The glorious rainbow flag at the corner of Market and Castro, just outside the MUNI station, is always flown at full staff to recognize the strength and pride of the LGBT community. It is never changed or lowered -- except when it is. It's been lowered only five times since the flagpole was first erected fifteen years ago. But it is routinely changed to the International Leather flag for a week in late September for the Folsom Street Fair, and to the Bear flag in February to celebrate the bear culture.
But recently the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro have rejected a petition to fly the transgender flag on November 20th, the Transgender Day of Remembrance that commemorates transgender people who have lost their lives to hate and violence.
The following is my open letter to MUMC:
Dear Merchants of Upper Market and Castro (MUMC):
I read with much dismay about the decision of MUMC to reject flying the transgender flag on November 20th, the Transgender Day of Remembrance:
I am frankly shocked and stunned by this decision. The transgender community is a significant part of our our community – they are the T in LGBT, after all. They are the most maligned and neglected members of our community, the most ostracized even by other members of the LGBT community. Flying the transgender flag on the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day that commemorates transgender people whose lives were lost to hate and violence, would be a powerful gesture of inclusiveness for a marginalized group.
I recognize MUMC’s stated policy of flying the rainbow flag at full staff to symbolize the strength and pride of the community. But that stated policy belies MUMC’s own actions. The flag always flies at full staff – except when it doesn’t. The rainbow pride flag is always flown – except when it’s switched for the Leather or Bear flags. MUMC’s website says that the exception for the International Leather flag is due to longstanding tradition. The flagpole itself has only been there for 15 years, so I don’t know exactly how youwant to define “longstanding.” And I know the flying of the Bear flag is a very recent addition.
I enjoy seeing the Leather and Bear flags flown, but it is offensive to cater to chosen cultural communities while denying it for the core identity for some members of our community. Being gay or transgender are fundamental, core, immutable parts of one’s identity. Being into the Leather or Bear cultures is not. And it is offensive to deny it for one while allowing it for the others.
In the past, I have defended MUMC’s decisions to people like Michael Petrelis. I understand and accept the reluctance to yield to every request. The flag should, in general, not be constantly changed or lowered for every whim. And MUMC, which pays for the flag’s insurance and maintenance, needs to maintain some measure of regularly adhered standards. But when the board chooses to deny a single day for a core part of our community while allowing entire weeks for lifestyle choices, I’m beginning to rethink my position.
I hope you will reconsider and fly the transgender flag on November 20th.
Kevin Goebel, homeowner
San Francisco, California 94114
Although the Leather Flag has been raised for many years, the inclusion of the Bear flag in February only began in 2011.
Oct 15 Update: Sister Roma has just posted that MUMC has voted to fly the transgender flag on November 20th.