As we enter the annual LGBT+ Pride month next week we will be posting a series of pride related blogs. Pride month this year looks more than a little different to usual. Events nationally have been cancelled but we have lots of rainbows on display for different reasons. Today one of our youth workers share their personal reflections on the importance of the LGBT+ pride flag:
“Hear me out a second. This is the LGBT+ pride flag. It was designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978. Before this, the symbol for gay pride was a pink triangle, reclaimed from the label used to mark LGBT+ people in concentration camps during the 2nd world war.
I love the NHS, I think it’s one of the best things about this country and I was an NHS emloyee for 7 years. However, I do have a problem with the 6 stripe LGBT+ Pride Flag being ‘rebranded’ and used as a symbol for pride in the NHS.
The LGBT+ Pride flag is a symbol of solidarity, inclusion and acceptance. Let’s use this as an example: last year Sheffield Children’s Hospital launched their rainbow badge scheme. Staff took an online learning course around LGBT+ awareness and the challenges LGBT+ young people face and at the start of this year nearly half of the staff were wearing one. The badges symbolise to queer kids that the wearer is a safe, supportive person to speak openly about their gender and sexuality. If the LGBT+ Pride flag is now also used to represent pride in the NHS, how will LGBT+ young people know what the meaning of the badge is, and therefore whether they can open up about their identity?
If I am ever asked “how can I show LGBT+ people I’m an ally?”, I always say “be visible”. A visible cue (such as a rainbow badge) is an unspoken sign of solidarity, and will be noticed by those that are looking for it. When we see this symbol now we may not know if it refers to LGBT+ Pride or NHS Pride – this is likely to result in not speaking as openly about our identities as we won’t know if we are safe with that person or not.
We do not own the rainbow, the rainbow is a symbol of hope and I understand the idea behind using it for the NHS during this time. But those wanting to support the NHS could, at least, use a full rainbow which has 7 colours, and stop using our 6 coloured pride flag.
Pride this year is cancelled, and companies are rebranding their rainbow merch to sell it as NHS pride. Are people who would attack us in the street, fire us from jobs, kick their queer children out now flying our hope symbol outside their homes?
Please carry on being visibly thankful for the NHS and all the work they have always done and are doing now, but be aware we have fought for decades for this symbol, please don’t erase it by continuing using the 6 striped pride flag to symbolise pride for the NHS. We still need it, unfortunately, to indicate safe spaces but to also show our pride and hope after decades of oppression.”