On Wednesday morning, a staff member at the New York LGBT Community Center arrived at work to find one of its rainbow flags burned. Glennda Testone from The Center called it “a hate crime,” noting, “Hate and intolerance against LGBT New Yorkers will not be accepted, and we as a community must stand strong and together in the face of these hateful incidents.” Right now, there’s no evidence pointing to who committed the crime. But there’s certainly the possibility the person who burned the flag is from our community. After all, it’s happened before.
Every few years, a stupid Republican politician will propose an anti-flag burning amendment to show how patriotic they are and how much commie liberals hate America with their so-called “free speech.” But few would call burning a U.S. flag “a hate crime,” even though it’s meant to intimidate a subset of people (Americans). Our own citizens have burned U.S. flags to protest of the country’s policies, often foreign-related issues, like Vietnam or Iraq. So viewed this way, burning the rainbow flag could be less about bigotry and more about protest, possibly even from one of our own LGBT brothers and sisters.
For example, “Squicker, the gay revolt Skinhead” says that he burned a rainbow flag in 1997 at the San Francisco Folsom Street Fair:
Not that I have anything against the rainbow flag… [it] is a kind of territorial pissing that marks queer turf… the ability of gays to mobilize in collective self-defense deters the attacks that homosexuals used to suffer more routinely.
But at the same time the rainbow flag is a gimmick to sell things to a captive and enthusiastic audience. No, I have nothing against making a buck. It is just that these things are not sold on their own merits… Gay culture was once a survival strategy and liberation movement and now it is just a marketing gimmick. The slogans of the movement miss the mark, erase the guys I get off with, and make little sense where I live.
Certainly he’s not alone in his feelings about the emptiness of “rainbow marketing”, the illusion of a unified “rainbow community”, or the strangeness that such “rainbow” should have an affluent white guy’s face. Just take a look at Bash Back, the so-called radical queer group that defaces anti-DADT billboards and, possibly, HRC’s headquarters.
That’s not to defend the cowardly NYC flag burner; LGBT people can still carry out hate crimes against their own. But why not use the incident — whether you call it a hate crime or terrorism or polluting the environment by increasing humanity’s carbon footprint — to raise the question about what policies our community embraces at the potential expense of our own?