Dare to Ask: Here's perspective on the rainbow
By Phillip Milano
The Florida Times-Union
I'm aware of the sticker culture among gay/lesbian/whomever (i.e. rainbow for
gay/lesbian, black/blue with a red heart for SM/leather peeps). What puzzles me
is when people affix their badge of pride upside-down or backward. Also, I would
not purposefully affix a target to my vehicle for vandals.
Kinsey, 26, gay male, San Francisco
Don't expect anything because of the sticker. No vandalism, and I've never
had someone approach me about it in a parking lot. I've never gotten dates or
phone numbers because of it. Sigh.
Patrick, 35, gay, Denver
Left to right (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple) is for a gay man,
right to left is for a lesbian.
Rhett, 18, Minnesota
When I purchased a rainbow flag for my rear window, I took care to ensure I
installed it purple side down, only to realize when I closed the hatchback that
what had been the bottom moments before was now the top.
Arby, gay, New Jersey
Dare to Ask has no real cause or banner, but we do have our freak flag that
we'll keep waving high. And then we'll take the administration building. Even
the cops'll groove with us, man. Then we'll find the TV and surround-sound
remotes both between the couch cushions and get back to Nat Geo.
But before we do all that, there are rainbow flags fluttering and stickers
sticking that must be explained. There's the original one, designed by San
Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in 1978 to show gay pride. It started with eight
horizontal stripes but now is most often flown with six -- red, orange, yellow,
green, blue and violet. There's one for bears (usually more hairy, burly gay
guys) that is done in earth tones like yellow, brown and black, and even has a
paw print. And there's one for lesbians that has the lower-case Greek letter
lambda with the rainbow backfield. There are more. Google 'em.
Humorist, author ("I Told You So," "What the L?") and lesbian Kate Clinton
doesn't think there's much difference between "right-side up" or "upside-down"
rainbow flags. They're both about pride. The flag also can signal safety, she
added, much like some areas have community watch signs.
"If you're traveling, you might be unsure it's a gay-friendly area. Then you
go 'Yes, a rainbow flag is out!' "
As far as backlashes, Clinton said it makes sense to test the waters of your
area before unfurling the rainbow flag, but "even in Greenwich Village, someone
could do it [vandalism], too."
Overall, she likes the openness of it.
"The more visibility, the faster we progress," she said.
For those who say such symbols push one's lifestyle in others' faces, Clinton
said that's fine, "but then, if you're a guy, may I ask you to please hide your
affection for your girlfriend at the airport? I mean, yeah, let's all hide all
signs of love."
For herself, Clinton found that a gradual style of coming out worked best.
"My family would not have done well with a Thanksgiving announcement of 'Pass
the gravy, I'm a lesbian.' "
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Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
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