Flying the LGBT+ rainbow flag is patronising, and it won’t get us anywhere.

Aesthetics without actions don’t mean anything

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During my Fresher’s Week last year, I was asked if I wanted to join the “queer mafia”.

My rather taken aback response was to politely decline and walk away, but I felt uneasy. When I declined, it was as if I was missing out on some source of social validation from my “own kind”. The implication that they could offer me some sort of gay refuge was patronising. Such a culture that defines ‘pride’ as unanimous for everyone is unhelpful, and it’s all symbolised by the flying of a rainbow flag.

The attempt to represent LGBT+ people under a uniting rainbow flag isn’t getting us anywhere.

This seeming desire to improve our social standing through broadly categorising and grouping ourselves is such a shame. Though I recognise the flag can be an important sign of pride for some, and an icon of rallying support for others, I can’t help but feel as though I’m part of a brand I never signed up for when I see those notorious colours.

You – cannot – pass!

I can’t tell if I should feel guilty, but the more it’s brandished in front of me, the more I feel disassociated from it. Flags are first and foremost symbols of countries, and in giving ourselves a flag, we’re just creating a sub-society for ourselves. We’re positioning ourselves as the ‘other’.

It supports the stereotype of gay people as living in a separated song-‘n’-dance world filled with happy prancing unicorns filled with rainbows. A rainbow flag just makes us look like the very stereotypes we are victimised for, and I’m tired of being pigeonholed into the same “gay” cliché.

Questions such as “How good is your gaydar?” and “How do you actually have sex?” are tiresome and ignorant, and in trying to resist these clichés this widespread obsession over a rainbow coloured flag isn’t helping. It is the commodification of whom I’m attracted to, a marketing campaign suggesting that I need to parade a flag to affirm my own sexuality, and that of others.

Oh look, my sexuality.

I’m insulted by the fact that a symbol of the clichés I’ve been victimised for is leading the charge for my “pride”. I don’t want to “reclaim” it as my own image, I have so much more to be proud of than just colours on a flag. Yes, I’m proud of my sexuality, but I’m proud of it in the same way I’m proud of my outfit that day, or the essay I just wrote, or the procrastination I just managed to avoid, or the joke I just made. Being gay is nothing more than a sub-strand.

My sexuality is part of me, but it doesn’t define me any more than my choice to drink Diet Coke over full fat, or choose vanilla over chocolate (no pun intended). The bottom line (again, no pun intended), is that LGBT+ people have nothing to be embarrassed about. Maybe I’m missing something blatant here, but, to me, it’s as simple as that. I have nothing to prove.

Companies, businesses, schools etc. are what have something to prove. The sexuality of LGBT+ people isn’t what needs addressing, but the stereotypes of it.

A genuine gesture or meaningless tolerance?

Looking back, I realise I’ve raised as many problems as I’ve addressed, if not more.

So before you tell me to check my privilege, I know where I stand – I’m the eye-rolling cliché of a cis white male middle-class Cambridge student. But I know the hardships gay people go through on a daily basis. Five years of bullying at secondary school taught me that. I’m still a victim of structural oppression – being gay inherently positions me on the sideline of ‘normal’, and it’s from this sideline, that I’ve made my case.

I’m not claiming to have answers, I can’t offer a new campaign, and I’m not condemning those who choose to fly the flag either. So whether you take me to be sitting on the fence, insensitively ignorant, or just outright lost as to what a fulfilling solution could be, you’re right. You’re looking at someone who’s confused at feeling all three.

Sure, some Cambridge colleges flying the flag is a cute gesture, but how meaningful is their endorsement, really?

I’m proud of LGBT+ action, not its mere aesthetic.