Target Pride merch.

A tag hangs from a pair of sandals that are displayed in a Pride Month merchandise display at a Target store on May 31, 2023 in San Francisco, California.

(Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Keep the Rainbow Flag Flying

LGBTQ people are under attack and deserve support this Pride Month and all year long.

I wasn’t aware until recently that Target had an LGBTQ-themed section to commemorate Pride Month, which began on June 1. Why shouldn’t it? We have months that celebrate Black history, Hispanic heritage, Arab heritage, Jewish American Heritage, Women’s history. We celebrate cultures that were not always respected or given their due, and in many cases still aren’t.

The rainbow flag seems to wave in one variation or another wherever people equally take pride in celebrating people who alone, paradoxically, are the target of sweeping naked discriminatory legislation across the country.

Post-racial fantasies aside, there’s still plenty of discrimination against minorities—if anything, it’s on a sharp rise, with Blacks, Asians and Jews at the top of the target list—but it often requires a whole set of coded signs and the scabby language of dog whistles, at least in the workplace, in schools, in public places. Except, of course, when the target is LGBTQ people. It’s open season on them everywhere, starting with schools.

The rainbow flag flew at Harvey Milk’s funeral, and has been flying since, though these days it seems to take an Iwo Jima or two to keep it afloat.

As of this writing, nearly 500 bills have been introduced or passed this year alone, 10 of them in Florida, replacing LGBTQ identity with the equivalent of a yellow star, the emblem Nazis forced Jews to wear to distinguish them from everyone else in a warm-up to the Holocaust. Last year it was 180 bills.

This is what we’re doing to a group of people that should be the poster child for civil liberties and human rights.

LGBTQ culture—as opposite to cancel culture as it gets—is boundlessly diverse. The acronym seems to add a letter every year. In Canada the acronym is at risk of breaking anti-sprawl ordinances. It now refers to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Pansexual, Two-Spirited (2S), and Asexual. If you wonder what two-spirited means, just remember Little Horse, the “boy who didn’t want to fight the pawnee” in Little Big Man, back when the United States could muster a little tolerance from mayhem.

The acronym reflects the immense variations implied by the freedom of sexual orientation, assuming that part of the Pledge applies. I hesitate to call it a community. There are no such monoliths, least of all in LGBTQ world. It is just as diverse ethnically, racially, and religiously. In a sense, you cannot possibly get more diverse than under the big LGBTQ tent. That’s the symbolism behind the pride flag.

Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected officials in California, had asked artist Gilbert Baker to design a flag to represent all that wonderful synonym for American freedom. He came up with the rainbow flag, its stripes a more colorful echo of the stars and stripes, a more achieved version of the United States. It was first flown at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade in June 1978.

Five months later Dan White walked into Harvey Milk’s office and assassinated him right after assassinating Mayor George Moscone. At his trial White’s lawyer described him as “deeply endowed… in the traditional American values.” Witnesses described him as a paragon of virtue, press reports referred to him as an “all-American boy,” and his defense claimed he was hopped up on junk food so couldn’t be blamed for gunning down a mayor and a queer. The whitewashing worked. Instead of getting convicted of first degree murder, he got manslaughter and served just five years. When he killed himself in 1985, his lawyer, Douglas Schmidt, still called him the “third victim.” And we wonder why Alex Jones has a following.

The rainbow flag flew at Milk’s funeral, and has been flying since, though these days it seems to take an Iwo Jima or two to keep it afloat. If you think I’m exaggerating, consider that between violence against LGBTQ people and the suicide rate in that group, especially among youths, the 7,000 dead of Iwo Jima may be more of an understated parallel than you realize. And these Americans aren’t dying on an atoll. They’re your neighbors. You see through them in church. You degrade them in such easy little taps as you feed your social mierda bile between a thought and a prayer for safer sympathies from your phone.

Getting back to Target: I stopped in to buy myself a rainbow-themed pair of socks. Instead I found the LGBTQ display relegated to a dimly lit back alley in the store, the way old video stores used to dissimulate their porn collection. This was the result of anti-LGBTQ bigots confronting Target employees and vandalizing displays that had been more prominently placed.

You can’t really blame Target for protecting its employees, but it’s not as if the company can’t afford security. It has a full-on guard at its Palm Coast store, as I imagine it has many more in more rancid settings. They’re not there to help the little old visitor from Dubuque carry her parsley sprigs to her car. They’re there to ensure that customers live and let live. Instead, the guard is just another Target mannequin.

The company is patting itself on the back for not banning the displays. But this Pride Month, there’s not much to be proud of in people who to this day would rather burn than raise the Pride Flag. It’s about time it replaced all those MIA flags in school yards and at courthouses. LGBTQ victims, unlike the mythical missing, are real, and they’re piling up.

© 2023 Pierre Tristam