Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Flip-Flopper Creator:
Fly 8-Color Rainbow Flag at His Whim

One of the biggest control queens over the rainbow flag in Harvey Milk Plaza has been New York resident Gilbert Baker, creator of the original flag who played a major role erecting the flagpole on public land. All well and good, but such status does not entitle this grande dame the right to perpetually retain a voice in the local Castro district debate over reclaiming public control of public property.

Baker was all in favor of modifying the Milk Plaza display, until he was against it. Basically, what he terms his artwork, the flagpole and what flies from it, was open to amending only when he wanted to fly the U.S. flag when the Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws in the Lawrence decision, or when gay pioneer Frank Kameny passed away.

Something I had forgotten from 2000, and I vaguely remember the story because it omitted mention of whether the flag was on public property, had to do with another time Baker, in full Dubya mode, unilaterally decided to raise an eight-color version of his rainbow flag.

This excerpt was written Joel P. Engardio, who is now running for supervisor in District 7, and it ran in the SF Weekly, May 2000:

Now, more than 20 years later, Baker has decided it is time to bring his initial design out of the closet. Using $3,000 in donations from last year's Castro Street Fair, Baker bought enough material to make a new banner [of eight colors] to replace the giant six-color version that flies in Harvey Milk Plaza at the corner of Castro and Market streets . . . 

But the new-old flag, which was unfurled with no fanfare or explanation on Valentine's Day, left many Castro residents and tourists puzzled . . . 

[MUMC president] Patrick Batt says the prospect of having to revert to an eight-color flag after more than 20 years of using the six-color version is cause for major headaches . . . 

[Batt says,]"It took too much time, effort, and money to get those banners up in the first place, for Gil Baker to come out of left field after all these years and say the flag is wrong. If it should've historically been eight colors, you'd think something would've been said or done before this February." 

Oh, this is rich. My reclaim-the-public-flag colleagues and I have been accused by the likes of Baker and MUMC as wanting control for ourselves and would make modifications without community community. And what did Baker do a dozen years ago? Act like a lone decider-in-chief, do what he alone wanted and damn the merchants and the community.

And to think MUMC, after being screwed by Baker, now turns around and screws the rest of the community by retaining private control amongst the merchants alone and put the trans community and their allies through 8-9 days of emotional and political turmoil before agreeing to simply fly the trans flag on Day of Remembrance.

If we had transparent and consistent flag policies, San Francisco queers could have avoided so many days of anguish.

Why is it San Diego's gay community in Hillcrest can erect a flagpole larger than ours, on public grounds, create rules governing when and how flags can fly at public meetings between merchants and activists, allow community-wide stewardship and ownership of the flagpole, and not go through all the b.s. of dealing with MUMC?

Whatever is in the water down in Hillcrest, we need it imported to the Castro pronto.

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