NOH8 achieves celebrity symbol status

Timothy Kincaid

January 6th, 2011

In the early 90’s a simple red ribbon, folded and pinned, was introduced as a symbol of concern and awareness for HIV/AIDS. In a short time the image was picked up by Hollywood and other celebrities as a way to identify with the cause without having to make speeches, a silent statement that could be present while receiving awards or gossiping with a tabloid reporter. And it has served as a powerful reminder since that time, visible from churches to hospices to testing centers and present on lapels of liberal activists and the portico of a Republican White House.

Few images so readily identify a specific message, but a new one does seem to be developing. After Proposition 8 banned same-sex marriage in California, celebrity photographer Adam Bouska took a picture of himself with his mouth covered by masking tape with the letters NO H8 printed in black and red. Soon others wanted their picture taken with this imagery and a symbol was born.

NOH8, an image that stands for gay equality, marriage equality in particular, has picked up a number of supporters, expected and surprising. Musicians and actors, sports personalities and cultural trendsetters, and perhaps most surprisingly Cindy McCain, the wife of failed Republican presidential candidate John McCain. But while NO H8 is readily recognized within the gay community, it had not crossed the divide to immediate public recognition.

Until this week. Last night Pauley Perrette, star of NCIS, took the image to the People’s Choice Awards, front and center. Literally. (stylebistro)

On the red carpet at the 2011 award show, Pauley stepped out in a corseted, asymmetric wedding gown emblazoned with a familiar logo: NOH8, the emblem of the LA-based NOH8 Campaign that works to bring celebrity support of marriage equality into the public eye.

When asked about the PC look, the 41-year-old actress, who incidentally married boyfriend Michael Bosman last Valentine’s Day, said she had the idea and immediately phone her stylist, Teri King. She paired the thought-provoking gown with her signature bangs, a bright red pucker and, as she said, her heart on her sleeve. Props, Pauley! You officially rock.

Although NCIS did not win Favorite TV Crime Drama, Pauley’s stance has, I’m sure, led the way for significantly more prominent visibility of this image in the future. I doubt many more dresses will take such a visible interpretation, but NO H8 will likely soon be assured a comfortable lapel home on many a talk show or interview.

Lindoro Almaviva

January 6th, 2011

so anything white is wedding…

by the same definition, any actress that wears black is attending a funeral.

Emily K

January 6th, 2011

awesome, let’s encourage mindless celebrity to overtake meaningful imagery.

I’m all for giving it a popular vehicle, but sometimes things can lose momentum and meaning in the process (like, unfortunately, the barrage of self-congratulatory videos among the genuine ones of the “it gets better” project).

What I like about the ribbon is that it’s so quiet and subtle, yet striking at the same time – and it’s adaptable to so many causes. In my high school, ten years ago, kids gay and straight (and bi) were wearing rainbow ribbons on their backpacks – myself included.

Joe in California

January 6th, 2011

Tipping my hat to Pauley Perrette !
Thank you.

Emily K

January 6th, 2011

Also, and this isn’t to downplay the message that Pauley was trying to send, I’m uncomfortable when we think that something only achieves a certain status when it’s “verified” by the “majority” community – which I guess in this case are attractive straight people in the spotlight.

NOH8 achieved plenty of notoriety on its own, IMHO, just by being an excellent campaign and a catchy visual icon. I disagree that this is any kind of flashy “turning point.”

Priya Lynn

January 6th, 2011

It might be a turning point but that remains to be seen.

Richard Rush

January 6th, 2011

I wonder if Maggie Gallagher will view NO H8 as NOM B8? If so, they may say NO W8, we stand for NO M8.

And I really hope a scandal develops over NOM’s secretive funding sources, because then we will have NOM-G8.


January 6th, 2011

I would’ve thought you’d be a little more skeptical of the NOH8 thing, Mr. Kincaid.

First of all, the duct-tape-over-the-mouth imagery doesn’t make any sense. How exactly are all these celebrities being silenced? Just because being denied the right to marry is a bad thing, it doesn’t mean it’s “silencing.” Certainly the singers and actors and other people who make their living by opening their mouths and delivering lines or lyrics are not being “silenced.”

Also, the glossy, airbrushed pictures often create the impression that these celebrities just see an opportunity to pat themselves on the back for how right-thinking they are. I mean, the silly Cindy McCain picture with the makeup and the wind machine blowing out her hair? This is something that’s going to change public opinion on the issue?

