Friday, 10 October 2008

The History of Queer Pride Flags

I've been doing some research on the Queer Pride Flag. I had heard that there used to be 8 stripes, with a hot pink and a turquoise and that each colour meant something. The fact that there are a number of different colours also represents diversity I did however learn more than I expected...

The Rainbow (or Gay Pride) Flag was created by artist and vexillographer (fancy ass name for flag- designer) Gilbert Baker, a friend of the late Harvey Milk, who was an American politician who was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He was assassinated in November 1978-the same year the flag began to be used prominently in San Fransisco. Baker, dyed and sewed the first flag himself. The flag debuted at the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade. It has since been used around the world as a symbol of LGBT unity in many variations, including adaptations such as bumper stickers and decals. The Rainbow Flag is frequently credited as being recognized by the International Congress of Flag Makers (ICoFM). There is no such thing as the ICoFM but was actually a slip of the tongue in an interview where baker confused the organization FIAV (English version of FIAV, or the International Association of Vexillological Associations) and the event Flag Congress.

Changes made to the flag:

There is much debate as to how the flag went from 8 to 7 to 6 and some accounts state that it went strait from 8 to 6. Here are a number of the theories:
1. The pink stripe was drooped because Baker ran out of pink Dye

2. San Francisco-based Paramount Flag Co. began selling seven-striped (top to bottom: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet) flags from its Polk Street retail store, which was located in a large gay neighborhood. These flags were surplus stock which had originally been made for the the International Order of Rainbow for Girls, a Masonic organization for young women. As these were so readily available, they for a time became the 'gay pride' flag out of convenience.
Baker goes commercial...

3. Apparently after the pink was dropped by Baker and his volunteers, Baker desired an even number of stripes on the flag.

Baker asked Paramount to make vertical banners that would be split and displayed from the angular double bars of the old-style lamp posts on Market Street. Baker and Paramount’s vice president Ken Hughes agreed to drop the hot pink and turquoise stripes and replace the indigo stripe with royal blue — resulting in three stripes on one side of the lamp post and three on the other.

The reality was that the gay community at this time (1978-1979) used almost any flag with a rainbow of stripes. Here are some examples of other rainbow flags...

International co-operative alliance (Christian socialists)

Italian peace flag, same design as the Greek peace flag which reads "epihnh" -peace in Greek (

Flag of lingua Franca Nova

Jewish autonomous oblast in Russia (

Meher Baba -Indian spirituality

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

The Birth of Sexual Opression in Australia.

I got a tad distracted as I was revising for my HIStory exam, I would like to call it HERstory, but what we are taught in school is very much HIS-story!....

We generally like to believe throughout history that majority opinion goes from worse to at the very least, less worse. Sadly this isn’t always the case. Governments will use what ever oppression they deem necessary at any particular point in time to create their desired effect; Whether that be anti-Muslim racism and the fear of terrorism to support US imperialism or sexual oppression to ‘strengthen’ the population among other oppressions. Sexual Oppression is sharpest when governments most require the reproduction of the working class. Cipi Morgan points out in her article ‘Colonial invasion and homophobia in Australia’ “heads rolled across Europe like billiard balls as kings, queens and clergymen scrambled for complete control over the lives of ordinary people” We see this also during WWI in Australia, with a ban on the importation of contraceptives, and again in Nazzi Germany when women were recruited to reproduce with soldiers, and queers and feminist were thrown into concentration camps (along with Jews, socialists, gypsies, Jehovah Witnesses and the many other outspoken individuals and groups). There is minimal if any ‘progression’- rather there are peaks in different opinions based on political struggles and the government’s desperate protection of the economy in our ‘national interest.’ We see much time, but little progress between Hennry Parks’s statement in 1866, that in the business of colonisation, “there is only one way to do it-by spreading over it all the associations and connections of family life” and Howard 2000 assertion that children require one mother and one father-ruling out any aberration to the nuclear family.
"Freedoms Are Won not Given!!!"

