Student CAMP: Segmentation
|by Kristen Minor|
|The other day I found myself explaining the rainbow flag. It's a question that I'm sure is one of the top ten asked of gay men and women, right after "What exactly is it that you do...oh, never mind." After explaining that the rainbow flag symbolizes diversity, I realized that there was probably more to it. Something that would hopefully answer the inevitable follow up of, "Why did you gay people take rainbows, anyway? Rainbows used to be cool until they went gay." This is usually said with an air of "of course the rainbow would have wanted to be straight, but nobody asked it."
As it turns out, the rainbow flag came about in 1978. Designed by Gilbert Baker of San Francisco (it just figures), the flag had eight stripes representing the rainbow as a symbol of gay and lesbian pride. It was designed as an alternate to the pink triangle symbol, which some felt was unsavory due to its roots as a Nazi symbol to identify gays. The original flag used pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. According to Baker, those colors represented, respectively: sexuality, life, healing, sun, nature, art, harmony, and spirit. The rest of the gay community was content to say, "oooh, pretty," and regulate the meaning of the colors to those trivia buffs who had a social conscience.
The flag had to undergo some changesit could not be mass produced as designed because hot pink was not commercially available at the time. Subsequently, the 1980s proved that it never should have been. The flag was then reduced to seven stripes. Indigo was removed from the flag in 1979 following the assassination of San Francisco's first openly gay supervisor, Harvey Milk. The pride parade honoring Milk wished to have a symmetrical display evenly divided among the parade route, and it was then that the six color version was cemented as a symbol for GLBT unity and pride.
It is now recognized by the International Congress of Flag Makers, a move which disappointingly never sparked a boycott by the religious right. Derivations and offshoots of the flag have come into usage as wellthere is a bisexual flag, a perky pink and blue number, the black and blue S&M flag, the bear flag, and a litany of symbols which represent all facets of queer society.
To me, the greatest thing that the rainbow flag invokes is a sense of community and inclusion. One nation under queerness, banded together to fight the forces of bigotry and oppression.
How I love the void between theory and practice.
I'll never forget the first queer collegiate conference that I attended. It was spectacular in its diversity, particularly for a conference hosted in Maine. I was very excited about attending, as I was convinced that nothing but good could come from a mix of academic queers.
First workshop, and I'm excited. Then I overhear a girl proudly say, "Well, I'm proud of my labels. I'm a bisexual polyamorous sex-positive radical vegan grrl (I could just tell it was being spelled that way) and I'm not ashamed of it."
The only thing which she had not defined for those around her was her opinion on the superstardom of Wayne Newton, which was quite disappointing.
The sense of enclaves pervaded the entire conference, with the sadomasochistic pierced queers sitting away from the disabled militant vegetarians of color who would of course have nothing to do with the apolitical uptight preppies who dislike sodomy. I'm glad I brought a book.
If nothing else, the conference was the proverbial clue stick that the queer community is about as much of a community as the rest of the world isin an abstract, unsatisfactory sense where falling back on a population very often means falling back on yourself and those just like you.
A recent email I received only served to further my sense of splintering. It statedand I quote"Calling all Dykes, Lesbians, Women of Color, Women without Color, Female Queer Artists, Queer Students, Fat Grrls, Femme Girls, Tomboy Sweethearts, Fix it Dykes, Riot Grrls, Dykes on Bikes, Bi-sexual Women, Boiz, Bi-Mystery Women, Fag Grrls, Spaztic Dykes, Librarian Ladies, Smarty Dykes, Sex Positive Womyn, and anyone who is interested."
Interested in what I will not say, as this is a family-oriented column.
While I am impressed at their sheer breadth of categorization, (what on earth are boiz?) I also cannot help but wonder if this extreme segmentation is unique to queer people. While the 80 billion and rising number of Protestant denominations and splinter groups as well as the specialization of everything from AA meetings to television stations are indicators of this trend in society at large, I've never seen anyone but queers get so very specific. Perhaps the act of figuring out one's sexual orientationhaving to identify as a "them" instead of an "us"lends itself to further breaking down the self until a checklist of attributes is identified. I'm sure some people go so far as to make a list and present it to potential dates so as to avoid future turmoil. ("You're a They Might Be Giants fan, and I can accept that, but I simply cannot date a cellist.")
The rainbow flag should be re-symbolized. Red can stand for Hemp-Wearing Nader Voters from the South, orange for...
Kristen Minor is a member of the class of 2004 at Dartmouth college. She identifies as "someone who likes girls and thinks people can be bloody silly" and can be reached at email@example.com. Please do not email her about Wayne Newton
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 11, No. 12, August 24, 2001.