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IS THE QUEER COMMUNITY EATING ITS OWN? Battles over the rainbow flag and the Star of David have exposed long-simmering biases.

In almost 50 years of LGBT activism, there has never been a time that has worried me more about our struggle for equality than the current moment. It shocks me to say that, since I was a member of New York's Gay Liberation Front, the organization born from the ashes of Stonewall. We were the most dysfunctional organization to ever exist in the LGBT community. We fought among ourselves at every turn, and while we disagreed on almost everything, we managed to create a community where one hadn't exist before.

Now, at a time when corporate America and society in general are beginning to embrace diversity and inclusion like never before, our community, which was born with those issues in our body politic, has reverted to words and actions that seem to turn us against ourselves. There is no better way in illustrate this separation of insanity than Gilbert Baker's rainbow flag. That flag, which was meant from its inception to represent unity of all peoples in our community, is now becoming a symbol of hate within our community. We've managed to weaponize against ourselves a flag that was meant to bring unity.

Earlier this year the issue of racism in the community was raised in Philadelphia. It started with an age-old tradition of LGBT bars discriminately carding people at the door, along with a "dress code" that seemed to exclude apparel more culturally relevant to the black and brown communities.

That led to a citywide effort to examine what had happened and attempt to bring the community together. To boost that effort and show inclusion, a black and brown stripe were added to the city's official rainbow flag. This caused another backlash. Unfortunately, the line most heard from those opposed was "then there should be a white stripe." That's as silly as homophobes proclaiming, "We should have a straight Pride parade!"

Now to the other issue. At this year's annual Dyke March in Chicago, several women with rainbow flags bearing the Star of David were asked to leave. The "official" explanation was that organizers opposed what they described as the apartheid treatment of Palestinians by Israel.

The Star of David was around a long time before the state of Israel, and when placed on a rainbow flag it stands for an LGBT person's pride of who they are and their religious and/or cultural heritage. There are similar flags with crosses and other religious symbols on them. None of these, the rainbow flags with crescents and moons, crosses, Stars of David, or black and brown stripes should be looked at any other way then our community attempting inclusion and diversity.

Neither of these issues is new to our community. That racist door policy has gone on for years. Tommi Avicolli Mecca, a former editor of the Philadelphia Gay News recalls writing about it in the 1980s. Anti-Semitism has become an issue all over the country including at the New York LGBT Community Center.

It is disheartening to those of us in Gay Liberation Front--who literally founded the concept of Pride and community centers--to see them now, almost 50 years later, being used as battlefields. The first mission of any Pride celebration is pride in us as LGBT people. No matter what cause you wish to attach after that, put us first (all of us), at all of our Pride events and all of our community spaces. Be inclusive. We have to work to pull everyone up, not just those in our narrow bubbles.

At that very first Pride march we discussed banning people who didn't share our views, especially religious groups, since religion was the cause of so much of our oppression over thousands of years. But we decided that anyone who took pride in their gayness was welcomed. It's OK to embrace other causes, but they are all secondary to our appreciation of who we are and where we came from. GLF supported the Black Panthers and fought to free Angela Davis, but wouldn't let any issue co-opt or derail our Pride.

We must not forget how difficult it was to get to and what that word pride represents. We take pride in who we are because society told us we couldn't. They imprisoned us in our closet, and when we tried to break out, they lobotomized us, set our bars on fire, arrested us, beat us, and even killed us. When we distort Pride we dishonor those who died and stood up for that simple but important word. The rainbow flag is as sacred as the stars and stripes. Our rainbow flag should be used to show we are a people of diversity and inclusion. There would be nothing more beautiful than a Pride parade full of rainbow flags with all religions, stripes, and symbols. It would be an example to those around us, a testament of who we are, how far we've come, and how much we can still teach the world.

MARK SEGAL is one of the nation's most award-winning commentators in LGBT media and the author of the memoir, And Then I Danced: Traveling The Road to LGBT Equality.
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Title Annotation:STAY WOKE: COMMENTARY
Author:Segal, Mark
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Date:Dec 1, 2017
Words:855
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