A pride flag with additional black and brown stripes above the rest of the rainbow made its debut this week at a Pride Month opening ceremony in Philadelphia as part of a new campaign, More Color More Pride.
The additional stripes represent LGBT individuals of colour, a group that can often be overlooked within the overall LGBT umbrella and aim to create a broader and more visible pride movement. Sadly though, the reaction to the alteration to the original flag has not been one of love, solidarity or – ironically – pride across the board, but ignorance, offence and selfishness.
The original pride flag, created by the late (and incredibly great) Gilbert Baker in 1978, was a response to the racism in the LGBT community and stood to represent and whole community regardless of race. The flag sent a more positive message compared to the previously used pink triangle, which was once imposed by Nazis to identify gay men. The newly used variant of the pride flag isn’t saying that the rainbow flag didn’t include people of colour, but is a response to racism both in and out of the community.
So why the anger?
It was – and still is – queer POC (people of colour) who were trailblazers and leaders of the LGBT+ revolutions across the planet. It was immigrants and sex workers, homeless youths and butch lesbians, trans women and drag queens who took the grief and hurt their community felt every single gay to generate and demand social change to better the lives of everyone within their community, not just themselves.
Marsha P Johnson – a black trans woman – did not throw the first brick at the Stonewall Riots for a future that saw white gays spit hatred and racism across social media regarding two extra colours being added to a symbol of love and acceptance. We backbenched Marsha’s identity when Roland Emmerich’s film Stonewall white-washed those who attended the riots. We perpetually ignore the murders of black trans women and police brutality against gay POC unless it directly affects us.
We wear safety pins to show allegiance to Muslims that we’re not bad white people, gag over Latrice Royale, Shea Coulee and Naomi Smalls and mourned the death of the Latinx men and women who were murdered a year ago at Pulse, yet still put “no fats, no femmes, no blacks” in our Grindr bios and are seemingly still repulsed at the idea of two colours being added to a flag that is meant to symbolise how the LGBT community is all encompassing, all accepting and never discriminative. Though suicide rates amongst young gay people in America fell after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of same-sex marriage, 76% black gay and bisexual boys have thought about taking their own life. These black and brown stripes are deserved, needed and serve as a reminder that the LGBT community is more than white gays ordering smashed avocado on toast at brunch.
Those who are upset and angry should ask themselves: “Why does this bother me so much? Why does the addition of two colours to the Pride flag make me so angry that I feel the need to publicly chastise and insult others?”
The flag is simply a new variant – not a replacement – of the pride flag to be used in certain contexts when a particular message of love and solidarity towards people of colour is needed. No one is telling you to burn your current flags, but to simply add the new flag to your toolbox of acceptance.
There’s a whole myriad of pride flags variants for every orientation, identity, gender and even fetish. Pick one that suits you and stop letting your racism, hatred and bigotry show. If you are confused as to why these stripes are necessary, it’s a sign that we need to acknowledge our privilege and luck that we don’t have to live in a world where we are subjected to the same oppression and social violence as black and non-white LGBT people. The LGBT culture and community is global and encompasses millions of queer people across the Middle East, Africa, South America, Asia and the Caribbean. By ignoring their identities we are not standing together as one, but as many.
“I’m glad for the change,” British drag queen China Dethcrash explained. “We know more now than we know when the flag was designed, and we can quantifiably say that black queer people are disproportionately the targets of hate crimes. adding these colours is a symbol of inclusivity-there’s room for everyone under the queer umbrella, this is about love and representation, not division.”
“As a POC in the gay community, the adding the of these colours to the flag is the loud scream of inequality in the LGBT community by the minority, an inequality that’s glossed over daily as ‘preference’ or ‘fetishism’ and we’ve let this happen for far too long,” Yshee Black, a POC drag queen in the UK explains.
There is literally zero harm in showing solidarity with the most fringed corners of our community. In the same way the acronym for LGBT people always changes and alters to include different people (LGBT, LGBTQ, LGBTQIA, LGBT+, GLBTQIA+ etc.) there is no standardisation of what our flag(s) can look like. The fabric of queer identity is cut from every corner of life. LGBT experience is not homogenous and it is our duty to protect and and every single person within the community, regardless of gender, race or orientation. We are a patchwork of demographics, generations, creeds and cultures that have interwoven politics and resistance as an integral part of our identities. We are the product of protest, the offspring of revolution and only where we are today through intersectionality. Black people fought for us throughout history. We have a duty to come together and celebrate our heritage.
In an age of Trump, Chechnya, the DUP, hate crime and unsettling times ahead, it is imperative that the LGBT+ community comes together exactly like how we did after Stonewall, during the AIDS crisis and in the year since Pulse, to stand together as one unit and not bicker amongst ourselves over two extra colours. It is unity and defiance that equates to real change. We cannot move forward as a community until we recognise that our community is white, black, brown, bi, cis, trans, in love, out of love, non-binary and not here to take the world’s homophobic bullshit.
If we can let the Babadook in, we can let people of colour in. Ask yourself why it is that the idea of including and showing solidarity with a group of people in your community is such a problem for you
This is our flag, not mine.