"I want a president"
Artist: Zoe Leonard
Date of Action: January 2018
Region: North America
Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion
Confronting Bodies: Instagram
Description of Artwork: “I want a dyke for president,” Zoe Leonard writes in her 1992 poem inspired by the author Eileen Myles’ run for president, written at the height of the AIDS epidemic. "I want a person with AIDS for president and I want a fag for vice president and I want someone with no health insurance and I want someone who grew up in a place where the earth is so saturated with toxic waste that they didn’t have a choice about getting leukemia. I want a president that had an abortion at sixteen and I want a candidate who isn’t the lesser of two evils and I want a president who lost their last lover to AIDS, who still sees that in their eyes every time they lay down to rest, who held their lover in their arms and knew they were dying. I want a president with no air-conditioning, a president who has stood in line at the clinic, at the DMV, at the welfare office, and has been unemployed and laid off and sexually harassed and gaybashed and deported. I want someone who has spent the night in the tombs and had a cross burned on their lawn and survived rape. I want someone who has been in love and been hurt, who respects sex, who has made mistakes and learned from them. I want a Black woman for president. I want someone with bad teeth and an attitude, someone who has eaten that nasty hospital food, someone who crossdresses and has done drugs and been in therapy. I want someone who has committed civil disobedience. And I want to know why this isn’t possible. I want to know why we started learning somewhere down the line that a president is always a clown. Always a john and never a hooker. Always a boss and never a worker. Always a liar, always a thief, and never caught."
The Incident: Washington, D.C. couple Leighton Brown and Matthew Riemer posted the poem on the Instagram account @lgbt_history, which is dedicated to the history of the LGBT community. Brown and Riemer told the press that the poem "is among the starkest representations of the queer community’s feelings of desperation and underrepresentation at the height of the AIDS era.“ A few days later, the post — which had over 12,000 likes — was taken down by the platform for “violating community standards.” Brown and Riemer reposted the poem three times afterwards, and each time it was taken down. They then asked their followers to share the poem, filling Instagram with hundreds of posts of the poem. While not all of those posts were deleted, those censored for participating included the chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, who was in the process of planning a retrospective of the poet Zoe Leonard’s work.
Results of Incident: For three days following public outcry over the blatant art censorship on its platform, Instagram's only comment was that they were “looking into it.” By the end of the week, the company announced through a spokesperson that “The content was taken down by mistake, and has since been restored."