Vancouver
3 min

The great pink debate

Arguing over garbage cans and bus shelters

Sweet Mother of Hubbard, there are pink bus shelters and garbage cans in the West End!

Oh sure, the men who murdered Aaron Webster got off with little more than a slap on their wrists, Little Sister’s is still fighting Canada Customs and there is a provincial election coming up, but for the love of all that is holy, people, pink bus shelters and garbage cans!

I’m not sure why these particular items have raised so much ire.

I don’t hear anyone complaining about the rainbow flags that make us all out to be a bunch of gaudy Care Bears. Ah, but as I so often do, I digress.

The main criticism I hear about the pink public furniture is that the colour pink reinforces stereotypes of gays as feminine. I have so many criticisms of this criticism I don’t even know where to begin my critique.

First and foremost, this idea assumes that gay equals homosexual men. Lord knows the stereotype of lesbians isn’t “feminine”.

And although femme invisibility is one of the things that continually gets my pretty panties in a knot, that issue deserves a column unto itself so I’ll let it go. For now.

The relevant point here is that to have disdain for pink on the basis that it stereotypes gays is to (once again) leave women out of the picture.

As a queer, pink-haired vixen living in the West End, I adore the fact that the sidewalk accessories now compliment my coif when I walk by.

You could choose to see me and the bus shelters in all our rosy glory as a subversive rejection of lesbian stereotyping if that made you feel better.

Or you could continue to not count me.

The facts remain though; I pay rent downtown and spend my money in the gaybourhood and I’d like to think that I contribute to my community in my own little way. The West End is not strictly fag territory, folks. Get over it.

The idea that these pink decorations perpetuate a harmful stereotype of gay men as feminine is also questionable.

The problem with men who express their femininity is…? I truly hate the inference that the more flamboyant among us should tone it down a little so that straight people will accept us.

Do some gay men have a little more swish in their steps than others? Yes.

Do we want the straight world to know about our fairies and fey boys? Hell, yes!

They have as much right to represent us as anyone else in the gay enclave does (and the outfits to represent us in with style, I might add).

Would it be great if the entire world respected that queers come in all different shapes, sizes, colours, ages, genders, abilities, sexualities and public decorating tastes? Hallelujah, yes!

But if you’re looking to a garbage can to convey the complexity of your identity you really might want to rethink your strategy.

The other thing that always comes up around the bus shelters is the claim that it is inappropriate to use pink, the colour of the triangles the Nazis used to identify gays in the concentration camps.

Politics of reclamation notwithstanding, this assertion is such an example of inventing a problem where there isn’t one that I’m not even going to address it.

I will, however, use this opportunity for a little queer history lesson. I can do that. This is my column. Pink triangles did not identify gays, they identified gay men.

Under Nazism, lesbians were imprisoned with other “asocials” and identified with black triangles. Touting the pink triangle as a universal gay symbol is another case of ignoring queer women’s history and letting the experiences and signifiers of gay men speak for all of us.

Okay, back to our story.

Aside from the inherent sexism of the stereotype argument, aside from the offensive notion that femininity has no place representing the gay community, aside from whether or not we should reclaim previously oppressive symbols and which symbols those should be, the biggest problem I have with this whole garbage can and bus shelter paint colour debate is this: we’re debating the paint colour of garbage cans and bus shelters!

Have we really come so far in our struggle for queer rights that bus shelter paint is our paramount concern?

Is this seriously worth fighting with each other over?

Gosh, we queers are so great. We make the religious right’s job so easy. They needn’t worry about us fighting back when they mobilize to deny us our basic human rights because we’re too busy arguing over colour swatches to bother.

We’re really just like so many pretty pink lobsters in a pot.

Did you know that if you put a bunch of live lobsters in a pot you don’t need to put a lid on it to keep them from escaping?

Nope, if one of them gets close to climbing out, its lobster buddies will pull it back in, ensuring that none of them will ever get out.

I sure would like to think that we queers are smarter than lobsters. But we seem to spend far more time yanking each other down and fighting amongst ourselves than we do working together to find a way out.