Is the White Knot the New Red Ribbon?


My friend Frank Voci started as a visibility symbol for this new civil rights awakening we’re seeing right now, a symbol for the belief in equal rights and non-discrimination for all people. He writes: “Whether you are gay or straight, please show your support by wearing the knot and telling people why you are wearing it. It may seem like a small thing, but imagine the white knot gaining the pervasiveness and instant recognition of the AIDS Ribbon. We can do it!”

Thousands of them were distributed at rallies last weekend. Here are instructions on how to make your own.

The AIDS ribbon certainly became a powerful symbol of solidarity and remains so today. A white knot seems an appropriate symbol using the language of marriage.

WhiteKnot [official site]


  1. Derrick from Philly says

    Unbelievable. Extraordinary. Mindboggling.

    Didn’t ANYONE associated with Mr. Voci think about the other implicatons of a “white knot”? What happened to the rainbow? What about frickin’ lavender?

    NIC, last night in reference to the “Dan Savage/DL Idiot” thread you asked me for an explanation on how so many black people could fail to understand that gay marriage rights is a civil rights issue. Unfortunately, “the GAY Movement” is a “white man” to too many. Black gays are simply amusement, necessary for the church choir, and fodder for some hypocritical preaching devils.

    Well, it’s your prerogative to wear whatever ribbon you want, but it reinforces the message, “GAY is WHITE”.

    And only 20 minutes ago, I was feeling so good reading about Ted Stevens’ defeat, and Cheyney’s indictment, and now this…

    Wait a minute! Maybe this is an opportunity to make a statement about black gay visibility in black communities: black gays will wear black ribbons.

  2. says

    a ribbon ?? jeez, how very polite and genteel.
    hey, why not a rubber bracelet, I’m sure there’s still a color available… beige perhaps?
    damn, sure makes one pine for the reality days of Act-Up and Silence=Death.

  3. says

    Here’s another thought: Why the f**k do we care about marriage right now when in most of the country, people can still be fired or evicted for being LGBT? When people have no hate crime protection if they’re LGBT?

    Same-sex marriage jumped the line. You first ensure equal rights, then argue that marriage is one of those rights. You don’t push for marriage, then when it gets trounced whine about being fired.

  4. Jonathan says

    I guess I don’t get it. White is the color of weddings in Western culture. Black is the color of funerals. Neither of those colors actually correspond to the skin tones of the people who claim to be “white” or “black.” Would it be more palatable if it were an alabaster ribbon? Ivory? Eggshell?

  5. David D. says

    Funny, I thought it was white because of its association with marriage (not that any of us are likely to be married in white).

    Not to be insensitive, but do you have the same reactions to white chess pieces, white knights, white sugar, the White Sox, the White Stripes, white gold, white rice and Snow White? The ‘white’ aspect of a white ribbon has about as much relevance to race as those examples.

    And when you felt that you weren’t being represented by the red ribbon, who did you complain to then?

  6. Greg S. says

    Let me say, as a white man, the first thing that I thought when I saw the white knot was that it was the wrong color and that it could be seen as exclusionary.

    Let’s not dismiss how people see and interpret things.

  7. MT says

    Jeez. Cynical much people? No wonder we got voted down in 3 states. The whole community is completely fractured and full of people who would rather piss on an idea than come up with something themselves. Everyone is so quick to complain and no one acts proactively.

    I, for one, already have my white ribbon (thanks for the heads up, Andy) and will wear it visibly everywhere I go as I am planning on marrying my boyfriend IN TORONTO since America can’t get its shit together. Judging from this, I’d say it’s our fault and we can’t blame the Mormons for exploiting our own apathy.

  8. Derrick from Philly says

    Actually, DAVID D & JONATHON: before I wrote my comment I said to myself, “the choice of white is due to the marriage issue.” And then I said, “yes, but they still don’t get it.” Then I went to Mr Foci’s site and it said the knotted white ribbon is to symbolize denied civil rights for gays–period. Well….

    You cannot convince many black folks that white men are discriminated against–unless you are “noticeably effeminate”, and even then they’ll say it’s a matter of choice.

    Even more gay women in the forefront would help change the face of the gay movement for civil rights.

    “Not to be insensitive, but do you have the same reactions to white chess pieces, white knights, white sugar, the White Sox, the White Stripes, white gold, white rice and Snow White? The ‘white’ aspect of a white ribbon has about as much relevance to race as those examples.”

    Actually, yes, DAVID D., ever since I was a child (in the 60s), I’ve heard black folks putting significance on anything “white” that could be taken as SYMBOLIC. Most recently, there have been jokes (from whites & blacks) about the “White House” and the Obama Family moving into it.

    So, yes, what may seem absoulutely silly to you may have a totally different significance in a culture that is different from yours.

    Do you realize that there are even great cultural differences between blacks who grow up in Northern big-city suburbs than those who grow up in all-black settings. There are still great cultural differences between the races in this country–hell, we got those differences in the gay world! Some of us are very aware of each other (through movies, books, higher educational experiences, living in racially mixed environments, etc.)–but many are not.

