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GLBTs to Google: Doodle Us for Pride Month!

by Kilian Melloy
Saturday Jun 25, 2011
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Some in the GLBT community say that Internet search engine Google ought to honor Pride month the same way the omnipresent online service marks other holidays: With a customized graphic of the search engine’s name, known as a "Doodle."

"Doodles" pop up in place of Google’s familiar graphic on holidays, for the birthdays of famous writers and artists (like Robert Louis Stevenson and Paul Cezanne), and even for the 30th anniversary of the popular video game from the 1980s, Pac-Man. But not for Pride, CNN reported on June 23.

Instead, the search engine provides rainbow icons when a user searches for certain key words: "Gay," "Lesbian," "Marriage Equality," and the like. But the little rainbow is not enough recognition, some say.

Nicholas Jackson, an associate editor for The Atlantic, wrote in a June 20 article at that publication’s site that Google’s "decision to hide its support of Gay Pride" by only providing a rainbow icon that appears with the use of certain search terms was "disappointing."

Moreover, Jackson pointed out, Google has provided Doodles for counter-cultural celebrations before now. In fact, the very first Doodle was, according to Jackson, created in honor of just such a celebration, albeit not a specifically gay one.

"Since 1998, when the first design was drawn up for Burning Man, a week-long festival in the Black Rock Desert known for the copious amounts of drugs and alcohol consumed by attendees, there have been Doodles for Sesame Street, Veteran’s Day and Vivaldi," Jackson wrote.

But come June 1, Jackson continued, there was no sign of a celebratory Pride Doodle.

"We didn’t see our first June Doodle until the 5th of the month, when Google celebrated what would have been the 92nd birthday of Richard Scarry, creator of the Busytown series," Jackson recounted. "The fictional Busytown was popular," Jackson continued, "but it would be difficult to convince anyone that Nurse Nelly and Goldbug were as culturally important as the 1969 Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village that started the modern LGBT liberation movement."

Jackson went on to opine, "This slight modification to Google’s search page is similar to the company’s decision in 2009 to add a thin, rainbow-colored bar above the search results for certain terms, but the move is surprising. Things change in two years and Google, long considered one of the most gay-friendly corporations to work for, should know this."

Pride Month is a fixture on the GLBT calendar, but it comes with the imprimatur of the Oval Office. Jackson recalled that then-President Bill Clinton inaugurated Pride Month as an official event in 2000.

Jackson readily acknowledged that he is gay, and said that he personally does not celebrate Pride because "I don’t believe that parading through the street is going to help my cause." And while he noted that Google has stood by the GLBT community in the past, even coming out publicly as being against Proposition 8 in 2008, "I just want the same treatment as Vivaldi, who was properly celebrated even 269 years after his death."

"Critics say Google is hiding the feature to avoid criticism from anti-gay groups, whose members may be less likely to search ’pride-related’ terms," the CNN article said.

"During the month of June, Google is celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Pride," an email from the Internet giant informed CNN. "For some Pride-related search queries, we are showing a rainbow at the end of the search bar." But Google did not address any specific questions about the issue.

Others came to Google’s defense, the CNN article noted.

"It’s nearly as difficult to find Google’s Pride recognition as it is to happen across a real-life rainbow," a June 20 posting at Instinct said. "Still, honoring Pride for those who are already searching for LGBT-related words should be commended."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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