The ‘’Stolen’’ Gay Male Pride Flag
Let’s talk about the popular and sorta controversial gay flag from @gayflagblog, shown below. please check out my sources linked throughout the post for yourself.
The Reason a Flag is Needed In The First Place
The rainbow flag has always been the most popular flag for gay men to signify gay-ness and still is, even though this flag is gaining some popularity. Because of the centring of (cis, white, rich) gay men in general, due to our world’s generally patriarchal modern structure, society’s image of the LGBT+ community, the rainbow flag from 1978 and its new 6 stripe form has often been mistakenly attributed to gay men in particular, despite the rainbow flag being a deliberately inclusive flag that includes all LGBT+ people. So, for a while, gay men and lesbians didn't have popular, widely used flags for our specific identities as gay men and lesbians, though more flags started to be popularised for specific identities, such as bisexual, transgender and asexual while previous lesbian and gay male flags hadn't achieved widespread use. Lesbians and gay men started using the internet to figure out specific identity flags. why? because enough people wanted something more specific.
I’m going to go through some reasons that some people have for not only not using this flag, but discouraging its use by other people.
I disagree, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. this isnt an actual reason to discourage use of this flag.
people have started making fun of the flag by saying that it looks ‘’like toothpaste’’. I think this is just people who mistakenly believe that this flag has big problems (that im going to debunk in this post) and are making fun of it because of that, rather than the appearance of the flag being their main problem with it.
‘‘it was made by a *insert bad adjective here* person’‘
A lot of people seem to believe that the @gayflagblog flag was ‘’made by a truscum/misogynist/[insert bad adective here’]’. Personally i don’t believe that because a symbol was made by someone you don;t agree with or who has done harm, doesnt mean it is necessarily unusable. I think it should be on a case-by-case basis and based on whether you are actually perpetuating those ideas or providing camouflage for dangerous movements by using the symbol, but lets talk about whether this objection is based in facts.
@gayflagblog is an anonymous account that does not talk about issues that are not to do with the flag, and specifically has made the flag inclusive of all gay men, which makes these accusations factually baseless.
here is why people began believing this.
[ID: gayflagblog flag left, Pride-flags flag right]
These flags look pretty damn similar. The @gayflagblog flag is clearly meant as an improved version of the flag on the right. people who are unfamiliar with these flags or who have impaired vision/colour blindness are totally going to mix them up.
A lot of people believe the flag on the right was created by a truscum. This is not actually true. The flag was posted on deviantart by a mod, (who is not a truscum) from an account called Pride-Flags, in 2017. [alt source]
A blogger with transmedicalist views, @discourse-king on tumblr (now deactivated) posted the flag that mod Hermy made, and worded the post in a way that made it seem like they had created it. The post got more reach than the original post on Deviantart.
@gayflagblog and mod Hermy are not transmedicalists. discourse-king was a truscum/transmed blog, but they didnt make either flag.
‘‘i dont like that it mainly uses the colour blue because it seems stereotypical’‘
The colour blue is definitely the stereotypical masculine colour. That doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be used to represent men, however. there are several pride flags that utilise pink and blue to represent men and women, such as the pansexual, bisexual and transgender flags.
[ID: pansexual, bisexual and transgender flags]
note: the bisexual flag's stated colour meanings for the pink and blue are same genders and other genders, but it is still a good example of a stereotypically gendered colour scheme and the gender stereotypes associated with these colours are present in many people's interpretations of the flag)
It’s understandable to be uncomfortable with the dominance of blue in the standard @gayflagblog flag ,however, there are variations of the flag that have less blue in them.
the presence of blue in the flag is an obvious choice, but the creator could have scaled it back a bit in my opinion.
it’s stolen from the sunset lesbian flag’’
[ID: 7 stripe and 5 stripe gay man and lesbian flags side by side, One lesbian flag is upside down to show different alignments]
This is a very popular reason people have for being uncomfortable with the popular gay male flag. The sunset lesbian flag was proposed in 2018 (likely based on other designs that people had been posting, combining the lipstick lesbian flag and the orange butch lesbian flag) the @gayflagblog flag was posted on tumblr on July 10th 2019. it’s very clear that the creator of the popular gay male flag was inspired by the design of the sunset lesbian flag. But is it a case of copying? is this flag just a ‘’hue shifted lesbian flag’’ as people often say?
