On Ash Wednesday, March 1, a number of churches and Christian groups in the U.S. blended purple glitter into the blessed ashes before applying them to the foreheads of Christians to mark the beginning of Lent.
The use of glitter was intended as a display of solidarity with the LGBTQ community at a time when bathroom-related laws threaten transgender rights. Recently, the Trump administration reversed Title IX guidance providing protections for transgender public school students that allowed them to use bathrooms and facilities corresponding with their gender identity.
Fourteen states have introduced legislation that would impose restrictions on transgender people using public restrooms. Some states, as well as the Trump administration, are also considering laws that would allow businesses and organizations to refuse services to LGBTQ people based on religious objections.
In this context, Rev. Marian Edmonds-Allen, executive director of Parity, a faith-based New York City organization that organized the Glitter Ash Wednesday events, explained that the events were meant to be acts of love and resistance at a time when members of the LGBTQ community could feel especially vulnerable to discrimination.
As a sociologist and social movements scholar, I have studied the emergence of innovative tactics in the movement for LGBTQ rights in the United States.
Ash Wednesday 2017 was not the first time that glitter has been used to show support for LGBTQ rights. There is a notable history of the use of glitter to express moral outrage and show resistance. Perhaps the most memorable use of glitter as a symbol of support for LGBT rights is the tactic of glitter bombing.
So, what is the history of using glitter as a method of expressing support for the rights of LGBTQ Americans? And what makes glitter an effective tool of resistance?