There is no question that the rainbow flag has become the symbol of our community’s fight for equality. And that flag that the community embraces has gone through changes but never any that have been so publicized as the recent updates that were made to it in Philadelphia. That makes me want to ask, What’s all the fuss about?
The rainbow flag has seen many variations since Gilbert Baker presented it in 1978. Those changes were for various reasons, so why is anyone making a fuss about the fact that Philadelphia — in an act of inclusion and to heal a racial rift in the community — added brown and black stripes? We, and the flag, stand for inclusion. (And by the way, a black stripe was there at times before to represent the HIV/AIDS crisis.) The flag is a living symbol. No one is asking for any one or place to follow suit, unless it helps your community. No one is saying that any community can’t change a color for another reason.
A change that brings inclusion is a good change, unless you’re opposed to inclusion. I’m sure that, in time, the flag will go back to the six colors, like it did when Act Up stopped using the black stripe during the AIDS crisis.
If the original six colors are so important to critics, why can’t most answer this simple question: Is the orange stripe on the top or bottom? The answer is neither. So which colors are on the top and bottom? Most of us don’t have that answer. That’s because the flag is a symbol, not a contract.
Baker changed the flag during his lifetime to represent the changes in our community. He signed and presented me with a flag after reading my book. To this day, I haven’t opened it to see which rainbow flag he gave me since it’s a comfort to know that the flag exists in any form. Baker would be happy to know that the flag was being used to bring people together.
One last point: Does anyone recall the last symbol that represented this community before the rainbow flag? It was the Lambda sign — and what was that? The seventh letter of the Greek alphabet …
Thank you, Gilbert Baker, for that rainbow flag.