Last week I discussed the California flag, the first of my birthright flags and today I will talk about the second birthright flag, and arguable the more important one in my life: the gay pride, or rainbow, flag.
I consider this flag to be a birthright because I know from experience that I was born gay. I know some people would passionately dispute this assertion, alternatively arguing that I have made a “choice” at some mysterious point in my life that I don’t recall to be “different” or to “rebel” against normative values. To this I would say two things: first, at what point did any heterosexual person make the “decision” to be straight and for as long as I can remember, far before I had an concept of what sex or sexuality even was, I knew I found men appealing. I distinctly recall this attraction from the age of four or five. Given that I had no concept of sexuality at such an age, I find it ridiculous to argue that I made a “choice.”
The original gay pride flag flew in the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25, 1978 although it was probably first conceptualized and sewn in 1977 following the request of soon to be assassinated San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk.
This original flag, the one flying here,
consisted of eight stripes,
the meanings of which are indicated below:
Hot Pink: Sex
Admittedly, I take issue with some of the color symbology here, but as I didn’t create it I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much.
The flag would change quickly in late 1978. Following the assassination of Milk on November 27, 1978 demand for the flag increased wildly. There was a shortage of hot pink fabric so that stripe was dropped in favor of the more readily available seven color rainbow format, a style which already existed for other purposes or organizations and which could be rapidly produced to meet demand.
The seven stripe flag is below:
While I understand, intellectually, that it was a fabric supply chain issue that forced the change, I also find the elimination of the stripe representing sex to be telling of the shape the gay liberation movement would eventually take, an admittedly successful one in terms of marriage equality, of eliminating not only an emphasis on sex and sexuality, but a neutering of the movement completely in favor of focusing on “family values,” or how “we are really all just like you” by which “you” means heterosexual America. And, in fact, the deciding vote in the Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage throughout the United States was cast by Justice Kennedy who was swayed by the potential impact on the children of gay parents if those parents couldn’t marry.