Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
May 23, 2016

Jae C. Hong’s Instagram Photo and the LGBT Bathroom Battle

A photo of men's and woman's bathrooms across a dark expanse speaks to the current cultural battle in the United States over LGBTQ rights and who is allowed to use which. Jae Chong/Instagram.

Jae C. Hong’s photo on Instagram didn’t come with a caption, so I wrote one:

A photo of men’s and woman’s bathrooms across a dark expanse speaks to the current cultural battle in the United States over LGBT rights and who is legally allowed to use which facility. 

 In light of the firestorm over HB2, the North Carolina law that blocks trans people from using the bathroom aligned with their gender identity, I think the photo is pretty smart.

Still though, all the photo does is capture standard restroom signatures interrupting an otherwise large block of negative space. Any allusion to politics is all ours — or mine. But isn’t that power of inference what’s so remarkable about photography?

Going down that road…

I like how the reference to the issue, if we can make that assumption, is hardly shaded at all.

I like how the male figure, especially, is partially blocked by the entrance way. If that suggests hiding or furtiveness at all,  the social conservatives are stirring that paranoia.

Above all, though, I appreciate the unending negative space. It doesn’t just speak to the gaping inadequacy of traditional binaries. It speaks to the blindness and the resistance in our culture to the broader spectrum of lifestyles. The more time passes, the less that unending expanse of darkness stands for the mainstream and the more it screams denial.

(photo: Jae C. Hong/Instagram. caption: 5/17/2016. Carson, Calif.)

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