A short history: The Hermes Birkin bag is iconic. Featured and heralded as the second coming of Jesus in fashion circles since its invention, the Birkin bag is the be-all, end-all of secret luxury. Waiting lists reach into the years, the cost is outrageous, and the exclusivity is unparalleled. This is the kind of bag that is sold not just to those who can afford it, but also at the discretion of eagle-eyed sales representatives at Hermes shops worldwide. Even if you ask, and there is one available in a locked safe in the boutique’s back room, you may not be approved to even look at it.
I have been lucky enough to wear many Birkin bags in a multitude of colors over the years thanks to very generous fans, borrowing, and, as of late, by saving as if it were for a home. While on first-name basis with many boutique workers and managers, I am still relegated to queuing up like everyone else, for the hard-to-get Picasso of bags. My sources have kept an eye out for the last two years for a 35cm, orange Birkin to complete my collection. I have saved every penny possible to own this bag for two years, and it was hard for me to do so as I am a poor saver and impulse buyer of anything from oversized paper towel value packs to see-through T-shirts. In any event, for a Birkin, you sacrifice.
In August I acquired my baby; while not rivaling the love I have for my mother, husband or puppy, it was very close. I took the whole day off of work just to marvel at, polish and acclimate the new bag to my archives. I know it’s not healthy to let inconsequential items alter your mood, but I was on cloud nine, and rightly so as the bag not only signified hard work, a strong business mind, and dedication to my craft, but also the fact that I owned something so exclusive and beautifully handmade. The bag is art.
Also in August, I started to have a lot of problems with the LGBT community and its supporters as I refused to boycott the Olympic Games in Russia despite Russia’s newly passed anti-LGBT propaganda law where gays are as unprotected as stray dogs. The Olympics and human rights are two very separate entities to me and I refuse to combine them. I will fight for LGBT rights in Russia, but I won’t use the Olympics to achieve that. Simply being in Russia, as a gay celebrated person is a hard thing to do these days, but I intend on fully showing my support to the community on the ground, in my own way, not the way I’m pressured into doing. I’ve said all this a million times and in a slew of interviews, however you can’t please everyone by speaking the truth, and I’ve been hated and abused for it, by my own lovely community.
Cut to a couple weeks ago, in a crowded restaurant in Manhattan. I was carrying my new bag, my prized possession, and sat in the aisle of a crowded multi-family booth. While my friends all gabbed away and filled their glasses and plates, I, having the bladder size of a pea, went to pee. I left my beloved bag in the careful bosom of my friends because I assumed she’d be safe.
Upon my return I saw a clearly homosexual person not associated with my group leaving our area. Nobody had paid any mind to his presence as it’s New York and you become used to random comings and goings, but I saw him walking away and as he passed me, he mouthed the B word at me with a judgmental, angry face. I didn’t think anything of it as I am used to this sort of taunting, but a half hour later, when I grabbed my bag from the little perch she was resting on I noticed the blasphemous presence of permanent black marker-ed handwriting raping the front section of the bag. In a commonly used two-word American expletive starting with an F, the guy had destroyed my treasure and served notice to me the amount of hate there is even in my own community.
I took all the proper measures to righting the situation, to not much avail aside from the bag spending two weeks, thus far, in an Hermes workshop, hoping to be cleaned. If the graffiti is not removable, I will still wear my bag proudly, in defiance to anyone who tries to use hate or aggression to force other people to believe what they believe. This bag will be a symbol to me forever that no matter how hard you work, how popular you get or how intelligent and unafraid you must be to speak your mind, there will still be idiots who use petty insults and at times, force, to refuse you your right to freedom of speech.
I have been somewhat off the radar to the world since this event happened, and for that I apologize, but I needed a moment to recharge my spirit, to reevaluate my positions and abilities, to find my love for my fellow man again and to find my strength. My strength doesn’t lie in my mind, but in my heart, and I dare anyone to “F” with me as it only makes my heart beat stronger.