    I can just imagine some brave black gay guy going into a black barbershop wearing that white ribbon…”what’s that white ribbon suppose to mean, man?” And he’s surrounded.

  9. clint says

    Do black folks not wear white at their weddings? Never been to a black wedding, but most of the wedding pics I’ve seen have black brides wearing white dresses.
    We used a handfast at our (not legal in Oklahoma) wedding a few years ago. I would probably just use a scrap of that cloth, tied into a ribbon, maybe combined with the white ribbon. Hmmmm.

  10. David D. says

    I’m not sure how I’m supposed to be responsible for someone else’s misinterpretation of my symbolic knotted ribbon — but let’s try this: how about people who can’t, for whatever reason, get behind a white ribbon–how about picking out a colour that you prefer and that you feel is evocative of marriage, tie it in a knot and wear that instead?

    Or don’t wear a ribbon if you don’t want to? Or work on some other LGBT issue if you don’t think marriage is a priority? There’s plenty of stuff to do besides sitting here and carping.

  11. Sam says

    “I can just imagine some brave black gay guy going into a black barbershop wearing that white ribbon…”what’s that white ribbon suppose to mean, man?” And he’s surrounded.”

    Well, at that point, I assume he’d explain what it means, which is the whole point of wearing the ribbon!

    Derrick, are you saying the black guy would get called out for wearing a WHITE ribbon, or ANY ribbon at all relating to being gay? Because if he would get called out for wearing anything gay-related, then does it really matter what the color is? Besides, I can’t imagine he would wear it at all if he didn’t want to draw attention to his being gay, and if he WANTS to draw attention to that fact, then the color of the ribbon shouldn’t matter. That being said, I would prefer a rainbow ribbon because it seems more fitting.

  12. Mark in NYC says

    Well said, Derrick. The lexicon of color runs deep in our culture. Hero wears the white hat, villains wear black; red is the color of danger, etc… To make it even plainer, you can look at the “hanky code” for more examples of color significance.

    I’m the last person to champion political correctness, but if one intends to speak for a broad audience, you must include all of them.

    The ribbon thing is well intended, but clearly needs more thought behind it. Regardless, I probably won’t be wearing one. Give me a black T Shirt with something well designed and pithy, and I’m in…time for Gran Fury to make a return appearance.

  13. Jonathan says

    I’ve seen several people saying that a white ribbon with a knot in it means more than white=wedding color knot=symbolic of marriage. I’ve not seen anyone else come up with an impactful visual shorthand for the concept.

    Just as you’re asking someone who is seeing only a representation of a call for marriage equality to broaden their cultural understanding to include why you might find this less than ideal, it’s important that you recognize that it likely is not cultural hostility or even insensitivity that gave rise to this symbol. Coming up with some sort of compact symbolism that could replace this would go a long way to bringing the attidudinal shift you’re demanding.

  14. says

    Ribbons, please. If wearing one makes you feel all good inside, then have at it; I cannot be that passive about civil rights AP8 (“After PROP 8″ versus BP8).

    My visibility is being 1000% OUT. And I DO NOT wait anymore for someone to initiate a conversation about EQUALITY. When someone asks “How are you?” these days I avoid “fine” and tell them the truth. I am hurt, I am pissed, and I refuse to be Uncle Sam’s little bitch anymore.

  15. says

    I am Frank Voci, the founder of the White Knot. I want to address the concerns that people have brought up in this thread.

    I had hoped the marriage symbolism (white and tying the knot) would be clear and unambiguous. The idea is to keep visibility high between rallies in places where you can’t carry signs or chant. We want to keep the conversation going.

    I did not want to go with any traditional gay color symbolism–pink, lavender, rainbow–because we want to get the message out this that this is about marriage equality. The same rights for gay and lesbian couples as straight couples. So I wanted to co-opt the simplest and most universal (at least in this country) imagery of marriage in general.

    I have given out literally 1000s of white knots personally and the reception has been overwhelmingly positive. As soon as I say “tie the knot” people light up and want one. I’ve given them to pastors, to celebrities, to elected officials, and to many gay and straight people who participated in last weekend’s rallies.

    I also want to address why marriage is a priority issue. First, it is the issue that is currently in the national consciousness. Second, and more importantly, equality in marriage has a cascading effect that can drive equality and non-discrimination in all areas–adoption, the work place, schools, etc.

    If nothing else, this seems to have sparked conversation, which is exactly the point.

  16. D says

    It’s simply a white knot symbolizing two things
    1. the color white for weddings and
    2. “tying the knot”…

    There was no malice in picking this color… this is just from a person that believes… and I think like most of us… that we all want equal rights… is marriage the most important issue in the LGBT community? Maybe not, but I feel it’s the catalyst that will help us lay the groundwork for changing all LGBT civil rights in a positive direction.

    All this hostility is unnecessary… how about people make their own knot in the color of their own choosing… as long as we have the same knot and shape… it could be any color… this whole idea was just based on the fact we cannot carry picket signs everywhere we go… so a small symbol on our chest will keep the dialogue going…

  17. Carson says

    I think it’s a genius approach – universally appealing and symbolic. Last time I checked, white is the color of marriage and that is the root of this current debate surrounding our civil rights. It’s nice to see someone taking action on our behalf to engage larger dialogue on the subject of marriage equality, rather than simply taking the easy route of criticizing.

