Pride Month Is Here — So Naturally, Bigots Are Out There Burning Flags

Let me put it plainly: Leave our flags the f**k alone.
Mike Kemp via Getty Images

Pride month is well underway, and so is the effort by bigots to erase symbols of our community. In recent weeks, Pride flags have been desecrated and stolen all over the country, from coast to coast.

In San Jose, California, over 75 Pride flags have disappeared from a main street.

In Los Angeles, a rainbow flag at an elementary school was burned and placed in a plant pot, and multiple flags were vandalized and removed from a bridge.

In Tempe, a Pride flag near a City Hall building was recently taken down and set on fire. There was also a bomb threat to an LGBTQ+ owned coffee shop in February.

In Omaha, Nebraska, someone set fire to a flag hanging outside a home — a couple of months after the same residence had a flag stolen.

In Doylestown, Pennsylvania, a local candy shop keeps getting its flags ripped down.

I could go on, but you get the point. Although they’re just pieces of fabric, these flags are powerful symbols and reminders to queer people that they are entering affirming spaces.

The Pride flag was created in the late 1970s when Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to hold public office in San Francisco, asked friend Gilbert Baker to create a symbol for the queer community. Its rainbow colors were meant to celebrate the diversity among LGBTQ+ people, and it’s evolved over time to be more inclusive of the transgender community and people of color. It’s been used all over the world to mark places that are safe for LGBTQ+ people, from government buildings to bars and other businesses.

These flags are not an infringement on anyone’s rights; they’re an affirmation of ours. When they are stolen or destroyed, it sends the message that bigots are around and willing to take action to erase us. That’s a terrifying and enraging feeling.

But these acts fit in with our sociopolitical atmosphere. There has been so much anti-trans and anti-queer rhetoric in politics recently that the Human Rights Campaign just declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans — a first in its four-decade existence. In a press release, the advocacy group pointed out that more than 75 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been signed into law in 2023, making this the worst year on record in terms of anti-queer legislation.

Still, the resistance is strong. We will keep replacing the flags, and we will keep showing up as our most authentic selves. You can tear down our symbols, but you cannot blot out the strength of our community or the support of our allies.