The idea that “visibility” is what matters – any visibility, just as long as it’s visibility – is adolescent and better suited to the gay rights movement of the 1970s and 80s.


January 7th, 2011

I am so with Matt with this. I H8 this campaign. It’s demeaning and does us no good. All it does is allow people like Cindy McCain to feel as if she cares about something. As for the rest – what Matt said.


January 7th, 2011

I Love It.

Good going Timothy, thanks for printing this.

Regan DuCasse

January 7th, 2011

My dear friends, I participated in the NO H8 campaign because it’s a FUNDRAISER, and the money has been funneled to several legal and social advocates to fight Prop. 8.
The imagery is symbolic of course, but it resonated with lots of people willing to give money.
None of the advocates against 8 can afford to do so for nothing.
We’re always talking about how our opponents are funded.
We need not only the money, but for the NO H8 campaign itself to known and contributed to.
The pictures, and their variation on the white on white, silver duct tape, NOH8 logo theme, are quite stunning.
Pauley is a friend of mine. She was there on the day I had my own picture taken and there are many other occasions to which I wear the stick on or t-shirt.

You know me and MY big mouth, it gets a conversation going. Those on the fence get swayed, those who are questioning get answered and those that need an education on the damage 8 has done, and the hypocrisy of their supporters get that education.

Pauley was bringing awareness that support of this political action is helping and working.

She and I found ourselves quite kindred. She has a degree in forensic sciences, and we know all too well the issue of domestic violence would be better served if gay AND straight were allied against that.

She’s with me on shaming our opponents about their priorities and disaster inducing discrimination. The money being raised for marriage equality, and the money spent on anti gay campaigns is money funneled away from more urgent causes.
NOM should have been more concerned with Prop. 4, the only other family measure on the same ballot as 8.
But they weren’t and nobody (but me) is calling them on it.

Unlike most women on television, Pauley is a TALL, physically VERY present woman.
Adam Bouska is this short, whippet of a guy whose doing a lot of good with the money being raised.

It’s not like we don’t need it, and I’m sure a better idea is welcome, even if it hasn’t been voiced here, right?

Priya Lynn

January 7th, 2011

Right on Regan. The more people bring awareness to the Stop H8 campaign the more people are going to decide discrimination isn’t acceptable.

Timothy Kincaid

January 7th, 2011

I swear, Regan, you know ALL the interesting people.

Happy New Year, lady, and let’s really try to stop promising to get together and actually meet up for coffee or a glass of wine soon.


January 7th, 2011

Here’s what the NOH8 campaign says about where the money it raises goes:

“Funds raised by the NOH8 Campaign will be used to continue promoting and raising awareness for marriage equality and anti-discrimination through NOH8’s interactive media campaign. This includes bringing the campaign to other cities around the country, as well as compiling the images for a large-scale media campaign. Under consideration is the expansion of our campaign to other media, including television and radio broadcast, billboards, and magazines. Contributions are also used to cover the daily operations and maintenance necessary to run this rapidly growing campaign.”

In other words, the money goes back into the campaign itself to fund itself.

Source: The campaign’s own Facebook page:


January 7th, 2011

“I participated in the NO H8 campaign because it’s a FUNDRAISER, and the money has been funneled to several legal and social advocates to fight Prop. 8.”

Source? Evidence? I am unable to find anything on the website or elsewhere on the web that confirms this. How much money have they raised?

Priya Lynn

January 7th, 2011

Matt said “In other words, the money goes back into the campaign itself to fund itself.”.

So, what’s wrong with that? Ultimately public opinion needs to be changed and that’s what this is about.

I understand that a lot of people think celebrities have undue influence and undeserved fortunes. I myself don’t think fame and fortune make a celebrity better than me, but unlike some of the people here I don’t think fame and fortune make them worse than me either. Just because you hate celebrities doesn’t make it sensible to shoot yourself in the foot by disparaging their help.


January 7th, 2011

“Ultimately public opinion needs to be changed and that’s what this is about.”

First of all, a comment above mine stated that the money was going to fight Proposition 8. I can find no evidence of this and I am very skeptical.

Secondly, provide some evidence that this is changing public opinion. As I said before, the idea that any visibility, just as long as it’s visibility, is good for the gay rights movement is an adolescent one, and unsupported by evidence.

