Sunday, June 22, 2008

It's Our Flag, Too - Use It!

One of the things I have consistently griped about is the lack of American flags at GLBT community events. It would have been more appropriate to post this on Flag Day (June 14), but I was still gathering my thoughts together on this topic and dealing with other issues.

I was reminded of this yet again at the recent June 7 NE Transgender Pride March and Rally. Considering they organized it in just nine months, they covered a lot of ground and did it well. The organization of this event was first class. There was an RV on the side of the stage acting as a green room with bottled water, sport drinks and snacks for us to partake in before and after we went on stage. The event site had ample parking. The march had a police escort and even had a rainbow flag decorating the stage.

But not an American one.

I pointed out that omission to the organizers when I arrived at the site that morning, but acquiring one got lost in the last minute scramble to set up the site for the 700 plus people that later appeared there.

This is a recurring problem I've observed within the GLBT community across the country, and not just with my gracious Western Massachusetts hosts, so please don't get it twisted.

If we are going to win the war for our civil rights, we have to take away the ridiculously deceptive Religious Reich arguments that we transpeople 'aren't Americans' (or whatever country you're living in) and transgender rights are 'special rights'

We have to repeatedly make the case in order to blow up these right-wing Big Lies that we are Americans who deserve and demand the same civil rights coverage that you enjoy, it's immorally wrong to deny us those rights, and we want it now.

The easiest way to remind the Faux News watching masses that we are Americans is to wave the Stars and Stripes in their face. From this day forward, every time we have a protest, pride event, Trans 101 education event, conference or a march, we need to have Old Glory front and center. If we do television media interviews, we need to be wearing American flag lapel pins when doing so.

And we need to do it now.

I realize that some of you may have antipathy toward the flag for personal, political, philosophical or other reasons. Well, get over it. If you want your constitutional rights in the next five years, you'll take what I have to say seriously and run to your nearest hardware store to buy a flag. After you do that, bone up on the rules for properly displaying it.

As long as we are living inside the borders of the United States, Canada, or whatever country we happen to be born in, there are certain culturally significant values wrapped up in the flags of the nations of the world. They take on meanings for the residents of those countries far beyond being simple pieces of cloth.

Yes, I try to live the values that others only disingenuously lecture about and don't need a US flag bumper sticker on my car to say that. My actions do.

However, when you are talking about a political movement that is fighting to have their constitutional rights respected and not trampled on by the tyranny of the majority, symbols matter.

It's also important to note that when you peruse US history and the history of reform or civil rights movements, no civil rights movement to date trying to win rights for a minority group has done so without having the flag prominently displayed at all its events. If the GLBT rights movement wants to win, they will eventually have to do so as well.

One thing you'll note in many pictures of Civil Rights Movement events and marches is the presence of Old Glory somewhere in the picture. Even Woodstock and the 60's anti Vietnam war protesters had American flags present in addition to the modified one with the peace symbol on it.

The immigration rights movement has quickly learned this lesson. After getting savagely criticized for conducting marches that had the flags of their native countries prominently displayed but not the one of the country they are currently residing in, or if they did display a US flag it was done incorrectly, now have American flags prominently displayed at every event they conduct.

By displaying the flag at our events, and I'm not talking about that rainbow adaptation of it, it sends the message that we are proud, patriotic Americans who love this country.

Yes, by all means, use the rainbow adaptation flag, but make certain that a red, white and blue one is carried or displayed on site at the same time as well right next to it.

The United States flag is not the private property of the Republican Party, the Religious Right, or the conservative movement. Transgender vets and TAVA members put their lives on the line in several wars and honorably served our country defending the flag. We need to honor them and ourselves by claiming what is rightfully ours by dint of birth inside the borders of the USA (or to American parents outside its borders).

That's our flag, too! Use it, and do it proudly. Nothing will piss off the Forces of Intolerance more than to erase another of their Big Lies about transgender people by waving the flag and holding it aloft at every opportunity.


Dale said...

Monica, thank you for bringing up this topic.

The religious right, and conservatives in general, wrap themselves in the flag. At a certain level it is easy to reject use of the flag because it symbolizes "them".

But the flag symbolizes all of us in this country. We shouldn't just give it to conservatives. They want to exclude us from America. We can't let them do that.

The flag belongs to all of us - we need to use it too.

Monica Roberts said...

Amen, Dale.
I'm an American, and being transgender didn't change that.

It's time we start reminding our enemies of that fact as well.

shakay said...

I agree with you, Monica, concerning this. Patriotism need not be solely the attitude of our right wing friends. Despite all of its many faults, it's still the best country in the world in which to live. If you want to verify this, do some travelling outside the country. Besides, it's difficult for Americans to hate fellow Americans if they are carrying a flag. We shouldn't allow the conservatives to usurp display of the flag. Progressives love this country, warts and all, too.

Cass said...

Atlanta Pride is a little over a week away; I may or may not be able to go, but I do hope they take your advice...

Polar said...

We are working to change our country because we are proud of it, and want it to be the best it can be. It cannot be the best it can be, unless all citizens, including transgender ones, are full players in the economy, government, and defense of it.

Fly the flag high. It is our country, too.

SeaMonica said...

You made me tear up reading this. I am proud of the American Flag and the members of TAVA all feel the same way I do. Being gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, intersex, questioning and transgender doesn't automatically cancels out your patriotism. For every year I have lived as Monica (Helms) I have marched in the front of a Pride Parade where we had the American Flag front and center. I'll be there once again in front of the Atlanta Pride Parade, July 6th. Thank you, AirMonica, for your patriotism.

Monica Roberts said...

I'm glad i'm not the only transperson who feels that patriotism is not a dirty word.

As much as I enjoyed the NE pride march ands rally, I would've felt more comfortable had an American flag been there, especially since the event was being filmed by a documentary filmmaker.

Even at our local pride event this weekend in Da Ville I didn't see any American flags, but plenty of rainbow ones.

Quit ceding the Reichers the flag.

shakay said...

I just called the National Obama headquarters at 866-675-2008 with the suggestion that the American flag be a part of the Obama contingent that will be a part of the Atlanta Pride festival coming up this Fourth of July weekend. I would suggest that if you have a contact with the folks behind the Atlanta event, you might suggest it to them as well.

They always say that one person can't make a difference, but I'm certain that the two Monicas in our community can.

Yes, indeed, they can.

I love you both!

Diana_CT said...

Thank you Monica for bring this very valuable point to our attention.

Not only should we show it at Pride but also all public events, like TDOR.

Monica Roberts said...

It just can't be me, SeaMonica and TAVA pushing this issue. It has to be all of us who feel that the community is making a huge mistake NOT showing the American flag at our events.

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