Score one for human decency! After much outrage on the part of allies and trans folks alike, it appears that the MUMC (the merchant's board that controls the huge rainbow flag flying over Market Street) has decided to allow the trans flag to fly in honor of the Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20.
Terry Bennett, the board president I spoke to for Friday's column, sent out a press release yesterday evening announcing the change of heart. Though beginning, mysteriously, with "This has been a difficult conversation and emotions run very high in both directions on the issue," it looks like they came out on the side of respect and equity.
For those of you curious as to why it would be a difficult conversation at all, that's not exactly clear, but it seems it might be connected to this back story on the MUMC's stewardship and resulting political stress around the thorny issue of who gets to fly what flag when. For the full story, read MUMC's press release, which notes near the end:
"Over the last two years the MUMC Board has been overwhelmed with requests to alter or change the flag. These requests have regularly been accompanied by a great deal of personal attacks, blatant bullying and harassment. Due to these attacks it has made it very difficult to consider any requests. After the first of the year, MUMC will organize a committee to reassess our policy."
I truly hope that you, dear reader, are not bullying or harassing the MUMC or any of the shop keeps on Castro, but I'm glad that the pressure exerted on them as stewards is forcing them to reconsider what seems to be a problematic, outdated approach to a symbol that means a lot to a lot of people. We all know that symbols are more powerful than words, and it seems the MUMC has come around to that realization too.
Additionally, us queers of many flags may need to accept that the rainbow flag is alienating to those of us not so sure that "LGBT" really means "TQ and the rest of us." Maybe the MUMC's new policy will reflect the changing times, and I hope their new process will be one of openness and friendship that encourage communities to work with them, lessening their stress and increasing respect for the many faces of the queer community.
One more important note: Folks are going to have to come together to make this thing happen by the end of November. The MUMC says that the original petitioner, Veronika Fimbres, has not re-submitted her request after they initially rejected it (I couldn't track her down for comment as of this writing). Therefore, picking up the mantle is up to the larger community:
"It will be the responsibility of the Transgender community to provide a 20ft by 30ft Transgender Flag that will fly at full mast on Tuesday, November 20, 2012. We would ask that the community coordinate the flying of the flag with a commemoration that can bring the much needed focus, recognition and pride to the transgender community."
I couldn't agree more. Congratulations to the MUMC and especially their president, Terry Asten Bennett, who utilized "respectful, heartfelt and open dialog" to get on the right side of history. May we all remember the many lives lost senselessly this year with the respect they deserve, and see this as one more small step forward in the creation of a world where trans bodies are valued as much as non-trans ones.