How Many Identity Boxes Can One Google Doodle Check?

How Many Identity Boxes Can One Google Doodle Check?
Google Doodle celebrating the 69th birthday of Native American LBGTQ activist Barbara May Cameron. (Credit: Google)

It’s finally here! The day that would have been Barbara May Cameron’s 69th birthday. I admit I had a small twinge of trepidation going to my laptop this morning. I should have known Google – and its delightful Google Doodle – wouldn’t let me down.

You don’t have to be an American Indian lesbian who identifies as gender non-conforming (you call it “trans,” we call it “two-spirit”) to enjoy the Google Doodle of Cameron. But it couldn’t hurt. Google says it was done by “queer Mexican and Chitimachan artist Sienna Gonzales,” as though we wouldn’t know her work anywhere!

Sure, you could be forgiven for mistaking the image for Jonathan Winters, but the gay/trans flag and the Indian princesses in a loving embrace reassure us that this is a tribute to Cameron. And the dual depiction of the rugged grassland and rocky outcroppings of Lakota country and the colorful Victorians of San Francisco tell the story of an epic journey of self-discovery. The sweater vest and fedora are a particularly nice touch.

On the off chance you don’t know who Barbara May Cameron is, Google helpfully reminds us that she was a “Hunkpapa Lakota Native American activist, photographer, and writer…She was nationally recognized as a leading human rights activist for women, LGBTQ, and Native American rights.”

Of course, you’ve read her writing. She contributed to Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, and wrote the seminal essay No Apologies: A Lakota Lesbian Perspective which appeared in Our Right to Love: A Lesbian Resource Book. (Go pull down your dog-eared copy of that masterwork and get ready to relive the magic!) Cameronadvocated for LGBTQIA+ acceptance in the Native American community and addressed racism in queer spaces,” ya know, like ya do. (Did they even have whatever the IA+ stand for during her life? She died in 2002, and it seems like they didn’t start making up new stuff until after that. Could just be me.)

Oh, Google, why do you hate satire? What do you have against those hard-working writers and comics out there trying to earn a living by observing the foibles of people and institutions and adding a pinch of the absurd? You make their job so much harder when you do self-parody like this.

I have a question: How the hell do they find these people? Is there some sort of Who’s Who of niche identity politics?

“Hey guys, next week is the anniversary of Ignatio Twan’s first match. You know: the first gender-queer Filipino Sumo wrestler to compete with a prosthetic leg!”

“Oh, I had him mixed up with ground-breaking transexual Puerto Rico entertainment entrepreneur Imagena Torres.”

“No, his birthday is next month.”

“My bad.”

Remember folks, this is the company that couldn’t bring itself to mark Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday. 100 years for the guy that won the Cold War, no, but they can hit 69 for Cameron? In 2014, they ignored the 70th anniversary of D-Day and ran a doodle of Japanese Go player Honinbo Shusaku. In 2016, they honored a Maoist black nationalist whose heroes included Osama bin Laden and old Chairman Mao himself.

Of course, Google is free to honor Jonathan Winters or anybody else they want. And the more obscure and arbitrary the doodle, the more fun to be had mocking it. But in case Google hasn’t considered this, there’s a wisdom in this tweet:

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