I am not a fan of vanity plates. Do we really need to have fancy slogans on the back of our vehicles? There are times however, when this aversion is stymied because someone has taken the time to use this ridiculous concept, to make a political point that needs to be made.
An Oklahoma man attempted to get the words “I’m Gay” as his vanity plate only to be told by the Oklahoma Tax Commission, which regulates license plates, that Kimmel's plate would violate its policy of banning offensive language. Kimmel countered that "favouring certain viewpoints is not allowed" under the U.S. Constitution, according to KOKH News.
According to the Advocate, Keith Kimmel stated:
"I always thought vanity license plates were to express something about yourself. Me being gay is one of my leading traits, so I thought, Hey, why not?"
How do the words I’m Gay constitute offensive language? Kimmel is fighting this under a violation of free speech but this is really about homophobia. If a person is offended by the words “I’m Gay”, it is because they hate gay people. This fact cannot be argued. That hate is absolutely irrational and undesirable in a society that claims to value all people is too often ignored. Hate is about having the ability to oppress because we have become infatuated with coercive power. Quite often hate and power in its most negative sense, make horrendous bedfellows that work to maintain a hierarchy of bodies.
Personally, I think that it is brave of Kimmel to want this plate. There is a difference between being out and announcing your sexuality casually to any and all passersby. We live in a heterosexist society that often means that when someone is identified as gay they are summarily subjected to attack. Many GLBT members have been attacked for simply daring to take up space, never mind making the kind of declaration that Kimmel is attempting to make.
By not allowing the words I’m Gay as a license plate, the state is attempting to force gay people to stay in the closet, thereby making them invisible. How can you say that a person is offensive? What is it about gayness that is inherently offensive? It seems to me that the only goal with this is to maintain the false construction of the GLBT community as deviant. This is discrimination and it is offensive.
As a straight person we don’t think about the ways in which daily we take the opportunity to ensure that our privilege is maintained. Even when we are not actively working to maintain our undeserved privilege, the state, the media, schools, etc., will work to ensure that we can continue to walk through the world flouting the rights of others. Heterosexuality means never having to worry that you will be considered abnormal. It means the ability to be sure in the knowledge that your existence and who and how you love will be validated. Why should the possibility that we may have a bias against someone who is gay, take precedence over their right to exist? And make no mistake about this, Kimmel’s battle is about the right to walk through this life with the same dignity as any other person. Offense should never trump anyone’s right to take up space, especially when said offense exists solely for the purpose of maintaining privilege.