The rainbow flag is so cemented into our culture now that it’s hard to imagine a time when it didn’t exist. It has been around since the late 70s, a creation of San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker with a brief from out gay mayor Harvey Milk to give the community a symbol to unite them. It has become a global symbol for LGBT+ rights and endured ever since - so what was the city of Philadelphia thinking when they added two extra stripes to it in 2016? Why try to fix something which isn’t broken?
The addition of black and brown stripes to show support for ethnic minorities unleashed a tidal wave of criticism, tipping over this year with the news that Manchester Pride would be adopting this variation as its official flag as well. A rainbow doesn’t have black and brown colours, some said. The rainbow flag already includes everyone, others said.
One could argue that the negative reaction is in itself justification for its existence. If people are so quick to dismiss the concerns of minorities then is that not proof that something needs to be done? It’s not in doubt that the LGBT+ community has an inclusion problem, so why is it hard to understand that after thirty years of non-inclusion, a portion of the community feels that the existing flag, no matter its aesthetic simplicity and perfection, does not speak for them? In other words, if you look at the rainbow flag with two extra stripes that don’t seem to visually fit, a flag that people see as ‘jarring’, how can you not think ‘this is a group of people who have so lacked a voice that it takes this awkward adjustment to start the conversation?’ Sometimes a statement needs to be made, and if it’s visually awkward, then so be it. The ‘perfect’,inclusive, all-compassing flag that has purported to be everything for everyone has failed an important part of a community.
Grant Thornton is a firm which allows me to express myself. It’s part of a sea change happening here which allows us to bring our best selves to work. These conversations are happening and it’s important to have a working environment where we all feel comfortable about expressing ourselves, and our differing opinions. This badge, designed by Daniel Quasar, goes further than the Philadelphia/Manchester flags. It encapsulates specific support for ethnic minorities, transgender persons and those who are living with HIV and its chevron design indicates that these are issues which are not yet resolved. The additional lines don’t pretend to be part of the rainbow.They sit there, on their own, slowly encroaching, demanding attention. That’s why I’m proud to be able to wear this pictured badge to client meetings.
When is a flag not a flag? When it is a conversation. A long, overdue conversation.
Does the rainbow flag need black and brown stripes?