Why you shouldn’t stop waving the rainbow flag on Facebook

BY MARK BRENNAN ROSENBERG

On July 2, in what seemed to be an attempt for the Washington Post to acquire as many clicks as possible, an article entitled “Why you should stop waiving the rainbow flag on Facebook” was posted on the site. Backlash quickly ensued—and rightfully so.

At the Post, Peter Moskowitz, describes how he grew up seeing the rainbow “pride” flag as a sign that he was different, which made him extremely uncomfortable. Moskowitz continued to explain that he felt our straight allies who changed their profile pictures to display a rainbow flag on it were either doing so to look politically correct or—since they did not actively partake in the battle fought to gain marriage equality—were performing an “empty gesture.”

Facebook did not invent co-opting, but it allowed it to happen en masse this week. It gave an unprecedented number of people the power to claim understanding of a struggle they do not actually know. When millions of people cloak themselves in a symbol without understanding what it means, they dilute that symbol’s power.

Moskowitz’s piece seems better suited as a diary entry and less so an article for the Post. The LGBTQ community has made amazing strides in the past few years—strides many members of the community never thought we would reach. 

Yes, there’s still work to do. Yes, HIV and AIDS still run rampant in the community. Yes, there are still issues with transgender rights. There will always be many other battles to fight. The human experience in itself is fraught with obstacles and hurdles and as long you are alive, chances are you will find someone who stands in your way or disagrees with what you believe in. 

In the age of social media, we tend to live in a world where our victories are celebrated all too briefly. Now, many LGBTQ people are quickly racing to complain about the next big issue without taking a moment to revel in the afterglow of our hard fought achievement. Personally, I found it remarkable that so many people stood up in support of the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, regardless of their identity. It was a show of solidarity for a progressive ruling that not only changed the country, but also forced many people to finally see their LGBTQ counterparts as equals.

Of course, many have questioned the intent of Facebook’s rainbow flag filters:

  • Was Facebook offering pride profile pictures as a psychologic test? 
  • Are big companies only supporting gay marriage because they don’t want to seem like bigots?

To the naysayers and to Mr. Moskowitz, I offer this: What difference does it make? Support is support. 

It doesn’t matter if my straight best friend has never been gay bashed or has never been denied the right to get married. That friend of mine has seen my struggles firsthand and—because he understands that—he supports me. I didn’t storm the beaches of Normandy, but I’m certainly appreciative of the fact that we aren’t living in a world full of Nazis. You don’t need to go through the journey to show solidarity with a marginalized group of people.

If we want to a have a serious conversation about taking down flags, let’s instead continue the conversation about the need to get rid of the Confederate flag rather than a flag viewed by so many as a wonderful expression of pride and civil rights.

You don’t need to go through the journey to show solidarity with a marginalized group of people.

Quite frankly, I was overwhelmed with pride when my co-workers, friends and family members changed their Facebook profile pictures to support equal marriage rights. It symbolizes a steady, yet dramatic change in how this country views the community that I am part of. Without our allies, we wouldn’t have achieved this victory. I can only imagine what the HIV/AIDS outbreak during the 1980’s would have looked like had there been similar support for the community 30 years ago. This is what change looks like.

Yes, the LGBT community indeed has a long road to travel before we have 100 percent of the same rights our straight counterparts have. However, let’s take a moment and enjoy this victory before we start complaining about why and how straight people support us. 

To many, this small gesture of changing a profile picture is indeed a big deal. There’s always more our allies can do but, for now, this is a promising start. So let’s leave those rainbow Facebook profiles up—show your support and continue to do so until the very last battle is fought and won.

Mark Brennan Rosenberg is the author of the critically acclaimed book Blackouts and Breakdowns. His second book, Eating My Feelings, will be released this August through Crown. He is also the author of the popular blog The Single Life…. He currently resides in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @markbrosenberg.

This article originally appeared at Huffington Post Gay Voices and was reposted with permission.

Photo via Ludovic Berton/Wikimedia Commons