeted; another day, it’s undocumented immigrants — or even those with green cards; last week, transgender youth were sent an alarming message that under this administration, their rights will no longer be defended.

The Trump administration is seeking to divide Americans — to turn us against one another, to take advantage of prejudices and fears for their gain. There is no more important time for Americans to come together, to celebrate our unique and layered identities, our complexity, and our many intersections, and to fight for every single person to be accepted exactly as we are.

The truth is, none of us has just one identity. For example, I’m gay, but that’s not all I am — I’m a woman, a wife and mom, a New Yorker and an American. When the Trump administration reduces us to a single component of who we are, they dehumanize us, which makes it easier to strip away our rights.

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At GLAAD, we have no intention of letting that happen. That’s why we’re proudly unveiling the Together movement as a rallying point for all people to come together and fight for full acceptance. Using platforms from local protests and sit-ins all the way to the Oscar’s red carpet and the media, Together is about showing solidarity and speaking up to resist forces that try to divide. This movement’s presence on television, social media, and in everyday life will help form an unyielding bond of unity that cannot be ignored.

In the 1960s and 70s, the American LGBTQ rights movement chose a rainbow as its symbol — at that time, the goal was visibility. In the 90s and 2000s, as the movement evolved to be inclusive of LGBTQ people, our symbol became an equal sign to reflect our shared struggle for equal rights and protections under the law.

The LGBTQ community intersects with with every community in America, so it doesn’t make sense to fight for LGBTQ acceptance in a vacuum. The fight for immigrant rights is an LGBTQ fight. The fight for black lives is an LGBTQ fight. We have to wage and win these fights together.

That’s why the symbol of the Together movement is not a rainbow flag, not an equal sign, but an ampersand: &. Because every single one of us contains multiple identities, and every single one of us has the right to be loved, accepted, and treated with dignity and equality in all of our communities. The & means that our differences don’t divide us; they unite us. They make us strong.

In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously wrote that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. It’s worth remembering what he wrote next:

“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly… Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”

At a time when so many of us feel outside and forgotten — or worse, targeted and afraid — we must remember that we are all part of something special. This nation was founded on the idea that people of varying faiths and ideologies could determine our own destinies, and over time, that idea has evolved to include people of all races, genders, and identities.

We’re still evolving, and we still have so much work to do. We can only achieve full acceptance for all Americans if we all accept and embrace our full identities. Together, we can build a brighter, more accepting future for everyone in America.


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