Tuesday, October 4

Dayton Org Builds Massive Following & LGBTQ+ Advocacy Via…Memes

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by Jordan Walker

Have A Gay Day, an LGBTQ+ organization located in Dayton, Ohio, is a unique cross-breed between a nonprofit, a community center, and a social influencer of sorts. Touting itself as “a meme dealer of rainbows and unicorns,” the organization’s Facebook page has an astounding 1.3 million followers.

Michael Knote started Have A Gay Day (HAGD) in 2012 as a Facebook Page in honor of Jamey Rodemeyer, an LGBTQ+ teen advocate who took his own life in 2011 after enduring severe cyber-bullying. Today, the organization’s mission is to “create a safe environment for the purpose of Equality, Education, and Support of the LGBT Community and their Allies,” with the help of its colossal social media presence.

Michael Knote

Since its creation, the HAGD Facebook page has churned out tens of thousands of posts that feature lighthearted humor, vibrant and eye-catching colors, and non-confrontational content that Knote says appeals to their wide audience. The Buckeye Flame spoke to Knote about the inspiration behind the organization, the reasons behind its impressive following, and his plans for the nonprofit.

How was Have A Gay Day formed, and what does the organization do? 
After Jamie Rodemeyer took his own life at 14 years old, there were a lot of pages and posts that really spoke out against bullying and pushed for likes and shares to increase awareness of bullying and support for the LGBT community. I really wanted to just make a fun, safe, and happy place where people could go and get away from it all – so I created Have a Gay Day as a play on words, since “gay” means happy to a lot of people. The Facebook page is a lighthearted, nonpolitical kind of place that has made a difference for a lot of people within and outside of the LGBT community.

In 2014, we transformed into a charity 501c3 and a community center, which has been located in Moraine County for about 3 years. We started small but now HAGD is like a table full of virtual support and real world support. We serve between 150 and 225 individuals a month at our community center, providing anything from personal care kits to a pet food pantry. We are all volunteers, most of whom moderate the comments on our social media posts. We never really expected it (the social media following) to grow like it has. It’s surreal.

You have an astonishing 1.3 million followers on Facebook. How did you garner that much online support, and how do you wield it?
We’ve posted something like 70 thousand posts since we created the page, and 10-20 million people see our posts every month. Most of our likes are from people under the age of 30. With the exception of a few administrators, I am the only one who posts to the page. Creating memes is something I have always been good at.

Where we lack as far as being a giant budgeted organization, we have the social media power of a large organization. We will post a fundraising need on Facebook, and our followers will donate almost immediately. For example, the majority of our fundraising money is raised through Birthday fundraisers on Facebook – where our followers will ask their friends to donate to HAGD for their birthday.  and we have followers all over the world – some are in countries where it is illegal for people to be themselves, so they sort of hide out on our page.

Why do you think your memes have received so much popularity?
Our Facebook page is like a dinner table. When people sit down for a meal, everyone is going to like different things, and they don’t want to eat the same thing every day. Sometimes a host will serve something that’s heavier, and sometimes they’ll serve something that’s light and easy to eat. I can’t keep everyone happy all the time, but I want to keep them at the table.

The smile in our logo is honestly the thing that has helped us the most. When I wear the “Have a Gay Day” Shirt in public, I don’t receive any hate for it. People will approach me and say, “omg I love your shirt,” and then we will start having this conversation about the LGBT community and organization because it’s non-confrontational. It’s in your face, but it’s not in your face – the message doesn’t feel like an agenda. When it comes to LGBT organizations, we are probably the only LGBT organization that had a Facebook page before it had an organization. That’s a really interesting dynamic.

In branding HAGD as “non-confrontational” and creating more surface-level content, does that strategy have any impact on the kinds of conversations that get started within and about the LGBTQ+ community on your FB page?
We create content that provides a small bit of information about the LGBT community that may start a broad conversation and can be easily circulated, versus something that may be very deep and people are uncomfortable continuing that conversation. My posts have grown up a bit as far as trying to have more diverse conversations I don’t see on other pages, like bringing awareness to asexuality, bisexuality, the transgender community, and having informative conversations about HIV and Aids. 10 years ago, there weren’t a lot of posts about anything besides the gay community or lesbian community.

In this culture and at this time, I think the LGBT community is supposed to be this serious sort of a place, but a lot of the people who have felt unseen  by the community look at title and logo of Have a Gay Day and receive the message that we are about acceptance, love, kindness, and laughter, and non-judgment. 🔥

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Jordan Walker is a Cleveland-based journalist whose writing has also appeared in The Progressive, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Satirist, and The Smart Set.

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The Buckeye Flame amplifies the voices of LGBTQ+ Ohioans to support community and civic empowerment through the creation of engaging content that chronicles our triumphs, struggles, and lived experiences.

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