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A plain brown wrapper versus the real thing

By Harvey Silverglate

            The progress of freedom and legal equality is measured in sometimes subtle ways.

            A couple of days ago, I received in the mail my monthly copy of OUT magazine, a publication aimed toward the gay community but having articles of more general interest. It came wrapped, as it always does, in an opaque gray plastic wrapper, with no indication on the label as to the name or nature of the publication within. But this time it came with a notice inscribed on the wrapper:

            DROP PLASTIC WRAP.
            NOW YOU MAY OPT TO GO-GREEN AND
            DROP THE PASTIC WRAP ON THIS MAGAZINE
            GO TO: www.lipmagazines.com/plasticwrap AND
            CHOOSE THE NO-PLASTIC WRAP OPTION.

            A visit to the Website notifies the subscriber that choosing the option that avoids the wasteful plastic wrap entails a mailing label stuck on the magazine cover itself, allowing anyone seeing the magazine as it makes its way through the mail system and to ultimate delivery to the subscriber, to understand that a gay-themed magazine is being delivered to the subscriber. This seems to be a new phase of the effort to achieve not only an out-of-the-closet society, but a society in which the right to subscribe, and to read, is no longer to be hedged by the fear of subscribers and readers’ being outed or even merely pigeon-holed by his or her choice of reading material.

The next sign of progress in achieving gay equality will come when subscription and renewal letters from gay magazines, as well as fund-raising letters from gay rights groups, will stop referring to the recipients with such lines as “the need to support your own.” In fact, where equal rights are at stake, everyone is “our own.” The assumption that only gay people are interested in achieving full legal equality on the basis of sexual orientation, or that equal rights for the gay community does not have larger meaning to the entire society, bespeaks a narrowness that one fervently wishes will be overcome. Since straight folks contribute money to the gay rights cause, their loyalty to equal rights should be recognized in such fund-raising mailings.

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