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History of the Pride Flag and why the LGBTQ+ Community has been hurt by the use of the Rainbow Flag during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Category: IOPC, Independent Office for Police Conduct, Pride Season, Pride Month, Pride Event, LGBTQ+, COVID-19, Pride Network, LGBTQ+ Ally, LGBTQ+ Inclusion, LGBTQ+ Equality, LGBTQ+ Champion, LGBTQ+ Community, Covid-19 pandemic, LGBTQ+ employee network, LGBTQ+ Culture, LGBTQ+ Rights, IOPC Pride, Pride Flag, Rainbow Flag


Rainbow | The rainbow flag waving in the wind at San Francis… | Flickr


When Gilbert Baker designed the rainbow flag in 1978 in San Francisco he didn’t trademark it because he wanted everyone to be able to use it. Since then, the flag has played an important role in creating presence for a marginalised community, which has fought hard for identity and acceptance. The Pride flag today serves as a symbol to remember all the LGBTQ+ people who have been victims of hate crimes, and those who have fought for our rights. It is a symbol of defiance and protest, as well as a symbol of the diversity in our community, pride in our identities, and hope for the future.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the usual Pride demonstrations we see around the world have not been possible, and lockdown has presented unique challenges for LGBTQ+ people. In 2020, the BBC obtained figures from 45 police forces in the UK that showed the number of reported homophobic hate crime cases almost trebled – from 6,655 in 2014-15 to 18,465 in 2019-20. Around 1 in 5 LGBTQ+ people will experience a hate crime or hate incident because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Furthermore, disproportionate numbers of LGBTQ+ people have found themselves in lockdown with people who do not accept and support them. During this particularly challenging time, hanging Pride flags could have been a powerful way to show support for the LGBTQ+ community. However, the use of rainbow flags as a symbol of support for the NHS has removed this opportunity, by creating ambiguity around what the rainbow flag represents and confusion for the LGBTQ+ community about where their safe spaces are. This has left many LGBTQ+ people feeling that public support of the NHS, while well-intentioned, has come at the expense of respect for LGBTQ+ history. This is an ironic reminder of the lack of response to the AIDS epidemic and sends an (unwitting) message to LGBTQ+ people that our lives matter less than those of non-LGBTQ+ people. 

– Encompass leadership

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