Levis 501’s have been the unofficial uniform of generations of gay men. Even though I wasn’t aware of this fact during my early teens, like most Canadian adolescents, I had a penchant for jeans. Especially Levis 501’s. It was common among my peers to embellish our jeans with patches, bits of suede and ballpoint pen. These doodles were usually cartoons, nicknames, occasionally crib notes for exams, and sometimes secret messages: “F.O.R.” (an obscene message for our principal, Mr. Ritchie), “BS!”, (assumed to be bullshit, actually code for Bobby Sherman), “PH & HL”, (a secret crush on another boy who had deliciously hairy legs). These innocent scribbles were a way of expressing our creativity, rebellious urges and hidden desires. Queer kids learned early to read code. Thankfully the other boys mostly left me alone to skip with the girls.
In the early 1970’s I got off easy. In Chechnya today gay men are being rounded up and murdered in what has been called a “prophylactic purge”. Innocent people are being held in secret prisons and tortured, sometimes to death. Families have actually been encouraged to kill their gay sons rather than face humiliation. The fear alone is devastating for queers and their families.
As a gay kid in Canada, my worst fear was being mocked. In 2017 gay men and boys in Chechnya, Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and too many other countries, fear for their very lives. They (and we) count the days until they can live and love openly and in peace.
Prophylactic Purge Uniform (Unofficial)
Approximately 15” W X 37” H