Pledging allegiance to the rainbow flag and the pride it stands for? Look behind the seams, because there is a lot more to it than just waving it for a month.
No, you are not caught in some trippy vortex of the Care Bears and Lisa Frank sort. There is also nothing wrong with your vision. You are in fact seeing every possible permutation of the rainbow splashed on everything from merchandise of the moment to standard sentiments of solidarity, as well as of the word “pride” stamped for good, glaring measure. Just like clockwork, as heralded by the dawn of the first day of June, the common ground of the internet has erupted in a warm and well-meaning chorus of “happy pride!”
As larger-than-life, smeared in shine, and obscenely festive as it appears to be on the surface, pride isn’t just a party or marketing opportunity that many assume it to be. Meaning many things to different people, it is a personal and passionate undertaking for the diverse and distinct identities that color the spectrum of LGBTQIA+ community. With raised fists, furiously flipped middle fingers, and bricks thrown in defense and protest, pride is a decidedly defiant act that persists at true liberation for everyone made to occupy the margins of the greater narrative of life.
This isn’t to say that the very imprint of pride is a somber one, because as evidenced by the rainbow flags worn as capes, attached as emojis, or drawn on faces, there is an inherent joy that threads through the banner that realizes the natural phenomenon it was inspired from: a reflection of light against a dispersed curtain of water droplets. A manifestation of unadulterated happiness and true freedom to simply be, it is the binding force that intends to unite in hope, beauty, and love.
It’s very easy to get lost in the celebration of it all, but pride isn’t merely pledging allegiance to the rainbow flag for a few good days or a month. Sure, it is way into the complex conversation, but it is just the barest of minimums. While we have made fair strides in telling our truth, the offshoot of which is the very collection of campaigns that promise to acknowledge, accept, and assert our right to love and live, the consciousness is still, for the most part, misled and uninformed. Sure, it can be argued that the queer community is tolerated and increasingly normalized in society, but the buck often stops there. Beneath the status quo that refuses to be shaken to sympathy and support exists a resource of unspeakable thoughts that steam into malicious murmurs, obnoxious opinions, and sharp statements poorly veiled as preferences and points-of-view.
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It doesn’t take a deep dive into the comments section of anyone who proudly speaks their truth to see how much work still needs to be done. For every trans woman who dreams of joining Miss Universe, there is an inexplicably vicious denial of her womanhood; for every gay man who expresses himself as freely and feminine as he wants to, there is a complaint of being too much; for every lesbian who lives as their heart tells them to, there is a constant harassment; for every non-binary individual, there is an assumption that it is just a phase, and for everyone identifying as bisexual, there is an accusation of being sexually indecisive and promiscuous.
Contrary to what these nihilistic numbskulls would like to believe, often guided by a questionable set of morals that are at best skewed and all too convenient, these aren’t just words that people can get over. Profoundly cutting through an already fragile self-esteem, this baseless badgering and belittling inadvertently works to deny ones sexual orientation and gender identity, even forcing it into archaic binaries that limit the will to endure.
And that is just barely scratching the surface of struggles that the LGBTQIA+ community has to deal with on any given day. As proud as we stand on the shoulders that have come before us, blazing trails and breaking boundaries for us to be who are, the fear unfortunately still persists even in an age of supposed compassion. So, waving that rainbow flag during pride month and every other day for that matter is a representation of lives lost, lives compromised, and lives yet to break free, just as it is for those bold and brave to bare their truth.
Blatant inequalities and injustices all over the world aside, there is a concentrated amount of abuses and atrocities experienced by the LGBTQIA+ community in the Philippines. Over the course of the past year to this day, prejudice is as rampant as it was, this time just disguised in so many forms.
From the illegal detaining of the Pride 20 protesters in June of last year, the discrimination in spaces and professional opportunities such as the published stand of Isla Reta beach resort against the accommodation of transgender people, the recent circulation of the casting preference and provisions for a fastfood chain that singled out the exclusion of actors with BL series experience, and more heartbreaking, the unresolved abductions, rapes, and deaths of queer-identifying people, especially trans men and women including the heinous killings of Ebeng Mayor, Julie Catamin, Junjie Bangkiao, and Cavite 3 (Nicole Quilaneta, Erika Endrina, RR Bondoc).
With a lot more unreported and unknown, this is the very reason why there is more to letting that rainbow flag fly high in the month of pride. A coming together of resistance from the uprising that began at Stonewall in June 28, 1969, being united under the banner that is not only representative of inclusion, but of an assurance that we are not alone in this fight, has been a significant movement towards liberation and equality for the queer folk.
From mutual suffering to the halls of legislation, it is at the very core of pride constantly reminding us that we are not less than what society dictates to be just and right. More than enough, it is high time the system that supposedly caters to its people to not only recognizes and respects the LGBTQIA+ community, but more importantly protect them equally in law, specifically through the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (SOGIE) Equality or Anti-Discrimination Bill.
Intrinsically, the community should be beyond the validation of the straight people or the many corporations that ride and hijack the bandwagon of pride. That is a resolve you have to make with yourself, because honey, if they don’t make you feel in any way good, pay them no damn mind. But if waving and wearing the rainbow, especially during pride month, is what takes for more people to understand and to join in on the dialogue, then so be it. This time, however, we are reclaiming it for what it rightfully is, putting an end to the homophobia, transphobia, and the outright inhumanity on our brothers, sisters, and chosen families.
While it does its part in spreading the message far and wide, it still largely plays to the products of privilege we were made aware of. So, more than just decorating your safe space with the colors of the rainbow and the encompassing word of pride, step out of that circle and do more than what is comfortable. Skip the tired clichés and performative expressions, because whether we admit it or not, we have entered the matrix of enlightenment where everyone is looking and listening.
This means exercising due diligence with everything from discerning the brands that claim to support pride by making sure they really give back to the community and have employee diversity and inclusion programs and policies, electing leaders who actually have our best interests in mind and not just using it to charm during elections season, and going beyond just a social media status or story, because honestly, there is no expiration date when it comes to our call to action.
You see, it’s not all Gaga, glitter, and glamour as one would assume, because for a community that was told to hide (and deny) who we are, even made to feel like an abomination, a disgrace, a mistake, nothing beats the feeling of belonging. Trooping in such a force with the comforts of the rainbow flag wrapped around us during pride month is a soothing embrace to the years of trauma and pain ingrained into our psyches.
Empowering as it is, the flag of pride wields a world of acceptance for the unseen, unheard, and underestimated from the people that matter, us. Just like the smile it brings to one’s face after a bout of torrential rain, may the rainbow give true and lasting meaning to the bookends of our conversation this month, and in many more to come after. For the people we fight for then and now, ourselves included, happy pride, beautiful souls!