Philadelphia recently added black and brown to make a new rainbow flag to promote racial diversity, and some gays have a problem with it.
I never really liked the rainbow flag. I am from a generation of lazy gays. Even though I grew up in a small town where I was the only openly gay guy in high school, I was still lucky enough to make it through unscathed (apart from obvious slurs and light bullying). Then, I went to college in a much bigger city, and became acquainted with my peer group of gays. I spent a good decade with this group (mostly white and upwardly mobile), drinking every weekend, working out all the time, going to every gay party I could find, and basically living a carefree life of truth, where my homosexuality was celebrated. I partied under, with, and dressed in the rainbow flag, but it never really mattered much to me. The one thing I wanted as a young boy was to one day find my place in the gay community, have gay friends, go to gay events, and have the feelings I have always felt inside validated and normalized. I found this many times over in that decade. But it wasn’t enough and still isn’t.
Because even though I am half Asian (a mocha-skinned Malay gay), and technically a gay person of color (POC, as you may have gleaned from the recent Internet ramblings), I look pretty white. I don’t have to deal with the same discrimination that my black and brown gay brothers and sisters deal with both in real life, and on the Internet.
So lets cut the shit, all right? Gay culture is racist. This is because our entire country is racist. Less than fifty years ago, black people and white people weren’t even allowed to marry. You can’t just suddenly decide that our entire country is no longer racist when it was literally founded on the backs of oppressed peoples. People who were alive during the era when interracial marriage was illegal are still alive. Their children, and grandchildren are still alive. Racism is alive and well everywhere — even in the gay community. If you turn a blind eye to that, you are absolutely part of the problem.
When I initially found out about this whole rainbow flag fiasco, I thought, “This doesn’t make any sense because the colors on the flag don’t represent skin color.” They represent less specific things like healing, and sunlight, and hope, and lots of flowery shit like that. That point is, the flag was supposed to represent the diversity of humanity. It was about inclusion, and the fact that gay people come from all walks of life. It was supposed to represent gay people as a community. There is a huge section of the gay community that does not feel included.
So lets cut the bullshit even more. If you are reading this, and you are anything but a gay person of color, you can’t begin to understand. Ask yourself if you have ever said or thought any of the following:
“I’m just not into black guys.”
“I can’t help who I am attracted to.”
“No fats, no fems, no Asians.”
Its true that you can’t help who you are attracted to. Its true you are totally allowed to date whoever you want. But saying “I’m just not attracted to black guys,” is deciding to write off an entire section of human beings from the possibility of a connection based solely on the color of their skin. That is racist at its core, because the one qualifying identifier is skin color.
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Gay people of color are discriminated against in our community. People of color in general are discriminated against in our society. The gay POC’s are fighting to be seen and heard and acknowledged in our community because it gives them a broader context to react to the racism in larger communities in the world. They say if you want to make change, start at your front door. Gay POC’s are trying to do that, so all the white gays that will never know what its like to be singled out because of race, should just shut up and let it happen. What’s the worst that could happen, more tolerance and love?
Most gay people didn’t give two shits about the rainbow flag until now. In that way, maybe this whole kerfuffle is a good thing. Because the original flag, designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978 (RIP), created a voice for the gay community, but that community is made of voices of every color. Gay pride flag is about inclusion. There is an entire subsection of gays that don’t feel like they openly acknowledged as part of our community. So lets make them feel welcome, change the flag, and keep it moving.
Because the truth is, our battle for equality and independence is far from over. Our generation (millennials and younger) was lucky to get a break, but the fight that began when that first BLACK drag queen threw a brick at Stonewall continues on today. It rages on in Chechnya, where they are literally sending gays to concentration camps and murdering them. It rages on in Russia, where they superglue gay men’s buttholes closed and throw them off buildings. It happens in the Middle East where you can be tortured or murdered just for daring to be yourself, openly or not. It happens in America, where gay children kill themselves every single day because they are subject to the dogma of a bigoted, racist, and broken society that doesn’t acknowledge them as real people.
We are living in very uncertain times, and it isn’t even far-fetched anymore to think that we could be in on the brink of another war, both within our country, and without. Now more than ever we need to band together as a community of gays. We need to unite with other minorities. We need to become the majority we were always eventually going to become. And we need to start, by owning our own shit in the gay community, accepting our new emblem, and moving forward passionately with a clear message of equality and inclusion.
So I want to talk now, to every gay white person reading this that has a problem with the change to the gay flag. Remember when you were a child, and scared to come out? Remember when guys during recess would mutter the word faggot under their breath every time you walked by? Remember when you had to take a girl to the prom so nobody would suspect you?
Gay POC’s feel that sense of exclusion and isolation in our community, every day. If adding two colors to the rainbow flag sheds light on that social cause and creates change, then shut the fuck up and let it happen.
After all, creating change is the number one reason we have a rainbow flag to begin with.
The updated Philadelphia rainbow flag, originally unveiled on June 8, 2017.
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