In the wake of Vanity Fair’s cover story introducing the world to Caitlyn Jenner, everyone has had an opinion to share. But one opinion, posted by an Oregon man named Terry Coffey, has proven to be widely held, and has been shared over 750,000 times on Facebook.
Coffey’s words and the photo he chose of two soldiers have each been copied and shared, turning the whole thing into a full-blown meme, much like Boston sports radio broadcaster Gerry Callahan’s post about Caitlyn Jenner winning ESPN’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
But it turns out there’s much more to the photo from Coffey’s post than meets the eye.
The photo is by Mark Hogancamp, a man who built a 1/6 scale model of a Belgian town during World War II after suffering brain damage from a beating outside a bar in 2000.
Hogancamp, who awoke from a nine-day coma with no memories prior to the beating, spent all his time building the town, which he called Marwencol. A documentary film by the same name won countless awards in 2010.
The trailer shows Hogancamp talking about the world he built for himself when the lingering brain damage left him feeling isolated from the real one.
What the trailer doesn’t tell you is why Hogancamp was beaten in the first place — a reason Hogancamp had no memory of, and discovered in a very surprising way, detailed in the New York Times.
When Mr. Hogancamp returned home after the beating, he discovered a closet full of women’s pumps and boots. “Do I have a girlfriend?” he asked a friend. “They’re yours,” the friend replied. “You collect them and you wear them.” Mr. Hogancamp then learned that the men who beat him did so after he told them he was a cross-dresser.
The photo of “what real American courage, heroism and bravery looks like” was by a man beaten within an inch of his life for telling people he liked to wear women’s clothing.
A day after Coffey’s original post went viral, he posted a new message.
[Photos via Marwencol.com / Open Face]