The LGBTQ community continues to grow, continues to change. This progress happens even though we are living in an era backpedaling into conservatism and sanctioned homophobia.
Sadly, states like Florida have declared war on LGBTQ-focused diversity education and trans students. As the dark clouds of hatred gather again, we must remain defiant and unapologetic.
These are the thoughts that occupy my mind as we gather on the first weekend of June to celebrate Provincetown Pride. I will be there to help kick off the weekend on Friday representing the Gilbert Baker Foundation, named for the creator of the original Rainbow Flag. An exhibition of community pride flags called “In Their Own Voices” will be on display on the east lawn of Provincetown Town Hall.
This art show is also a history lesson — one that needs to be known better by the next generation. After all, millions fly or wear the Rainbow Flag. But how many know the story behind it? It’s a gripping tale.
Gilbert Baker created the Rainbow Flag in San Francisco in 1978 with the help of fellow radical activists. He did so at the request of visionary politician Harvey Milk for a substitute for the popular pink triangle, which had its roots in Nazi Germany’s persecution and death camps.
In the 44 years since Gilbert Baker’s creation emerged, more community pride flags have been created to represent the many parts of our diverse community: bisexuals, bears, asexuals, gay people of color, and others. Gilbert Baker welcomed and honored these other banners, lovingly inspired by his own.
As a board member of the Baker Foundation, I am often asked, “The sheer number of community pride flags is overwhelming. Which flag should I fly?”
My answer is this: Fly the flag that speaks to your soul. There is room in the sky for all of them.
Flags inspire and energize people, especially in times of oppression. That is why Gilbert chose to create a flag to lead our people back in the 1970s, when homophobia was as common as bellbottom pants.
Across the nation and around the world, people continue the fight for LGBTQ justice under the Rainbow Flag. In many places — from Poland to Russia to Iran to Uganda to Indonesia to Ukraine — simply being openly LGBTQ can result in a range of dangerous consequences, even, in some countries, torture, imprisonment, and execution. Still, people march on under the rainbow.
“In Their Own Voices” offers a history lesson on the most prominent community pride flags. The exhibition includes the words of the flags’ creators, telling their origin stories and the philosophy behind each of these flags. They include Amber Hikes’s More Color More Pride Flag, Monica Helms’s Transgender Pride Flag, and Dan Quasar’s Progress Flag — three of the eight visionaries we honor in the exhibition.
Join me on Friday at 3 p.m. at town hall to celebrate our history, our heritage, and our future. The struggle is far from over. That’s why we should celebrate even more energetically.
Jay Blotcher is the editor of Rainbow Warrior, Gilbert Baker’s memoir. There will be a reading at 6 p.m. Friday, June 3 at East End Books in Provincetown.