www.ambiente.us   APRIL |ABRIL 2010

One Face at a Time…| NOH
by Maria Antonia Hernandez

With the passage of Proposition 8 in California, many individuals, gay and straight, took
to the streets in direct protest of this constitutional amendment restricting the definition
of marriage to opposite-sex couples. In the November 2008 state elections, the
Proposition overturned the California Supreme Court’s ruling of In re Marriage Cases
that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. Like an enchanted fairy-tale,
marriage equality existed one day, and was eliminated the next. The question that
hovers is now what, what’s the next step?

Marching on the streets of West Hollywood, Adam Bouska and his partner Jeff
Parshley, in direct protest to the passage of the amendment began asking that exact
question.  Adam marched with his family, friends, and his community, and yet all that
marching, all those steps, all that noise didn’t seem to be enough. Enough in the
sense that Adam felt the U.S. government, his government, wasn’t listening to the
plight of gay Americans. Enough in the sense that complete and total equality for GLBT
is long overdue, yet these self-evident inequalities remain as the standard norm.
Enough in the sense that he had had enough; enough promises made and broken,
enough fear living in a country that systematically denies rights to an entire group of its
Adam is very explicit in bringing awareness
to the fact that Marriage Equality doesn’t
have to do with Religion. In fact, “religion and
the government should be separate.”


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Historically, that has
been the political
rhetoric employed by
Politicians, Supreme
Court Members, and by
anyone who is
interested in preserving
the country’s
Constitution. Rather,
this struggle is about
gaining civil rights that
continue to be denied
to Gay Americans.

The General
Accounting Office in
1997 released a list of
1,049 benefits and
protections available to
heterosexual married
couples.    The Lambda
Legal Defense also
has on the order of
1,400 legal rights
which are
their face in protest of the passage of Proposition 8. Celebrities from all walks of
fame, from musicians to actors to heaven behold well known Republicans have
decided to make a statement and join the “NOH8”campaign.

Though he never considered himself a
political advocate, Adam’s genius is
seen through his lens. “Images…pictures
speak louder than words.” Bouska insists.
And he’s right. His campaign-photo
undertaking launched these pictures in
silent protest by gay, straight, black,
white, Latino, rich, middle-class, young,
old…people from all walks of life in mass
protest of this obvious governmental hypocrisy that claims this country needs to
be united because we are all Americans, and with a single piece of legislation
suddenly ‘we the people’ are not all equal.

His iconic representation of families, well known celebrities, and the everyday
individuals inspired the movement to grow. Adam pays great homage to the
technology that allows user interaction and communication; it lets every day
people to get involved, and gets the message out there. This is probably one of
the main reasons that the “NOH8” campaign spread beyond California, and
beyond that single issue. Through text messaging, and a rabid fan base ever
increasing (at the present, it’s at 93,930 fans) on his Face Book Page, (http://
bouska.net)); more and more celebrities both gay and straight came to him. They
sought him out to make a stand; to bring awareness to this injustice.
Out of the 3,700 photos he’s shot of, the two that stand out in his mind are Scott
Ian of Anthrax and Cindy McCain, wife of United State Senator and 2000 and 2008
presidential candidate John McCain of Arizona. They were both walk-on
surprises. “Who would have thought that Scot Ian, singer for a heavy metal rock
group, Anthrax, would just walk in one day and decide to
conferred upon married couples in the U.S. Typically these are composed of
about 400 state benefits and over 1,000 federal benefits. These benefits range
from Social Security, sick leave to care for ailing partner, tax breaks, veterans’
benefits and insurance breaks. They also include things like family discounts,
obtaining family insurance through your employer, visiting your spouse in the
hospital and making medical decisions if your partner is unable to.

For Adam and Jeff, it’s not enough to have Civil Unions and Domestic
Partnerships. Not only do they exist in only a handful of places and are not
unilaterally recognized across the fifty states, this unequal treatment causes
concrete and devastating harm. It most deeply affects those same-sex couples
with children, those GLBT individuals with fewer financial resources, people of
color, senior citizens or those with less access to education. In addition, the
government's denial of legal statuses and protections available to different-sex
couples brands lesbians and gay men as second class.

This frustration fueled this well known fashion celebrity photographer, to take
action. He simply wanted to move the discontent he was feeling one step further.
So, Adam armed with his camera in hand began taking pictures of his friends,
who then paid the idea forward to other friends, and on and on till these photo
collages spread like an avalanche hitting the celebrity scene. It was these
images, the appearance of people with their mouths covered, that moved many
well-known people to seek out Adam’s talent. Admits the sound of silence, these
representations called on many celebrities, from Pete Wenz to former Miss
California Tamiko Nash, from Lisa Ling to Isaiah Washington, from Margaret Cho
to Dwight Eubanks, to stand
      up, take action, and join Adam and Jeff’s efforts.

