On August 14, the Internet lit up with the hashtag #GayUnclesDay, accompanied by countless adorable pictures of gay men beaming for the camera alongside their nieces and nephews. As one would expect with any LGBTQ-themed holiday, others used the hashtag as an excuse to throw some social media sass:
“Not one tweet from my nephews or nieces on #GayUnclesDay," one Twitter user bemoaned of the non-existent holiday. “Cut them out of my will. The cash is going to a home for retired circus hamsters."
The social media sensation was all in good fun, of course, and I'm supportive of any holiday that leads Olympic bobsledder Simon Dunn to post this picture on his Instagram, but it's worth noting that not every gay uncle felt celebrated that day:
“If only I was allowed to have a relationship with my either of my sister's kids," said Tristan Michel Sauvageau, a gay man with a large list of friends on Facebook. “I bet it's nice being a gay uncle. I guess I'll never know."
For many gay men, National Gay Uncles Day was just another silly social media antic. But for others like Tristan, the hashtag contained a message that was at best aspirational and at worst a reminder of how far we have yet to go.
“I am not allowed in [my sister's] home," Tristan said when I contacted him via Facebook to ask him about the recent hashtag trend. “And have only met two of the three children. So whenever I see any holidays pertaining to 'family' I am filled with resentment, regret, anxiety, depression, and longing."
A photo posted by 🇦🇺 Simon Dunn (@bobsleighsimon) on
Looked at from this lens, it wasn't really the celebrities who joined in with a tweet or two or the funny “guncle" memes that gave #GayUnclesDay any sense of meaning. It was the straight people who chose to participate:
“Did not know #GayUnclesDay was a thing," said one user via Twitter. “It should be. My children have the best uncles."
“Happy #GayUnclesDay to my brother and his fiancé," said another on Facebook. “Connor is one lucky kid because of you two!"
For straight people, the simple act of posting the #GayUnclesDay hashtag was a sign of solidarity. Not only did it signal their willingness to celebrate the LGBTQ people in their families, but also — crucially — their openness to allowing them to carry on a meaningful relationship with their children.
That might not be so remarkable in today's world, when entire towns come together to respond to anti-LGBTQ bigotry with acts of solidarity. But it wasn't so long ago when gay men were equated with pedophilia in the minds of many of our straight family members, an association the religious right has exploited for decades to prevent LGBTQ people from becoming parents in our own right.
Visibility has gradually helped to change this and many other harmful perceptions of the LGBTQ community, and with any luck, social media campaigns like National Gay Uncles Day will help continue that trend so that some day all gay uncles can join in the fun.
A video posted by andersoncooper (@andersoncooper) on