To counteract the hatred of and distress caused by the over 120 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in 30 states across the nation this year, a group has started putting up billboards expressing support for queer people.
The group — Have a Gay Day, based in Dayton, Ohio — has erected billboards so far in 15 states, including Arizona, Utah, Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi, the Carolinas and Indiana.
The billboards — designed by transgender mural painter Rae Senarighi — bear messages like, “You are loved” against a rainbow flower background, and “Be careful who you hate, it could be someone you love,” alongside a heart in the pink, white and blue colors of the transgender flag.
“There’s all of these people who are against the community. There’s all of these laws being passed. Some of them are very divisive and some of them are confusing,” Michael Knote, the group’s founder, told WOSU. “And we just wanted to make a clear message of support and love to everyone.”
Knote’s group raised over $4,000 for the campaign and has partnered with other national LGBTQ organizations to help broadcast similar messages of support. Some billboard companies have rejected his group’s LGBTQ-friendly messages. But nevertheless, his group remains determined to put up more in the months ahead.
The group’s messages are undoubtedly needed now, especially as bills target queer youth by banning LGBTQ discussions in the classroom and prohibiting trans kids from playing in sports or getting life-saving medical care. Ohio itself is considering two such anti-trans bills.
Studies have shown that anti-LGBTQ legislation worsens the mental health of queer people as they have their right to exist debated in the public sphere. Calls to LGBTQ help and suicide hotlines typically increase in states considering anti-queer legislation.
“We were tired of seeing hate focused towards the Transgender Community. We wanted to answer that Hate with Love. We wanted to answer that Hate with Kindness. We wanted to answer that Hate with Hope,” Have a Gay Day’s website states. “We launched in March and hope to continually keep adding messages of hope and love because we believe Hate should always be answered.”