Miami Beach traded out the rainbow pride flag for the progress/inclusion flag for this year’s pride month.

The Miami Dade County LGBTQ advisory board recommended the same to the county commissioners. Both were actions taken with no public comment. There are important differences to notice.

The rainbow pride flag was created by hand at the San Francisco gay and lesbian community center in 1978 and designed by Gilbert Baker — a vexillographer (flag designer). This flag remains public domain (owned by everyone).

The RAINBOW flag focuses on the moment each individual seeks to live their truth and “come out.” A giant step that creates visibility, self-love and empowerment. It’s tied inseparably to the rainbow image as almost a divine and magical illustration of hope and self-actualization. The flag also commemorates Stonewall.

Whether you are a Black trans activist in Budapest, a Latina lesbian in Bogota, or an Asian cisgender gay man in Beijing — everyone shares that moment of self-love when we choose to live our life authentically. It’s universal, from nature, cross-culture, cross-race and cross-gender identity.

Baker also often referred to the LONG rainbow, which meant that over time from generation to generation coming out would lead to less violence, oppression and fear and to a more loving, accepting and socially just world.

Daniel Quasar, a graphic designer in Portland, Oregon, designed the progress/inclusion flag.  He licensed the image personally for commercial purposes. Quasar’s flag takes a part of the rainbow pride flag and intersects colors representing trans-Black and Brown people — reflecting more marginalized communities that need heightened visibility in the hopes of furthering social justice.

The challenge with this flag though is that it essentially hijacks the meaning of the rainbow pride flag for another purpose. It takes the full intention of pride in self-love and acceptance built over 50-plus years in the movement and uses that force to highlight three communities needing greater visibility and empowerment in the U.S. It ceases to be a rainbow, but instead a piece of a rainbow. It ceases to be a PRIDE flag and more like a social justice flag, and is this adaptation the kind of justice we are looking for? Does it make a real difference for any of the communities?

Quasar’s flag has been criticized for its choice of colors. Some feel the blue and pink (from the trans flag) are too binary. Others feel black — chosen to represent HIV/AIDS — is a poor choice by moving away from the color red. That said, the biggest limitation usually cited is the flag’s focus on U.S. internal struggles. Over the long road these marginalized groupings are likely to change always inadvertently excluding some other group.

Why not add other marginalized groups like elders or immigrants? Unlike the rainbow pride flag which was built to last a vision of a long road, the progress/inclusion flag points to specific groups in the current day that are likely to go the way of our much-mocked acronym LGBTQQIP2SAA+.

And what about all those people who fought in the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s? People who were born out of the explosion of human rights in the ‘70s and were allied to the black civil rights movement, the ERA and other struggles for equality. These folks fought at the height of LGBT marginalization during the AIDS crisis. Many elders feel the rainbow flag is their war flag, no different than the way a war veteran might feel about the U.S. flag. Are we really standing on their shoulders or just pushing them aside?

And should the progress/inclusion flag take the place of the rainbow flag during PRIDE MONTH? Are we “proud” at the act of coming out across the world, or at our ability to include others (something we have admittedly struggled with and will likely continue to)? It’s great if your “color” is included, but what if it isn’t?

I welcome the progress/inclusion flag to fly side by side the rainbow flag everywhere and anywhere. The issues it seeks to highlight inarguably need more visibility today. However, the intent and meaning of the rainbow flag gets lost in the progress flag. The progress flag should never replace the rainbow pride flag — much less without public comment.

Baker said it best, “You can’t design a flag. A flag is torn from the soul of the people,” — much like it was in 1978.

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