The bottom text meme. Everyone’s favorite self-referential internet in-joke. The premise goes something like this: Mid-2000s online meme generators would offer users a meme image template, complete with placeholder text boxes on the top and bottom of the image. Most commonly, they would read “TOP TEXT” and “BOTTOM TEXT,” referencing their locations. Whether the meme stemmed from users forgetting to edit or remove the bottom field or from the ubiquitous nature of these editors, ‘bottom text’ itself quickly integrated itself into the web’s meme vocabulary. Of course.
While the meme’s popularity peaked in late spring of 2012 (according to informational mine knowyourmeme.com), it has enjoyed a steady trickle of popularity ever since. Most recently, it has found its way to our university’s premier source of humor content, the Facebook group “Tufts Memes for Quirky Queens” (TMQQ) (sorry, Tufts comedy groups).
A little more context: In many LGBTQ+ circles, the terms ‘top,’ ‘bottom’ and ‘verse’ have come to be used to describe the roles of a relationship’s participants in the bedroom. Operating under the assumption that same-gender partners will have the same type of genitals (an assumption that is as spurious as it is common), these roles allow LGBTQ+ people to define, in commonly agreed-upon terms, their role in sex. These stereotypical roles differ for partners of different genders, but the basic format stays the same: The top is the one on top, the bottom is the one on bottom, and if a person is verse they are comfortable playing either role.
So, where does ‘bottom text’ and the language of non-straight sex come together to yield a conversation on censorship? The sharp-eyed and pun-keen among you may already have spotted the connection. “Top,” “verse,” “bottom.” “Top text,” “bottom text.” You get the idea. So did I, last week when I decided to partake in the traditions of our university’s Cool Kids and post in the meme group. “Top text, verse text, bottom text,” I said. A simple joke, not too hard to understand given the relevant context.
Fast forward two days: I wake up one morning to find my Facebook locked, pending the removal of “obscene content” from my posts. The culprit? “Top text, verse text, bottom text,’ a post which (according to the notification laid across my newsfeed) “contains nudity.”
Really, Facebook? Really? Are you absolutely sure? Let me be clear: This was not the first post in TMQQ to feature vague reference to sexual activities. It’s a comedy group full of college students. Is the possibility of non-straight people having sex really so inappropriate that it can’t be aired in public? As a culture that pays daily homage to the idea that ‘[straight] sex sells,’ is anything in a shade of rainbow so explicit that a mere allusion to the concept of queer sex must be considered “nudity?”
This is not an isolated incident. Look at popular media. Count the straight sex scenes, count the straight couples, count the climactic kiss moments. Now do the same for queer people. You’re hard pressed to find us, and when you do, we’re almost invariably a stolen moment, rarely touched upon again, or we end up sad, sick or dead. Our love is no more or less shameful than yours. Our bodies are not a crime. Stop acting like they are.