Monday, January 17, 2011

Gay Stamp of Approval

I've kept a secret for years. Now it's time for me to come out—as a stamp collector.

I'm throwing off my shame. I'm a nerd and I'm proud!

My orientation, philatelically speaking, is toward general collecting. I amass all kinds of postage stamps. Other collectors prefer to go the topical route, acquiring stamps on specific subjects, like birds, soccer or Norwegian breakdancing.

Just yesterday I had an epiphany. I should develop a topical collection: gay stamps! I've never heard of anyone specializing in that before. It's time, and I'm just the geek to do it.

I suspect my late grandfather, who started me on stamp collecting when I was small, would suggest a different theme. Emphatically. In German.

But I've made up my mind. I'm going gay—again.

For one thing, I already own some of the American stamps that count as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Like the 1991 Cole Porter stamp, which I'm pleased to report I have three of. In 1993 the U.S. Postal Service released an AIDS awareness stamp with a red ribbon, and since people still wrote letters back then, I have six of them.

I possess one Margaret Mead and one Tennessee Williams. Both look a touch annoyed. I also have a single Willa Cather from 1973, when I didn't know she was gay, or I was gay or anybody was gay.

I hope historians come to agreement about Abraham Lincoln's gayness, because I've got a ton of him.

It's now clear that I have major holes to fill. I can't claim to own a decent queer collection without the stamps of George Washington Carver, James Baldwin, Andy Warhol, Josephine Baker, Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben or Walt Whitman. Appalling gaps. Time to start swapping my straights for gays.

In fact, I thought I had the 1940 Whitman stamp. Someone's been pilfering my poofters.

While I do own the American Raymond Burr stamp—it's actually an homage to the TV show in which he starred, "Perry Mason"—I don't possess his Canadian stamp. I need Della to get on that.

A person doesn't have to be gay to belong in my thematic collection. It would be a poor queer collection indeed without Judy Garland and Dinah Shore. Thankfully, I already possess both the all-time gay icon and the accidental originator of a yearly lesbian bacchanal. Needless to say, the 2009 Dinah Shore stamp doesn't celebrate the lesbian debauch. The post office might've solved its money woes if it had.

All these folks honored with stamps stood out in science, the arts, politics and so forth. They weren't honored for being bisexual, lesbian or gay—more likely in spite of it.

But the word is that's going to change, and once again Harvey Milk leads the way. According to a recent Bay Area Reporter filing, the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC), which evaluates possible subjects for U.S. stamps, contacted Milk's family and the Harvey Milk National Stamp Campaign. It appears a Harvey Milk stamp will be issued in the next few years.

Milk meets one requirement: He's dead. Mr. Twinkies-For-Brains saw to that.

Last year then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged the CSAC to back Milk, writing, "The United States Postal Service has yet to honor an LGBT American hero with a stamp."

And what a boon it would be to a certain lesbian's topical stamp collection, she could've added.

If the CSAC is at last thinking more broadly, I also have a suggestion for the panel: Put me on it. Who better than a lesbian philatelist to help choose future LGBT commemorative stamps?

Even my grandfather would agree with that. Emphatically. In German.