Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Suggestion for the gay community

I received this following email on my facebook account. I couldn't agree with it more and I think he raises some important issues. While I admire the concept of gay pride and the rainbow, it does have the impact of making others feel excluded. However, the American Flag? That excludes no one. We are all Americans, be it straight or gay or whatever. I echo the challenge that if you attend a protest this weekend and plan to bring a flag - then you should consider making it an American flag and not a rainbow.

Email follows:

I am a straight Californian and an outspoken advocate of LGBTQ rights, which gives me a unique perspective.

Recently, I have felt disconnected from the very community I am fighting for. And I am not alone. Many of my straight friends support equality but feel out of place or uncomfortable speaking out or attending rallies.

Those of you who are orchestrating the rallies this weekend are courageous, intelligent, and well organized. But with all the commotion, it is easy to lose sight of the greater picture. I am writing to share an observation, and to suggest a change that I believe will make a giant difference in this campaign.

The rainbow flag has been an iconic symbol of gay pride since 1978. To many, it is reminiscent of parades and flamboyant revelry. It is also associated with openly gay culture, which most straight people cannot separate from the idea of homosexual intimacy.

This symbol, while powerful to many, comes with baggage. It carries a stigma that most straight Americans are at best, uncomfortable with, and at worst, morally repulsed by.

Right now, the rainbow is the most prominent image on anti-8 websites and at rallies. While pride is important, the core issue here is equality and the law. This image leads most Americans to think about stereotypes and religion, when the aim is to inspire questions about liberty and justice.

It also carries the appearance of exclusivity- the rainbow makes it seem less about equality under the law and more about the gay community and gay pride.

In short, it is deterring many straight people from participating, people who don't want to be labeled as gay, or who see the news and believe these events are focused on gay pride and not intended for the rest of us.

The Pro-8 side spent fortunes developing a strong image. The yellow and blue ‘protect marriage’ logo is now famous, and though most pro-8 advertising was based on lies, good marketing sold those lies.

Now the average Californian turns on the television and sees a variety of people with different signs and rainbow flags. And all of the stereotypes they associate with gay pride come to mind. It would be like seeing a civil rights protest in the 1960’s where the main image was the Black Panther flag. Would this inspire, or exclude?

Instead, at civil rights protests of the 1960’s, many carried American flags, which we associate with patriotism, equality, freedom, and unity. This is similar to what Barack Obama did in his campaign. Although race was a huge issue in his candidacy, he focused on shared American ideals and patriotic images, rather than on his differences. And I think that worked out well for him.

I present the following challenge: Remove the rainbow from your logos, or make it less prominent. Encourage supporters to leave their rainbow flags home this weekend and instead rally with American flags- you can find them anywhere. Encourage them to paint their posters in red, white, and blue. Encourage them to invite friends of all backgrounds and lifestyles out to celebrate diversity, but more importantly, to raise our voices for equality and freedom.

Do this and watch the population of straight supporters grow exponentially. Do this and watch public support swell to epic proportions. Do this and watch us move swiftly toward equality in our state and in our country.

The fight for marriage equality is about our shared heritage and our shared humanity. We need to highlight our similarities- and not our differences- to change the tide on this issue. It shouldn’t matter which protesters are gay and which are straight. Isn’t that the point of this entire movement? Gay, straight, red or blue, we are all human beings who deserve happiness, love, and equal rights under the constitution.

On behalf of the straight people I know, I submit this simple plea: Please make a greater effort to reach out to us and make it easy for us to be involved. And we will take to the streets and raise our voices on your behalf.

With Much Respect,

Jakob Martin


Linda said...

Thank you for being a straight ally and for the suggestion. And yes, I think we need to have American flags there and remind people that we are talking about a very basic American idea... equality under the law.

However, bring your rainbow flag too. I don't want to stifle support from anyone, but a little education is called for here. All movements for equality have struggled with "image." It is a slippery slope. What we can't do is marginalize members of our own group as we struggle for equality. What is next? Worrying about the message transsexuals may convey? The rainbow flag means PRIDE. Sometimes that has been celebration, sometimes anger, sometimes mourning; at all times it has meant finally accepting who we are, loving who are, rejoicing who we are and being proud of who we are. For some of us, getting to that point, the point of being proud of who we are, has been a struggle. The fact that someone might worry about being thought of as being gay if there are too many rainbow flags around is not a reason to leave our flags at home. It is a reason to educate the potential ally about how it feels to be thought of as being gay. It gives them an opportunity to experience a little of what we feel every day.

Maybe you could wear a "straight but not narrow" or "straight ally" button if you are worried about being thought of as gay.

Protest Prop 8! said...

I totally acknowledge this perspective and think there is a valid point here. People should feel comfortable with the message they are delivering.

I will make some more signs focused for the Straight Community to show support.

more soon!

Protest Prop 8! said...

I made a special poster for our STRAIGHT SUPPORTERS... more to come!


Check it out!

Kelly said...

I completely agree with this. While those things are great for parades and such, our goal with these rallies and protests is to spread the knowledge that this is about equality and human rights. As an ally of the LGBT community, I try to stress to other that this is not a gay issue, but a human issue. Unfortunately, when many people see others running down the street, waving rainbow flags, they are immediately turned off and won't listen to our message.

Ironically, I attended a march/rally in Irvine last night and posted a similar message toward the end of my blog entry this morning.