As I have asserted again and again on this blog and in my life outside this blog (yes I do have one) we as women, queers and allies have been GIVEN NOTHING! All the rights we have were hard fought for and won. Including the right to vote, the right to use contraception, the right to abortion, the right to have relationships with members of the same sex (not marital yet, but we are working on it!) We find our selves constantly having to defend the rights we do have let alone the ones we continue to struggle for (pro choice rally this Saturday, starts at 12.00 at the state library.)

There can be no doubt of the significant damage done to Australia’s indigenous people and the environment following the British Invasion in 1788. The land was considered to be 'Terra Nullius'- a land which is not inhabited. Cook and the British law of the time had decided that the "Indians" he encountered had no right to the land as they were not 'improving the land'-because we all know how greatly European invasion 'improved' the land.

The extreme poverty of the under classes of Britain had been forced into crime. The numbers of this massive class were so large that they could not be contained within England and so deportation to the "new land" began.

There is no evidence to suggest that queerphobia existed prior to European invasion. In fact in many pre-colonial and pre-class societies there is evidence to suggest that both sexual and gender diversity was more acceptable though different terms were used. Sister-girls are an example of this in Indigenous Australian communities. (Sister-girl: The acceptance and visibility of sistergirls is often considered far greater than gay men or lesbians in aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Sistergirls are biological men who are effeminate or live their lives as women. Communities will often accept and recognise sister girls as women. Sistergirls undertake the roles and responsibilities of women having relationships with straight men. However sistergirls do not generally identify as transgender.) Societies in North America and Siberia are also said to have practised transexuality and homosexuality. In many ancient societies same sex relations were not only accepted but exalted. Examples include the Mycenaen society of around 12000BC and the Athenian and African societies of 400-300 BC.

Even with the rise of the church “homosexuality” as a separate sexual or identity category remained unknown. The term “homosexuality” was first coined by a German scientist;
Karl-Maria Kertbeny in 1869.

According to Australian historians R.W. Connell and T.H. Irving, the panic around sexuality flared up in the 1820’s. with Governor Arthur’s booting out of officials for offences such as “adultery” and general sexual immorality. They argue that “particular venom was directed against homosexual relationships formed by many convicts and pastoral workers” adding that “unmarried convict women got a fair pasting as sluts and whores” They also point out that although the “1812 parliamentary inquiry into transportation had hardly raised a question about sex, the 1837 inquiry…positively smouldered with innuendo, scandal and moralising.”

Morgan points out the sexism inherent in the over used metaphor in colonial studies which “depicts the agent of colonisation as man and the tragic subject as woman (some kind of irresistible “wilderness” for man’s exploration).

The new ruling class of settler Australians struggled to gain control of the largely prior-convict working class. Family units have long been understood as being an effective way of controlling workers. For the creation of families, wom*n were essential. There were offcourse few wom*n in settler Australia. The Port Philip District (now the state of Victoria) had 75 women to 2000 men in 1838.
The much celebrated Caroline Chisholm, a member of the British ruling class worked to domesticate the ‘frisky convict males’ She lobbied with missionary zeal for the importation of young wom*n. These young wom*n she argued, would galvanise the establishment of an Australian working class family- the platform of an obedient society
The wom*n and their children, Chisholm said in 1847, would act as “God’s police” taming unruly male workers.
This wave of women was intended for the sexual and domestic service of the state. Chisholm herself was involved in first the education of these women; teaching them the skills of cooking, cleaning and elocution, Chisholm then helped to ensure these young wom*n acquired jobs, as domestic labourers. Young wom*n were encouraged to travel to the “new worlds” of which Australia was one in order to find “respectablility” The colonies were advirtised as offering "respectable" work for a wom*n and eventually a greater prospect married-Marriage anf family life ofcourse being the ultimate goal for wom*n and the only way for a wom*n to acheive true respectability. Ruling class wom*n in Australia are reported to have complained about the difficulty in finding female domestic labour and that when found it was expensive and hard to keep. This shows us the vital role that wom*n play in sexism and the relation of sexism to class society as opposed to the gender of the perpetrator.

