Wednesday, June 27, 2012

SF Rainbow Flag:
No Lowering for Murdered TX Lesbian

In normal communities, flags are lowered to honor the dead and to help the living mourn, process grief and recommit to fighting for justice and liberation. Such is not the case in the Castro district.

(Mary Christine Chapa, left, and Mary Christine Olgin.)

There will be a vigil at 7 p.m. at San Francisco's Harvey Milk Plaza to remember lesbian teenager Mollie Judith Olgin who was shot to death in Texas last Friday, and to express hope for a full recovery of her girlfriend Mary Christine Chapa who was also shot and thankfully survived. The Facebook page for the event says nothing about the flag.

Unfortunately, the enormous iconic rainbow flag that flies in the middle of Harvey Milk Plaza, which is public property but under the domain of the control queens in the Merchants of Upper Market Castro group, will not be lowered to half-staff to honor Olgin and all other murdered LGBT teens or those who committed suicide because of bullying.

MUMC's rules simply don't allow for the grassroots community to have equal access to this valuable piece of public real estate:

Consistent with the principles established by the Flag’s creators and with broad community support, the Flag flies almost always at full staff with very rare exceptions. A longstanding agreement to fly the flag of the international Leather community for several days each year has been maintained. The Flag’s full-staff display has otherwise been temporarily modified on very rare occasions, for example, to mark the usually-tragic death of a notable member of the local LGBT community.

Sorry, but Olgin was not a notable member of the San Francisco community so the public flag on city land can't be lowered for even one-hour in her memory. However, MUMC is always happy to use the flag to rake in money when leather folks come to town for the Folsom Street Fair in September.

MUMC also modified the display earlier this year for a bear weekend. The leather and bear flags are allowed to fly at the plaza because MUMC members hope to draw gay wallets to the Castro and increase their profits.

The editor of the Bay Area Reporter, Cynthia Laird, in her blog story yesterday about the upcoming vigil, didn't bother to raise the question of lowering the flag tonight. As far I can recall the BAR, which is dependent on display ads from MUMC members, has never called for the rainbow flag to be returned to the public's control so that it can be used for events like tonight's vigil.

Does Laird, as a lesbian herself, have any problem that the MUMC rules don't allow for our, er, MUMC's flag to be lowered for a dead teenage lesbian in Texas? Would Laird and her paper ever endorse new flexible rules granting grassroots LGBT people the right to use the flag for lowerings, to send a strong visual solidarity message? 

A big reason why MUMC control queens are adamant about prohibiting community use of the flag is because I launched a campaign to change their polices in January 2011, to have the flag lowered for murdered gay Ugandan David Kato. Of course, many other LGBT activists also back the demand for community use, but MUMC is more interested in showing how they won't bend for me, and in the process they harm the wider community.

Cowardly politicians and official leaders including Tom Ammiano, Bevan Dufty, Scott Wiener, Gilbert Baker, Andrea Aiello, David Campos, John Avalos, Cleve Jones, Christina Olague and Mark Leno, along with the weaklings in the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, are afraid to stand up to MUMC's bullshit. Thanks to their "go along, to get along" attitudes, these pols and the club contribute to why the flag won't be lowered for the teenage Texas lesbians.

A simple turning of a key tonight at the base of the Harvey Milk Plaza flagpole and lowering the rainbow flag is asking too much of the LGBT community in San Francisco.

Let's end with some words from brave longtime social justice queer advocate Tommi Avicolli Mecca:

It really is insane! This is exactly the time that the flag should be lowered. Why have that damn flag there if it isn't going to be used to make a statement at times like this. What is it -- just a pretty decoration on a business district? Lower the flag at the vigil!


patrick said...

Michael -

Cleve Jones is mad at you.

and me.



Patrick (Uppityfag) Connors

Michael said...


you've just made my day with your comment! happy to know we've pissed off the 'widow milk' who should be demanding the flag be lowered tonight. i'm sure harvey would be insisting OUR flag fly at half mast for the texas lesbians.


Thank you, Michael, for continuing to draw attention to matters regarding the Pride Flag. Your BLOG post nails all the issues right on the head.