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Op-ed: How a Symbol Changed Hearts and Minds

Op-ed: How a Symbol Changed Hearts and Minds


Anastasia Khoo, the brain behind the Human Rights Campaign's red equality logo, on the little symbol of acceptance and equality that millions adopted this year.

It only took a few hours. On a fateful day in March, millions around the U.S. and around the world changed their social media profile picture to support marriage equality. Almost overnight, Facebook was awash in a red-and-pink version of the Human Rights Campaign's iconic "equality" logo as nine Supreme Court justices heard historic arguments for marriage equality.

It started from my simple idea for a campaign that could harness the power of Facebook. We changed our logo to the color of love, red, and asked people to join us as we showed our support for equal love together. The rest is history. As many as 10 million people adopted the logo as their own, and Facebook declared it the most successful viral campaign in the history of the social media platform.

In an attempt to quantify the viral energy, Facebook produced a map that showed where Americans were adopting the logo. Every single county in the U.S. had one person or many more changing their profile picture to the pro-equality symbol, which to me speaks volumes about the progress this nation has made on issues of equality in just a few short years.

Since that viral sensation I've been asked, "So what?"

"So what if a bunch of people (ahem, millions actually) changed their profile pictures? Does that amount to real change?"

My response to these questions is that we're in the business of changing hearts and minds to the side of equality. We believe change happens one conversation at a time. Here's just one example of that process.

After the campaign, we got a message from a gay soldier who told us about his coming out experience a few years prior. Unfortunately, his mother had responded poorly, and they had stopped speaking.

Until, he told us, she changed her profile picture to the red logo.

Perhaps buoyed by the many profile changes from friends and family, perhaps inspired by the moment or perhaps looking for an opportunity to connect with her son, she wrote on her profile, "We may not agree on his choices but he is still my baby ... Love you so much and I'm so proud of you." And he wrote that for the first time ever, he felt loved and supported for who he is.

As a mom myself, I do this work because I want to create a better world for my son. I want him to feel loved and accepted for who he is. Shouldn't everyone's child feel that? I take a lot of pride in the fact that this campaign brought a mother and son back together, and I suspect that it touched a few more hearts along the way.

ANASTASIA KHOO is the marketing director for the Human Rights Campaign.

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