“Ellen has guts,” my brother David told me when Ellen DeGeneres came out and most of us weren’t thinking that snail mail would one day be nearly as out-of-date as the rotary phone, “She should be on a stamp!”
Thanks to the United States Postal Service, David, might get his wish. Many (closeted and open) dead queer folk and LGBT icons, including Langton Hughes, Cary Grant, Tennessee Williams, Judy Garland, Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn, have been commemorated on postage stamps.
Now LGBT people from gay rights activists to movie stars who are still with us have a shot at being celebrated on a stamp. Last month, the U.S. Postal Service said that it had changed its policy of honoring only dead people on stamps. To create excitement around snail mail, the Post Office wants us to Facebook and Twitter who we want to be honored.
Sure, even our grandmothers, bypassing the post office, text their pals and pay their bills online. When we do get a letter (how retro!), how often do we notice the stamp? What difference does it make who’s on a stamp?
Yet, even in this age of tweets, some correspondence — from passionate love letters to payments to the IRS to thank you notes to fave aunts — is still sent by snail mail. As clichéd as it sounds, on a gloomy day, seeing Judy Garland on a stamp, still makes me see a rainbow. Seeing James Baldwin on a stamp, inspired me, a lesbian poet, to write.
The trope is true: a picture is worth a thousand words. Though a stamp’s a small thing, people notice who’s on it, a mail clerk in my local post office told me recently. “You’d be surprised,” she said, as she handed me a book of stamps, “even if you work in a mail room for the IRS, you’ll perk up if there’s someone pretty — like Audrey Hepburn — on a stamp.”
Wouldn’t it be great if some of our living LGBT heroes and stars could be commemorated on postage stamps? Wouldn’t it be fab for them to be honored while they’re alive and could savor the honor?
Wow! I’m glad I’m not on the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, the group that advises the postmaster general, who signs off on who appears on stamps. Even before encouraging us to tweet who we feel should be commemorated on stamps, the Postal Service received some 40,000 recommendations yearly.
Despite the high volume of suggestions, even when everyone loves Lady Gaga, the LGBT perspective is likely to be left out of the picture. So let’s start tweeting.
Here are some of the LGBT people and queer icons who I’d love to see on a stamp:
• Dorothy Louise Taliaferro “Del” Martin, who with her partner, the late Phyllis Ann Lyon, co-founded the Daughters of Bilitis, the first United States social and political lesbian organization.
• Soldier Randy Philips, using the handle “AreYouSurprised,” who at the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” came out to his father on You Tube. Philips would represent all the LGBT people who have honorably served our country.
• Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner for their awesome partnership and artistic collaboration.
• Gay activist and playwright Larry Kramer, author of the Tony Award-winning play “The Normal Heart.”
• Where would we be without our hetero icons? Postal Service, please don’t forget Bette Midler, Liza Minnelli, Barbra Streisand and Kim Novak.
Take a nano-second to keep LGBT people in the mix. Let the Postal Service know who you’d like to see on a stamp.