NOTE: This was written for Watermark magazine and published in June 1998. A few Orlando Queers liked it, but many called me names from "killjoy" to "arrogant little bitch who doesn't know what she's talking about." I got letters, too!
Personally, I think a little flaunting is a good thing, especially in light of the fact that so many straights wish that gays would stay quiet and Bisexuals would "make the right choice." Hand-holding, using the correct pronoun(s) to describe one's partner(s), eating at a restaurant, and a million other social niceties that I enjoy without a second thought with the boyfriend are all too daring with the girlfriend. I grin at two women, two men, or a triad who "flaunt" their affection. It gives me such hope. If a plump girl with long brownish-blondish hair thumbs-up your vehicle, it's on account of the rainbow flag you've attached to it. How lovely to have such a bright, beautiful symbol of our Queer community and our diversity. Even middle-school kids recognize it. In fact, it's so very recognizable that Restoration, an ex-gay ministry, has started its own Taking Back the Rainbow project, complete with merchandise!
So all in all, I love rainbow flags and think we need more of them around. As I write, Operation Rescue is planning to protest abortion, pornography, and homosexuality here in Orlando. I thought that the rainbow flags would be a nice welcome for those troublemaking carpetbaggers, kinda like the yellow Stars of David worn by all of Denmark when the Germans invaded in World War II. Their exuberant brightness would serve notice to OR that hate from out of state is not welcomed here.
Yet I, a sexual-libertarian Bisexual woman who's preached "visibility" for years, find myself offended by the flags. Most assuredly, my reasons differ from my mother's, but the offense is just as real. When I first read about this project, my eyes bugged out. I knew my numeric-dyslexia had to be acting up again. "Fifteen THOUSAND dollars?" I railed at some friends. "For some thrice-damned RAINBOW FLAGS?"
"Really," Maureen giggled. "He could've shopped around, huh?" For some reason, she finds my rants entertaining and won't take them with the seriousness they deserve.
Thank God/dess, at least the funding was handled privately, unlike the funding for Christmas decorations and the venue for Orlando's recent National Day of Prayer festivities. (I was soooo tempted to go down there and see if an invocation to the Goddess and an ancestor libation would be accepted. However, I don't feel a need to inflict my religion on others on taxpayers' time.) But...15,000 dollars! Try as I might, I can't stop myself from envisioning a flushing toilet. Fif...teen...thousand...dollars. Say that again. What could you or your favorite organization do for Orlando's sexual minorities with twenty...five...thousand...dollars? I have some ideas:
Tikkun olan, the repair of the world, is needed in this community, and in more ways than I suggested. Visibility helps, for sure. But real visibility--taking her hand, that casual referral to him, expressing offense at that gay joke--costs much more time and courage than money and is worth much more than 15,000 dollars. Symbolic gestures are cheap and easy. Our self-declared leaders are too quick to content themselves with them. To quote a gentleman at The Advocate's General Discussion Newsgroup, "I waste no time trying to get added to the plaque on the Statue of Liberty, "Give me your poor, your tired, YOUR QUEERS. NO! I demand nothing less than the REAL rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Sacred Documents of the formation of the good old U.S. of A. To hell with pleading to some nitwit member of Congress and the white-headed clown that sits in the leather chair of an office that has oval walls to pass and sign a piece of paper that says I may have what already belongs to me."
Bless Nadine Smith, Patty Sheehan, Jon Marsa, and so many others in Florida. These are real people who do real work for the larger community and our own. Keith Peterson, who devised and raised the money for this project, does real work for Watermark. Considering that my clerical paycheck slips through my hands like water, perhaps I shouldn't harp too much on this project's cost effectiveness. Certainly raising all that money is an accomplishment, and Keith's heart is in the right place even if the flags are not. Honor to you, man.
Git out of here...
Angelfire - Easiest Free Home Pages
Jayelle's Pagan-American Princess Pages
Jayelle's Interfaith Discussion Forum/VodouNet Message Board