The use of “decent” working class families by the ruling class in Australia mirrored that of England; With the intensifying of gender stereotypes and the extraction of unpaid female labour in reproducing, feeding, clothing and caring for workers. At this same time the first of the trials of homosexuals were occurring, including that of Oscar Wilde in 1895.

Homosexuality was not invented in Colonial Australia however it certainly made it’s debut as public enemy number one in the eyes of the ruling class.

The old fashioned, conservative, bloodstained and oppressive values of the ruling class are no less prevalent in today’s society, though they tend to manifest themselves in different ways. Like all oppressions, sexual oppression is a tool used to keep the working class in it’s place.

Writting Themselves in Again

This is the summary of the key findings from the 'Writing themselves in again' report on the sexuality, health and well-being of same sex attracted young people in Australia.

1749 australian young queer people answered the survey.

I have sumarised the finding of this report and put them into a slide show, 1st slide pictured left. To be shown by our school Q+A group at a staff meeting.

About Your Sexual Feelings:

Key finding:
•Young women were more likely to identify as bisexual or no label than men
•More than a third of young people realised their sexual differences very early in their lives. (over half of young men and women cited realising they were not heterosexual before the age of 14)
•There was no relationship between age at first realization of sexual feelings, current attraction and gender of sexual partner.
•Once young people reframed their experiences oh homophobia as an issue of bullying and not of truths about themselves, they were more likely to feel better about being same sex attracted.

About Your Sexual Behaviour
Key findings:
•SSAY (Same sex attracted Young People) were more likely to be sexually active earlier than their Year 10 and 12 peers in secondary school
•SSA were more likely to be having sex that matched their sexual attraction in 1998.
•65% used a condom at their last penetrative encounter (58% of young women and 68% young men)
•10% reported being diagnosed with an ATI
•11% of young women had been pregnant (one third of these women identify as being attracted exclusively to their own gender), 10% of the 15-18 year old sub-sample
•6% reported having been diagnosed with some form of hepatitis

How do People Treat you?

Key Findings:
•38% of participants reported unfair treatment on the basis of their sexuality
•44% reported verbal abuse and 16% reported physical abuse because of their sexuality (figures are largely unchanged since the 1998 report)
•School was the most dangerous place for young people to be with 74% of young people who were abused experiencing this abuse at school (80% young men, 48% young women)

Impact of Discrimination and abuse

Key Findings:
•Homophobic abuse has a profound impact on young peoples well-being
ØThose who had suffered abuse felt less safe at school, home, on social occasions and sport
ØThose who had experience abuse were more likely to self-harm, report a sexually transmissible infection and use a range of legal and illegal drugs
ØYoung people felt the most safe at home and the least safe at sporting events

About your drug use

Key findings
•In 2004, the reported use of all drugs, including alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, part drugs and heroin was down on reported use in 1998 (percentage of young people who had injected drugs dropped from 11% to 4%)
•Drugs remain substantially higher than for heterosexual youth, for example, over double the number of SSAY have injected drugs
•There remains a significant relationship between homophobic abuse and drug use
•Drug use serves a number of important functions in these peoples lives.

Disclosure and Support

Key Findings
•Support from all confidants was higher in 2004 than it was in 1998
•Young people who had support felt significantly better about their sexuality
•There was an increase in support from teachers and student welfare coordinators in 2004
•Almost three quarters of young people had spoken to someone on the internet about their sexuality

Sex education information

•The internet was the most important source of information about homophobia and discrimination (71%), gay (73%) and Lesbian (60%) relationships and gay (69%) and lesbian (54) safe sex
•80% of these SSAY found sex education at school to be useless or fairly useless, while 20% found it to be useful