  18. Derrick from Philly says

    Frank Voci,

    thank you for taking the time to explain what I know you believe should have been an obvious statement with a knotted white ribbon. I think I had a good idea what you intended; but after all the controversy over the issue of race and Proposition 8, I wanted to suggest that some people may have a different view of the sympolism. At first I was stunned.

    Some black gay people will welcome your well-intended symbolism and participate, some will not use that symbolism because of reasons you did not intend.

    “All this hostility is unnecessary…”

    D, if you think that this discussion has been too full of hostility, please check the other topics that deal with race and gay marriage rights on Towleroad. No, some of us who’ve been emotionally tried by the whole discussion of black voters and Proposition 8 are leary of anything that could be construed as racially divisive. White ribbon symbolizes weddings, not oppression of white gay men–ok, I accept that.

    “…rather than simply taking the easy route of criticizing.”

    Yes, CARSON, that is why black gay people have been trying to explain to white gay people that in the aftermath of a racially volatile moment in American history, the innocent act of using a white ribbon may have different meanings for different folks. Believe me, it is not an “easy route” –it has been fucking exhausting.

  19. Kenton says

    My concern is that we leave ourselves wide open to criticism about our mono-issue outlook on the world. White ribbons have been a tradition for a number of years – as is White Ribbon Day – for men to demonstrate their opposition to violence against women.

    Happy for people to deal with two issues at once, but do so mindfully… I’d hate for a woman to come up and congratulate you on your commitment to an important issue only to be told that the symbol had been unknowingly appropriated.

    Check out

  20. Derrick from Philly says

    Frank Voci,

    Yeah, my first reaction was an over-reaction, but I’ve explained why, and that there will be others with my initial reaction.

    I now know what you intend for it to mean.
    When I see someone wearing the knotted white ribbon I’ll know what it symbolizes, and I’ll explain it to anyone else who asks.

  21. D says

    … there’s still a lot of dialogue that needs to take place… but I believe that’s what these knots can assist with… creating dialogue… it does when I wear it…

    …as I said earlier… choose the color you want… but make the KNOT our symbol… make hundreds… BUT make knots with the chevron cut at the end of the ribbon (see photo) that way they all look the same… LOL… but in different colors… white, blue, rainbow YOU CHOOSE… just make the KNOT… wear it, love it, reveal it… to everyone!!!

  22. says

    “White ribbon symbolizes weddings, not oppression of white gay men–ok, I accept that.”

    Symbols, by definition, mean different things to different people. The people claiming offense at the whiteness of the white knot are, therefore, not at all incorrect (even though their histrionics are tiresome). Try to see their point of view, though it may seem unreasonable to you.

    The debate reminds me of the Confederate Flag Controversy. People just can’t understand that flag, which is a symbol by definition, means different things to different people, by definition of what a symbol is.

    In other words, there are no winners here. Just a lot of people making a lot of noise.

    When I first saw the White Knot idea on Towel Road this morning, I spent at least thirty seconds frozen in ambivalence: Is it lame because the ribbon is an overused symbol, it’s been done (and re-done and re-done), it’s tired and unoriginal, it’s more eighties than Members Only jackets, it’s cliched beyond redemption, or because it’s so fucking boring?

    So hard to pick just one.

    Hey, wanna know how my husband and I symbolize our marriage? BY WEARING OUR WEDDING RINGS.

  23. David B. says

    I just love gay people..

    a cute little ribbon and we even cut triangles out of the ends to cut down on fraying! So us…

    We worry about things like marriage fraying and most don’t. We are such creative optimists when that seems so out of sight right now.

    Go guys!

  24. says

    I appreciate the sentiment behind it, and know that it was done in a good spirit, but I’m sorry…that looks like a bow on a little girl’s Sunday school dress. I’ll show my support for gay marriage by getting married to my partner this summer in Massachusetts and not hiding it when we get back to Kentucky.

  25. Mikey says

    I remember growing up and watching all the hollywood stars at the Oscars with their red ribbon pins. My conservative family mocked them then and will probably do the same once the white knots show up this year. I think its a way for people to feel “activist-y” without really trying. And for some people, that’s better than nothing. The ribbon/bracelet concepts are tired and cliched, but they do still help with brand identity and cohesion within the movement. Kinda like HRC stickers on cars. Only gay people really even know what they mean since most straights don’t even know what the HRC acronym spells, let alone what they stand for. But it does make me more likely to let you cut in front of me in traffic…

  26. Jason Young says

    When I saw it the first thing I thought of was a cum shot. Why this color instead of the rainbow? Because it is white? Do weddings across the world and in all cultures use white in their weddings?

  27. jayjay says

    you know the more we argue with each other, the less progress we will make. instead of fighting among ourselves, lets band together. together we are stronger, and when we are stronger, the better our chances will be of getting FULL equality.

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