Active Voice Column: Poster Patrol
by P. Kristen Enos
(All rights reserved)
My best friend Nico have known each other for over 23 years now, having met at the Gay and Lesbian Student at University of California at Irvine. I believe the longevity of our friendship is due to having very similar interests, being multi-cultural Americans (me Thai and him Mexican), and – of course – that gay thing. It’s that kind of combination that leads not only to varied and deep conversations (our talks about comic books can be downright geek-scary at times) but also shared, unique experiences.
Since we met at the GLSU and believed that support also meant involvement, we volunteered to do activities and chores to keep the organization going. One of these was called Poster Patrol.
This was in the late 1980’s, where the internet wasn’t a tool for communication and promotion. The only way to let people know about events and meetings were the old fashioned ways of word of mouth or pasting up hand-made posters and fliers around the campus. For the latter, you chose very public places in the hopes that student pedestrian traffic would provide as many interested eyes as possible.
Unfortunately, this also meant that you are guaranteed that non-positive people will rip down the posters in a few hours, if even that long.
So to combat such homophobic behavior, you just had to be more prepared and clever. Whenever we had events that required poster and fliers promotions, we always made a lot of extras and rationed them out for multiple campus posting runs to replace any that have been pulled down, i.e., Poster Patrol.
Since this was a very public activity, you usually did it in pairs for company and safety. Nico and I happened to be paired up for one run. So we spent an afternoon scurrying all over the major student commons and walkways of UCI with armfuls of hand-made posters and rolls of masking tape. Our banter helped to distract potential distraction of looks from passersby who would probably more disapproving than not.
We were in the process of putting up one of our largest posters in the student commons when we heard a friendly shout out of our names from Heidi, a straight but not narrow friend and supporter of our cause. When you’re involved in students activities, it’s common to make friends and alliances with people of other organizations and staff.
He and I looked over to not only see Heidi, but also an entire tour group of prospective students with their parents as part of a campus tour that she usually leads.
That was when Heidi proceeded to point out to the group how Nico and I were obviously putting up a poster to promote the upcoming student event where you can slow dance with members of the same sex. (Yes, that was a tag line we had put on some of the posters.)
Nico and I gave a weak smile and a wave to the stunned tour group. I don’t recall if any of them waved back but I really doubt it.
However, the encounter reminded me of being a junior high student on a tour of UC Riverside at the time of a festival for students groups to promote their organizations with tables and booths. My only real memory of that day is seeing the table for the GLSU of UCR, however, no one staffed it. I was glad that there was such a presence, but sad to not see anyone associated with it. It was just a banner taped to a table.
Heidi then led the tour away and I couldn’t help but wonder if UCI would get ANY enrollee out of that group. Then again, I would like to think that maybe the awkward encounter gave at least one of those kids needed hope that they might not have had otherwise, even if they didn’t actually become a UCI student.
But as for Nico and I, we still laugh about that moment to this day. Yes, this is the stuff of long-term friendships.