Gay Faces, Gay Places: Charleston activists send a message to Garry Smith

They’re here, they’re queer, and they’re handy with markers and paper

After members of the S.C. House Ways and Means Committee voted to cut $52,000 from the College of Charleston’s budget for its use of the gay memoir Fun Home in a freshman reading program, LGBTQ activists around the state responded with a public shaming campaign in the form of a Tumblr blog.

The blog, Gay Faces Gay Places (a play on the old “Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places” state license plate slogan), features LGBTQ individuals and allies holding up signs with slogans including “Home Sweet Homo” and “Dear Garry, Read A Book, Buddy.” Many of the barbs are directed at Rep. Garry Smith, the Upstate Republican lawmaker who proposed the budget cut. The State has reported that when they asked Smith for a comment on the blog, he said he would discuss his position with anyone critical of him, but that he “would not have that debate in the media.”

The blog was started by Charleston resident Beck Schillizzi and occasional City Paper contributor Jenna Lyles, both member-leaders of the queer activist group Southerners On New Ground. Schillizzi says the blog came about on Friday after SONG members met to discuss Alison Piepmeier’s City Paper column about the controversy. “We thought it was awesome, but we felt like it was missing a community voice,” Shillizzi says.

Schillizzi says the blog is also meant to change outside perceptions of Palmetto State politics.

“I’ve noticed a typical response is for people outside of the state to say, ‘Well, that’s just typical South Carolina,'” he says. “We want people to know that South Carolina is so much more than Garry Smith and homophobic legislators.”

Schillizzi says he has not yet spoken with Rep. Smith or the other legislators involved in the decision.

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