You say, “I understand that a lot of people think celebrities have undue influence and undeserved fortunes,” which is great. I have no idea what it has to do with what I wrote. The campaign kind of depends on the idea that celebrities have undue influence, right? I’m saying that, in this case, their influence is limited – I don’t think glossy fashion-magazine-style photos of Ashlee Simpson with her mouth duct-taped shut have any influence on anyone at all except people who already agree with her.

Priya Lynn

January 7th, 2011

Matt said “Secondly, provide some evidence that this is changing public opinion.”.

While I have no evidence that it is changing public opinion, you have no evidence that it isn’t. My personal impression is that the open support of Cindy Mccain and Pauley Perrette is 100 times more helpful than anything you’ve done.

Matt said “You say, “I understand that a lot of people think celebrities have undue influence and undeserved fortunes,” which is great. I have no idea what it has to do with what I wrote.”.

You were whining about celebrities patting themselves on the back, you made it pretty clear that you think fame and fortune makes celebrities worse than you, I disagree. Its pretty clear you wouldn’t give any celebrity credit for their pro-gay actions regardless of how helpful and effective those actions were. If no celebrities were involved in the NO H8 campaign I’d bet a hockey sock full of money you’d have had no complaints about it whatsoever.


January 7th, 2011

The image of someone whose mouth has been duct-taped shut can only mean one thing: I can’t speak.

It is as ill-conceived and counter-productive as the disastrous campaign undertaken in CA before the vote that turned so many people against us. Cindy McCain is no friend of mine. Neither is Megan. Nor some starlet in a ridiculous frock. This merely serves to make us look superficial and frivolous and I wish it would stop so that something more worthwhile can take its place. I don’t even know what this so-called campaign is supposed to be about: marriage equality in CA, nationally, no hate speech, what?

Timothy Kincaid

January 7th, 2011

It is difficult to measure whether Cindy McCain’s participation changed anyone’s mind. However I am absolutely convinced that it affirmed and gave permission to some Republican women who support marriage equality to do so without fear or concern that this made them “less Republican.”

And while those who dislike Cindy McCain may be dismissive of her participation and scoff about hair or make-up, it is of extreme importance that those Republicans who do support us – and there are a sizable minority – feel that they can do so without apology or rejection. We tend to focus on the large majority that oppose our rights and decry their bigotry. But if we wish to win on this issue (rather than just ‘be right’) we must also empower the 28% or so of conservatives and Republicans who support us. We must make their support feel valid, not begrudged or peculiar.

But setting aside McCain, let’s look specifically at what happens when an ‘unimportant celebrity who convinces no one’ like Pauley Perrette raises visibility. Celebrity gossip sites give marriage equality attention. And let’s be honest – they are wildly biased in our favor and giving attention to the issue equates to giving support to the issue.

Boxturtle Bulletin could only dream of getting the number of visitors that readily flock to the websites of TVGuide or even fanpop. This image will reach far more people than my most convincing and compelling argument in favor of equality.

True, not all who watch gossip television will say, “oh, well then I guess I support marriage equality too”, but it plays a part in establishing the norm, the expected, the natural reaction of “people like me who are interested in celebrities.”

When Perrette endorses marriage equality, and when the culture applauds, it helps define the cultural position.

Emily K

January 7th, 2011

While I have no evidence that it is changing public opinion, you have no evidence that it isn’t.

logical fallacy. Onus is on the positive proof.

you made it pretty clear that you think fame and fortune makes celebrities worse than you, I disagree.

No where did he express this.

Its pretty clear you wouldn’t give any celebrity credit for their pro-gay actions regardless of how helpful and effective those actions were.

No where did he express this.

Neil H

January 7th, 2011

It’s my belief that visibility in and of itself is still an important thing for the LGBT community. I believe this because of the current style of rhetoric from opponents of gay rights and of homosexuality generally. There is a tendency now to admit that gay people exist and should be left alone, but that they shouldn’t “flaunt their lifestyles” and be “push homosexuality onto people”. What they actually mean by this of course is that they think homosexuality should be invisible in mainstream life, something dirty and inappropriate to mention in public places.

A public statement about gay rights in a “family-friendly” atmosphere such as a TV awards ceremony is a very good thing, IMO, as it works against the still very prevalent idea, even among nominatively tolerant people, that issues concerning gay people and gay rights should not even be mentioned in such settings.