      They allowed Adam to shoot them in different individual poses but
      all with their mouths duct taped symbolizing their voices being
      silenced by Proposition 8, and a “NOH8” painted on the side of
pose to show his support?”  It is this kind of spontaneity that is so gratifying to
Adam. If someone famous can just walk in, give their time and face to their cause,
then maybe this movement and its message are successfully reaching across
the country. Then perhaps ideas are indeed changing,

what’s needed is an outlet that moves people. And Adam, his campaign, and the
images of all these people have done just that.
On this point, Adam’s voice gets a couple of octaves higher and bursts out with
enthusiasm that Cindy McCain just popped in to support her daughter Meghan.
The next he knew, he was taking shooting frames of both McCain women, and,
“…she (Cindy McCain) was adamant that he get the picture out of there as soon
as possible.” She wanted to be seen. She wanted to make her statement against
Proposition 8. This was definitely a photo shoot that was completely unexpected,
but one which hinted on the possibility that perhaps there is a re-definition, a re-
framing occurring of what it means to be a ‘Republican’.
Meghan McCain provides an excellent example of the deconstruction of being
‘Republican’. She has commented that the cause of the gay community for
equality is "one of the ones closest to my heart". As such, she spoke at the Log
Cabin Republicans convention in April 2009.  Meghan doesn’t just support gay
marriage; she’s in favor of repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and allowing gays to
serve in the U.S. military. But with the same breathe she lets it be known that she
is still a Republican. There are other political issues out there. Thus, the mere
fact that Cindy McCain came into support her daughter and was adamant about
being seen in such a campaign, that her Senator husband opposes, gives hope
to the possibility that anything can happen.  
It’s this kind of raising awareness on a mass scale that Adam wishes to
promote. The ‘NOH8’ movement “…covers so much more than just protesting
against Proposition 8 and fighting for marriage equality.”  His campaign teamed
up with the National Equality March (NEM) in October, for students from around
the country to converge on Washington D.C. and continue to fight for LGBT Rights
and the civil rights of all people.
Here again, the NEM March was a grass roots movement marketed through text
messages and the creation of a Face Book Page that kept students informed,
told them where to go, how to best get there, at what time, and what types of
events were coming up.  Adam remembers marching from GWU (George
Washington University) with their mouths duct taped, on their way to the
Washington Memorial, they all stopped in front of the White House, ripped the
tape off, and in one universal scream, students, marchers, all participants yelled
as loud as they could. “It was just important to be heard. To show our dissent for
another unfair policy against gay Americans that needs to end.”  

Adam’s ultimate wish for NOH8 is to bring awareness not only across this
country, but to include full equality of Homosexuals on the international
scene. Though very successful strides have been made in countries like Brazil,
Australia and Germany, there are still countries that kill you for simply being gay.
Uganda, at the moment, is a great example.  It’s not just a question of civil rights
for Americans, but it intensifies into a basic Human Rights issue.

So, what next for “NOH8”?  This movement continues as his journey with Jeff also
continues to grow. Adam is quick to point to Jeff for his unequivocal support, for
his strenuous work as executive director of “NOH8”, and as his love, his partner,
and his fiancée. As they wait to learn if their commitment will be legalized in the
state of California, the efforts with campaign continue.
Throughout this whole process,
Adam understands that behind
each picture, behind each face,
there are powerful stories
needed to be told. Beyond each
controversial look in the eyes of
all this silence, there are
reasons that bring these
people together, and why they
have been moved to use Adam’
s lens as a platform for their
own declaration that denying
full equality to a certain
segment of the population is
totally erroneous to the
fundamental liberties upon
which this nation was build
upon. It is these background
stories, these silent voices,
which Adam plans one day to
collect and divulge in a book.

With hope, determination, and
an ever increasing amount
passion Adam and Jeff are
currently organizing to move
their media campaign onward
from city to city, from New York
to Miami, from New Orleans to
Michigan, from New Mexico to wherever it
needs to go to bring awareness that Gay
Rights, that full equality, needs to happen
now. Stand up and be counted, Adam
fervently proclaims because, “…every
individual can make a difference.” The
future generation is here, and now is the
time to take action.

Adam made use of his talent. He
creatively went about to take imagery and
create powerful emotions that literally
moved people to action. Adam
encourages every single person to find
their talent, and make creative use of it in
helping this movement and others; in
saying what needs to be said; in fighting
for our Constitutional Rights. For if he’s
correct, and the government hasn’t been
doing nearly enough, then change has to
rise up from below. Change can only
come from you, the people, because
every single person, each life matters.

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