We need to do more to combat inequality!
A flag’s primary role is to create solidarity. It does this by encapsulating one overarching theme that unifies the entire community. A flag doesn’t highlight specific identities because it knows that everyone within its community is different. They all share different values and different cultures and transcend every sociological factor.
A flag is simply an umbrella for all who belong to a community.
But some within the LGBTQ community feel it is necessary to single out specific groups with a new flag — namely people of colour (POC) and trans people — adding more colours to an already busy lineup. And while it is important to acknowledge those who are far more marginalised within our community, I believe this ‘singling out’ is both unnecessary and counterproductive.
It’s unnecessary because the pride flag (in and of itself) does not discriminate on who belongs. If you harness a sexual orientation or gender that does not fit the heteronormative narrative, you belong. That’s according to the rainbow flag.
It’s also counterproductive because it creates more questions than answers. Why POC and why trans? Why not pansexuals, asexuals and non-binary folk?
On top of this, re-establishing a new flag will cause problems within global segments of queer communities who have long adopted the rainbow flag as their mascot. In nearly every country, the six-colour rainbow is already positioned as the flag for the LGBTQ community. Changing it means we have to re-educate people on the new colours, which takes time.
Further, the call for changing the flag is already dividing people across the globe, which is not helpful if we wish to gain traction in global inequalities around sexuality and gender. How do you suppose we can bring awareness to all our issues if we are bickering between each other? It’s practically impossible.
Isn’t that the lesson we learn in movies and books? That sticking together is better than going rogue.
Indeed, while changing the flag won’t solve the issues facing POC and trans people, it’s clear their issues are both equally important. And if we’re going to solve them, we need to enact change from within.
Change The Narrative, Not The Title
A flag is like the title of this blog post. I can change the title, but the blog post will always be the same. In the same way, you can change the pride flag, but the soul of the queer community will remain the same.
In fact, changing the pride flag is best described as a band-aid solution. It may create stronger inclusion by drawing focus on POC and trans people, but it won’t solve the issues around inequalities. This sentiment is vocalised by Shawn Ginwright and Sai Seigel in Stanford Social Innovation Review:
“To place race at the center of conversations and strategies which aim for diversity, equity, and inclusion means moving beyond solving surface problems and acknowledging where and how inequity is baked into current systems and structures,” Shawn and Sai say.
“That entails spotlighting the underlying causes of racial inequality: people’s hidden biases and the institutional culture that normalizes whiteness.”
Once we generate a collective awareness of the underlying causes of inequality in marginalised groups, then (and only then) can we can drive towards true political and social change. But how can we generate collective awareness if the current conversations around changing the flag are divisive?
One of the greatest lessons I live by is that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The rainbow flag is pretty good. It encapsulates the global queer community; it does not single out particular subgroups, and everyone knows what it means.
What is broken, however, is the way the global community deals with racial and trans inequality. A majority of the western world do not have a clear understanding of the issues they face; in fact, many people are blind to it. Part of the problem, especially with regard to gender issues, is how we communicate these issues.
Keep It Simple, Keep It Balanced
I like to describe the queer community from a liberal perspective. If it doesn’t harm anyone, what’s the problem? As long as I have consensual sex with men, my sexuality won’t adversely affect anyone else. And clearly, a person changing their gender or sex only affects themselves. If you think it affects you, then that’s because you’re making it affect you.
We should all have the right to be who we want to be: to fuck with whoever we want, to dress however we want, and to change our sex if we so wish.
On top of this, any sexuality or gender that doesn’t fit the heteronormative narrative should be objectively termed as natural. Because it is!
What’s unnatural is how we’ve constructed this narrative around gendered clothing, as if only women should wear skirts and men should wear pants. Pink for girls, blue for boys. Trucks for men and makeup for women. What’s the point?
It should also be noted that trans women — after they start transitioning — truly become biological women. Same with trans men. Hormonally and physically, that’s an objective fact.
But, while objectivity is important, it’s equally important to portray the subjectivity of these marginalised communities. Reflecting the true stories that show how similar we all are. Because, apart from differing sexualities and genders, we are all human beings first and foremost.
I believe this narrative style should also be adopted to combat the ongoing racism that is still alive today. Stories shouldn’t always highlight the negative issues. Of course, it’s definitely necessary to call out racism when it arises, but it’s equally important to portray the positive sides among people of colour. And to showcase how human they are.
I say this as a gay white man because this is what I want to see. Especially on the big screen. I want to see people like me — not as a statistical anomaly and not as a token — but as another ordinary thing. Different, yes, but also as human as the rest. Who are just as capable to reach every goal they strive for.
This is how we change the soul of society to reflect the souls of marginalised communities: by promoting the good things as well as highlighting the bad. No child learns to behave from constant negative feedback. We also need praise and affirmative action.
We need to see that things are indeed changing.
As for the flag? Well, deep down I really don’t care if they change it. It’s no skin off my nose. But if we really want to instil change in society, it’ll take more than a simple altering of a cloth.