Call me Rainbowzo: A clown comes out

When I was young, grownups told me that I could become anything I wanted to be.  In elementary school, I was known as a class clown.  Although I was raised by Caucasian parents of Irish and Scottish descent, I always wondered what it would have been like to be raised by clowns.

I never missed an opportunity to go to a circus.  I didn’t care about the elephants or the trapeze artists.  I just wanted to see the clowns.  While my friends played baseball and football on weekends, I frequented thrift stores for anything that could be converted into a clown outfit.  My daydreams were about becoming a clown.

My parents were concerned but concluded that I was merely going through a phase and I would outgrow it.  After I became a teenager, people started asking me what I planned to do with my life.  “I’m going to be a clown,” I told them.

“That sounds great,” they would say, chuckling.  “But seriously, you’re smart. Are you going to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or what? You have to plan.”  The same people who had told me I could be anything seemed to think clowning was silly and stupid.

When I was fourteen, I put my big shoes, my makeup, and my nose in a box and hid it in the attic.  Part of me was dying.  My dream of attending clown college and joining a circus faded.  I began to understand the discrimination and the stigma clowns have suffered under for centuries.  The societal message that clowns are bad is very consistent.  Calling someone a clown is always an insult.

Coulrophobia is the excessive fear of clowns.  Like Kramer on Seinfeld, many people suffer from it.  Many others simply despise clowns. is a popular website for coulrophobes and clown haters.  It features reasons to hate clowns and has a forum for spewing anti-clown bigotry.  Ihateclowns apparel is available as well as violence-inducing apps like Shoot the Clown, Punch a Clown, and Slap a Clown.  

The negative portrayal of clowns in our entertainment media hasn’t helped.  Movies feature everything from horrifying versions of The Joker in Batman to Killer Clowns from Outer Space.  Clowns are relentlessly exploited in Hollywood.  They are never taken seriously and never get heroic roles.  They’re the butts of the cruelest of jokes.  There are no clowns to be found among directors or in management for any of the major studios.

Clown haters have engaged in many heinous acts.  Some of the most disturbing took place in 2006 in Sarasota, FL, a winter haven for travelling circuses. Linda Rodriguez McRobbie wrote about that dark period in an article titled The History and Psychology of Clowns Being Scary in Smithsonian Magazine.

“Communal loathing for clowns took a criminal turn when dozens of fiberglass clown statues were defaced, their limbs broken, heads lopped off, spray-painted; two were abducted and we can only guess at their sad fates.”

Critics may say it’s disingenuous of me to identify as a clown.  I believe I would be dishonest to act like anything but a clown.  On the inside, that’s what I am and that’s all I’ll ever be.  I want to live as a clown without being in fear for my life all the time.  People shouldn’t pass judgment on me based upon the color of my makeup or the outlandishness of my outfit.

When I left my parents’ household, I didn’t take my box of clown gear with me.  The house I grew up in has been bought and sold several times since then.  I have no idea of where my old box might be now.  Although I left it behind, the clown inside me never completely died off.

I’m looking into crowdfunding to raise $100 for a new clown kit including a colorful nose, makeup, and a few cute outfits and props.  Any funds beyond the designated amount could be used to engage in a public awareness campaign with the following objectives:

  • Spread the message that clowns are no different from other Americans.
  • Educate the public about the historic disparities in the treatment of clowns.
  • Inform the public of the many positive cultural contributions clowns have made.
  • Lobby government officials and agencies for the fair treatment of clowns.

I ask my family and friends for their love and support as I continue this challenging transition.

I identify as a clown.  My name is Rainbowzo.

Danny Murphy is the author of Murphy’s Law Breaker: Positive Thinking for Pessimists and Humor 101: How To Tell Jokes. He blogs at

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