Manchester Pride has opted to be the UK’s first city to officially use an alternative Pride flag for 2019 and beyond. While using the standardized rainbow, the flag has two additional stripes: brown and black. These represent queer people of color within the LGBTQ+ community.
And of course, outrage ensued.
Are the rainbow colors supposed to represent unity in diversity of LGBTQ+ people?
And has it lived up to that promise?
All you really need to do is look at the comments from white LGBTQ+ men and women to get an idea of why this might be needed. But instead…
Take a seat – it’s time to listen
LGBTQ+ activism is overwhelmed by white activists handling the narrative, where the fight against homophobia and transphobia around the world is illustrated by white people against white communities. In movies, television and literature, white queerness is seen over and over (Moonlight and Ru Paul remain two of the few exemptions), while the health and medical needs of white gay men are placed front and center over all others.
Much like with White Feminism, there is a singular focus on the white standard. The assumption that raising the wage gap for white women (77¢), for example, will increase it for Black and LatinX women (64¢ & 56¢ respectively) is the same excuse we see in the LGBTQ+ community.
White washing the crisis
Take young Black gay men, who are more likely to have HIV than any other group. Preventative care and education, however, addresses white gay men with educational materials and the readily available conversations within white districts. The belief that raising awareness for white people will impact other communities is a frank lie.
In the United States, HIV has a disparate impact on communities of color, making up more than a quarter of all cases. Black people make up 43 percent of total HIV related deaths since Robert Rayford in 1969. Rayford, a Black gay man, was the first recorded case, occurring before even the white washed history of the Stonewall Riots, which was led by queer people of color.
On-screen portrayals of the crisis in the 1980s depicts the fight by white men. Philadelphia and The Normal Heart showcase white men while barely noting queer men of color. What we in the white community often forget is that Black men were more impacted by the crisis, yet we never seem to want to draw any attention to it.
This is demonstrated more recently, in the 2018 play, The Inheritance. Despite its small, diverse cast, and the discussion of Black gay men accounting for most of the victims, we are told the story, albeit beautifully, through white male leads; the non-white characters play supportive roles.
Progress since the early 1980s has been made; the trend of white people with AIDs declined with the wider access to preventative information and medical advancements. But in the same timeframe the number of people living with AIDs has increased for Asian, LatinX, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, and Black people who alone account for nearly half of all cases in the US. Is it because they are prone to negligence, or is it because the same preventative measures aren’t easily accessible?
Back to 2019…
Most recently there has been a stronger focus on transgender people and the discrimination faced from both the heteronormative, cisgender world, and within the LGBTQ+ community. US legislation, including the notorious bathroom bills, and the readily reported statistics of trans people committing suicide more than almost any other group has forced us to face societal transphobia. But even then, we still focus on the white narrative.
Black transgender people are twice as likely to face unemployment, leading to a higher rate (41 percent) of homelessness, more than five times the rate of the general US. population. Extreme poverty is faced by 34 percent, and more than 20 percent live with HIV, compared to the 2.64 percent of the general transgender community.
In every LGBTQ+ group, people of color face discrimination at work, in school, and in their local communities from both their queerness and their race. So it’s of little surprise that the Black LGBTQ+ community are more likely to face violence, physical, verbal and sexual abuse. Death too, whether through homicide or suicide, comes at a much higher rate.
And when white people aren’t eradicating Black people, we fetishize
Black people have been hypersexualized by white people for centuries. For Black women, the focus is on loudness, ‘exotic’ features, and large bottoms, while for men, we have normalized the caricature of the ‘thug’. These depictions are not limited to the screen, but occur in regular, racist conversations masked as false compliments. White Grindr users are regularly seen demanding aggressive Black men and “that BBC”. This fetishization manifests into a pleasurable itch desperate for relief, and in turn dehumanizing Black people, and reducing their existence to a commodity used and abused for our white entertainment.
White men and women in the LGBTQ+ community happily use profanity against Black and brown people because “I’m also marginalized”, yet decide to act shocked when we’re told, despite our so-called rainbow-inclusive community, they feel the need to find a safe space.
This is not inclusion.
We hide behind our colors and screech our insistence that we welcome everyone, while simultaneously disregarding, degrading, and deleting any person who is neither white nor cis.
So let’s return to the matter at hand:
Do we need a flag that highlights queer people of color despite our falsehoods of inclusivity?
A long time ago. Although this feminist guy thinks Daniel Quasar’s Progress Pride redesign should be the standard going forward.
To those who disagree, step aside. We don’t want you in our intersectional community.