January 7th, 2011

You may be right, Timothy, but I find it unlikely that this nonsense means anything to anyone. Neil Patrick Harris kissing his husband’s cheek means something. This No on H8 stuff comes after the fact when it’s safe to stick your head round the door. Like ‘celebrities’ wearing a red ribbon when it became the must-have accessory for awards shows. I’m not knocking Cindy McC or her daughter: we all have to find our own way through life. But this whole make-up and duct tape is a pretty easy way to claim you’re on the side of the angels while doing NOTHING to help. And quite a bit to hurt. And if we’re going to talk about ‘celebrities’ let’s find someone that people have heard of. I haven’t a clue who this young woman or what she does: and I work in the theatre. She was merely grabbing some easy publicity for herself.

It’s undignified, shrill and empty.

Timothy Kincaid

January 7th, 2011

That you have not heard of the star of a seven-season show that was nominated for a People’s Choice Award that night is hardly her fault. Maybe you’d recognize her name if she were the type to “grab easy publicity.”

Priya Lynn

January 7th, 2011

Emily said “logical fallacy. Onus is on the positive proof.”.

He asserted the idea was a childish one, that such campaigns have no influence on anyone who doesn’t already agree with the campaign and that “the evidence” didn’t support my impression. He asserted there is evidence to support his conclusion, I did not assert I had evidence to support my impression. The onus is upon him to provide the evidence he said existed for his assertions .

Emily said “No where did he express this.”.

He didn’t have to express it directly, but he strongly implied it with his contempt for celebrities just as you did. Both of you are more about expressing your contempt for celebrities then you are for making any honest appraisal of the effects of the actions detailed in this post.


January 7th, 2011

You guys at Box Turtle Bulletin were willing to criticize and take to task the Human Rights Campaign for their sometimes (often?) ineffective, weak, even counterproductive advocacy. Example:

In the past, this site has seemed to understand that there already plenty of places on the internet where you can read “Miley Cyrus just tweeted her support for gay marriage” along with claims that this is incredibly important for the gay rights movement, and that maybe it might be worth having a site where things are more thoughtfully and critically dealt with.

We are here talking about a campaign that seems likely to be even weaker, more ineffective, and less productive than HRC. It’s not clear to me why it should get a pass.

Sure, TV Guide gets way more eyeballs than Box Turtle Bulletin. However, I’ve read things on this website that have greatly affected me, and that have made me think. I’ve never read anything in TV Guide that I’ve retained for more than a few hours.


January 7th, 2011

Priya, my evidence is the photographs that make up the campaign themselves. They are easily searchable online and on the NOH8 website. When I look at the picture of Mrs. McCain, for instance, I see something that is childish and ineffective. Yes, it’s an aesthetic reaction, but the entire campaign is photographs. There is no other element to it than the aesthetic. As I’ve pointed out, the money “raised” by the campaign goes right back into the campaign to produce more it. It is a juvenile campaign, that does not make sense (I repeat, being denied the right to marry does not equal being silenced. And the way to achieve marriage equality is, of course, to speak up, not to place oneself in a rhetorical position of weakness and perpetual victimhood).

If you disagree with what I’m saying about the photos – if your aesthetic reaction is different – then it’s different. But that is my evidence. I am critiquing the photographs. Since that appears to be the extent of the campaign – to increase visibility – it seems worthwhile to actually look at them.

Timothy Kincaid

January 7th, 2011


One of the cool things about writing a blog is that you get to comment on what you see as important, troublesome, disturbing, or just what peaks your interest. The readers determine whether your perspective is worth reading.

Most of what I comment on here at BTB has been brewing for a while, simmering away at the back of my mind. And when some specific incident comes along that provides just the hook I need, I introduce my thoughts to you.

I see NOH8 as crossing a cultural threshhold, perhaps even documenting a tipping point. You don’t have to agree.

Emily K

January 7th, 2011

Matt, don’t worry about Priya, she sees the world only in “for” and “against,” much like a fundamentalist following a strict religious theology. The moment you express an opinion that she finds unacceptable, she pushes you into the “against” section of her brain, and then reconstructs your character as someone who thinks in absolutes, while crediting you for extreme, black-and-white viewpoints she gleaned from statements or thoughts you expressed that were, in fact, very grey.

It’s not your fault; she can’t relate to anyone who doesn’t think in such strict terms, so she recreates you in her mind as someone who does. Don’t let her suck you into an argument where she twists everything you say into some kind of statement against everything that is right and good.

example: you can say something like

the glossy, airbrushed pictures often create the impression that these celebrities just see an opportunity to pat themselves on the back for how right-thinking they are.