this is what happens when you try to make the sunset lesbian flag look like the gay man flag using photshop’s hue shift feature. not only are the colours not the correct luminosity/brightness, they are much less diverse in hue than they need to be. the amounts of the colour spectrum that we label as certain colours like pink, orange, green, purple are not equal in size.
[ID: photoshop colour picker]
as you can see, the size of the ‘’orange’’ part of the spectrum is much smaller than the ‘’blue’’ side of the spectrum. the idea that this flag was created literally by hue shifting is mathematically impossible.
So we know just by looking at it that this flag was inspired by the 2018 sunset lesbian flag, but is it a problem that this gay flag was partly inspired by this lesbian flag? Well, firstly we have to figure out how original the sunset lesbian flag is in the first place, and actually, the origins of this lesbian flag are a lot more gay (of the male variety) than you may expect.
Wow. that’s complicated. I'm sure I left out a lot of history in this chart, but you get the general idea. Gay and lesbian symbols have always been very intertwined, inseparable, it seems.
How do you copy a flag that is a merging of 2 versions of another flag, that was copied from another flag, that was inspired by 2 flags that were inspired by another flag? this isn't a case of copying, it's chaotic flag-ception. it’s actually quite beautiful, gay and lesbian communities interacting and making art throughout the years.
We came from the Gilbert Baker rainbow flag, to the Leather and Bear flags, to an obscure flag made by Fausto Fernós, that was turned into a borderline-copied lipstick lesbian flag, that turned into a gay male flag, a general lesbian flag and a butch flag, and those flags were smooshed together by many different internet users into another flag with influence from the trans flag (and I believe the green, grey and black aromantic flag was also an influence but I would have to ask the internet users who were creating combinations such as Emily Gwen, whos version of the combined sunset lesbian flag got the most popularity), and that smooshed together with the gay flag and the other Frankenstein lesbian flag into the gay flag you see at the bottom. Isn’t queer art amazing?
My point here is not to say that copied or heavily inspired flags are a bad thing, though. this is the nature of queer symbols. we arent divided into separate factions who only unite for the occasional issue, we are constantly mixing with each other, because we have similar political needs. A huge amount of us LGBT+ people have gone through multiple labels, personally i have lived as a bisexual girl, a cis lesbian, a nonbinary genderfluid pansexual person with a preference for women, a bisexual/omnisexual trans boy, an abrosexual trans boy, and a genderfluid gay/opalian/technically also bisexual trans man. the categories we have between experiences of gender and sexuality are lines we have drawn, they are not clearly defined and they are not objective, and that’s okay. despite the different words that we use to describe ourselves, we are all impacted by the way the world reacts to our divergence from the most common norms of sexuality, sex, romance and gender.
This isn't a case of one artist claiming another artist’s work as their own, or maliciously profiting off of another party’s labour, those situations are deceptive and potentially harmful. So where does the idea that because a queer symbol, (something used in a fashion similar to folk songs, where the ownership is communal and the art is always evolving) is inspired or even copied, it is therefore bad, come from?
The structure of the societies and systems we live in have shaped the way we see the world, and it has happened from such young ages that we haven't even noticed. we view everything as something that could potentially be commodified for profit. we don't think of it this way consciously, but the evidence is there in the way we interact with many things, including queer art and queer symbols. I recommend this video from Patricia Taxxon that questions the legal institution of intellectual property, even if you don't agree with her overall point that the legal institution of intellectual property is a problem, it will still give anyone reading this a critical look at the way we subconsciously think about art.
I guess the bigger point of this post isnt really ‘’stop telling people not to use the blue purple and green gay flag’’, though you really should stop doing that.
It’s this: Let’s de-commodify queerness and de-capitalize our minds.
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