The Pride Flag is A Global Symbol
It shouldn’t be changed to reflect the failures of the American LGBTQ movement.
“The rainbow flag is single most recognizable icon for the LGBTQ community” begins the video for More Color More Pride, “it’s a symbol for everyone to rally around.”
This is true. Created by artist Gilbert Baker and first flown at the Gay Freedom Day Parade in San Francisco all the way back in 1978, the flag has become the de facto symbol of the LGBTQ movement. From Entebbe to Tehran to Tel Aviv to Taiwan LGBTQ people use the same symbol to showcase their pride, to protest their mistreatment and discrimination and to celebrate their lives. The flag is the most potent and powerful symbol of LGBTQ rights and solidarity in the world.
Just look at two recent examples of worldwide use of the pride flag.
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In protest or in celebration, across cultures, continents and nations the pride flag unites the worldwide LGBTQ community.
“Yet communities across the country are divided,” continues the More Color More Pride video, “people of color have been marginalized, ignored, and even intentionally excluded.”
The redesigned flag was spearheaded by Amber Hikes, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs and developed by Philadelphia ad agency Tierney. The purpose of the flag is to call out racial discrimination in the LGBT community.
There is rampant racism within the American LGBT community, this is undeniable.
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It’s worth quoting at length from Pink News:
GMFA, the gay men’s sexual health charity, surveyed gay men of different ethnicities for the findings.
The shocking results found that more than seven in 10 black gay men have experience racism in the LGBT community.
All of the Arab men surveyed had experience racism and believe it is a problem.
Among other ethnicities, 86% of South Asian gay men, 81% of South East and East Asian gay men and 78% of gay men of mixed ethnicity said they had experienced racism.
However less than half (49%) of white gay men thought racism was a problem.
The failure of the White LGBTQ community to address racism has had profound real-world consequences for the lives of LGBTQ people of color. Here’s just one example: While the white-dominated establishment organizations of the LGBTQ movement turned their focus to Marriage Equality and allowing gays in the military they ignored the rising transmission rates of H.I.V. in black southern gay and bisexual men.
As the center of the epidemic has moved from New York and San Francisco to the smaller cities in the South, and from gay white men of means to poorer people of color, L.G.B.T. advocacy and fund-raising has shifted to marriage equality. In 2013, H.I.V. activists persuaded 35 L.G.B.T. leaders to sign a statement and create a video imploring the greater gay community to recommit to the AIDS struggle. The message: “We need you to come back.” But of $168 million in H.I.V./AIDS philanthropic dollars spent in the United States in 2015, $31 million was disbursed to the South, just 19 percent of total H.I.V. philanthropy in the United States; only $26 million directly targeted African-Americans, and just $16 million went directly to gay and bisexual men, according to the organization Funders Concerned About AIDS.
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Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using the first comprehensive national estimates of lifetime risk of H.I.V. for several key populations, predicted that if current rates continue, one in two African-American gay and bisexual men will be infected with the virus.
Individual and institutional racism are endemic within the American LGBTQ rights movement and it’s killing black and brown people. White LGBTQ people have failed to take care of our black and brown community members, have failed to address racism within ourselves, our organizations, and our community spaces. We have to do better, and I’m including myself when I say that.
The failures of the American LGBTQ community to address racism and inequality don’t mean we should change the global symbol of LGBT identity. The pride flag should not be changed to represent fewer people, and that’s explicit in the reasons for the creation of this new flag. It’s designed to better represent the American LGBTQ community, but this comes at the expense of representing the worldwide community of LGBTQ people.
How does changing the flag to represent the failures and fault-lines of the gay rights movement in the United States make it more inclusive for the Russian and Chechnyan activists trying to save LGBTQ people from torture? For the Iranian teenagers who risked their lives to display the flag above Tehran? For Taiwanese couples celebrating the ability to get married? The flag is a global symbol of LGBTQ identity, not just an American one. It shouldn’t be changed to reflect the politics and people of a single country.