A mild enough statement. But Priya can twist that and any other statements into what is apparently your “contempt for celebrities.”

you are more about expressing your contempt for celebrities then you are for making any honest appraisal of the effects of the actions detailed in this post.

Now, your posts said nothing about hating celebrities, having contempt for celebrities, or believing they are stupid. But in Priya’s mind, there are no grey areas, only black and white statements. And since you did not say something completely agreeable, your clearly articulated troubles with NOH8 and its execution are twisted into absolute “contempt” and opposition.

It’s completely understandable that you are baffled at her tendency to fabricate whole opinions and standpoints that are completely different from things you wrote or what you genuinely believe. Don’t worry about it. I think the dialog between you and Timothy is much more meaningful and on point.

Oh, and thank you for your honest appraisal of the subject.

Regan DuCasse

January 8th, 2011

My friends…
I worked, for 14 hours, with one of the producers of The People’s Choice Awards. He is, as are most of the PCA staffers, gay friendly and supportive. There was a time when ANY political statements FOR a marginalized minority were verboten altogether. No openly gay celebrity OR their supporters would be allowed to say so, or wear ANYTHING symbolic of a controversial subject. If they were invited to such a program that would reach billions, in the first place.

Although there remains still, quite a lot of the old school, covert bigotry in Hollywood, at least there isn’t so much outright CENSORING.
Carol Burnett famously asked her audiences to wish Mrs. Coretta King peace and support after King’s assassination. Her statement was censored during a 5 second delay. She almost lost her show because of it. But her popularity and money making ability saved her that.
I wear buttons, logos and so on, which ALWAYS gets a conversation started. Especially with teenagers. Some people are curious, because of the way it’s worn and exactly what it is that’s hated.
It’s an opportunity to get the conversation started. It’s an opportunity to educate and if you’re GOOD AT IT, a lot can be accomplished.
It might start out silent, but inevitably one’s mouth can open and give voice to the issue.

However the photos look, whatever one’s opinion is of that, is a matter of TASTE.
So what if some of the funding recycles into the campaign for the photos. Those of us who participate in equality, always have opportunities.

I don’t think anyone has mentioned that the Fuck8 video campaign is now WIDELY being circulated by our opponents and they will make as much of it and from it as possible.

NOH8 at least cannot and hasn’t backfired so badly as that. The opposition hasn’t really been able to criticize it the same way because, even though many children have been a part of NOH8 there is no obscenity involved.

The logo for NOH8 is strong and straightforward, sometimes all that’s needed is just to have a conversation, without fanfare or a celebrity rep.

I’m no celebrity, of course, but me and other non celebrities are in solid with those people who are.
We have something to say, and some of us have the opportunity to reach a lot of people more than others.
That is also the point. Disagree with the style of the pictures or where the money goes and who benefits the most from it.
I don’t really care.

But television stars have the beauty, smarts (sometimes) and compassion to speak where they can and have MILLIONS of people care and believe them.

Think of Gregory Peck, and his civil rights activism and his role as Atticus Finch as an opportunity to get the conversation started. Gentleman’s Agreement was another movie about prejudice and the hypocrisy of America’s own civil rights creed.
He chose risky roles like that, and used HIS visibility and popularity to speak for something VERY unpopular.

As I said, any of the critics here…a better idea is welcome if you have one, and what have YOU done lately?

Emily K

January 8th, 2011

As I said, any of the critics here…a better idea is welcome if you have one, and what have YOU done lately?

Let’s see, what have *I* done lately.. hmm.. well, I live my life openly and with dignity as a gay woman. I also educate the people I come into contact with, when a good segue comes up. The other day I explained my coming out story, and contrasted that non-event with the suicides that recently happened. I told them about the benefit of a GSA. I wrote for, which is like my little activist thing I do. And every single election I vote. But probably the most I do is simply live openly, and let people get to know me and see for themselves that my being gay doesn’t affect my personality or morals; rather, it is a neutral part of me.

Now, no, I haven’t started any national campaigns. And I haven’t achieved fame and fortune and made a lot of money I can spend on TV commercials. I *have* created my own queer equality imagery, but again, I lack the money and fame to promote it. (granted, that isn’t something I did “lately.” But hey, it’s out there.)

Priya Lynn

January 11th, 2011

Ironically Emily is guilty of the very thing she accuses me of, she fabricates whole opinions and standpoints that are completely different from things I wrote or what I genuinely believe. What Emily thinks I believe bears no relationship to reality.

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