Significant LGBT Heritage

First LGBT Pride Flag

Artifact #3: First LGBT Pride Flag

Nicki Lovenbury, Student, Fitchburg State University

For my mini-exhibition, I focused on LGBT individuals who have made an enormous impact on the LGBT community. I discovered three significant artifacts all belonging to each person I researched. My goal when bringing these three artifacts together was to show what they represent and how the person they belonged to has influenced the LGBT community. The overall purpose of my mini-exhibition topic was to discover and share important information about the artifacts and the LGBT community. Each artifact is a symbol of the hardships that the LGBT has been forced to overcome just to achieve a miniscule amount of acceptance. In “‘I am happy to start the conversation’: Examining sport media framing of Jason Collins’ coming out and playing in the NBA” by Eric Anderson, Edward Kian and Danny Shipka, the authors bring up how “‘Gay men who are seen as queer and effeminate are granted no space whatsoever in what is generally considered to be a masculine preserve and a macho enterprise’ (1998: 2). Competitive men’s sports were, in part, initially emphasized in late 19th- and early 20th-century US society to serve as a counter to the supposed ‘softening’ of boys’ masculinity and the perceived threat of homosexuality brought forth through more sedentary lifestyles during the onset of the Industrial Revolution” (Kian 620.) Being gay is often seen as a threat to masculinity. These types of discrimination are what the three artifiacts in my mini-exhibition represent, LGBT individuals dealing with misconceptions about themselves after coming out.

The primary idea that these three artifacts share is that they all belonged to LGBT individuals that have set the precedent for the gay rights movement. Jason Collins’ jersey represents his journey of being the first openly gay player in the NBA. Renee Richards’ racket represents her fight to compete as a woman after coming out as transgender. Gilbert Baker is remembered through his creation of the gay pride flag and how he provided an ultimate symbol for the LGBT commuity. In an article called "Decolonising the rainbow flag” by Anna Johansson, Diana Mulinari and Pia Laskar, the authors state “The flag is today used in the global North and South – and appears as a challenge to oppressive heteronormative gender and sexual norms, and as a symbol for sexual possibilities, freedom and rights” (Laskar 194.) It is not only the pride flag that is a symbol for these concepts, it is also the racquet and the jersey. Together the artifacts all symbolize the risks taken, the hardships and the discrimination that these people have faced for simply being LGBT.

The significance of my mini-exhibition is that I was able to teach other people about the topic and even learn some new things myself. As someone who is LGBT it is important for me to teach others about our experiences so that the world becomes more open and accepting. It is also important for me to learn more about what I am a part of. Although we have made it incredibly far in achieving equality, it is still trivial to remember the people who paved the way like Jason Collins, Renee Richards and Gilbert Baker. In an article called  “The Art of Coming Out: Traditional and Social Media Frames Surrounding the NBA’s Jason Collins” by Andrew C. Billings, Natalie Brown-Devlin, Leigh M. Moscowitz and Coral Rae, the authors describe how “Collins broke new ground, because he was the first among the “big four” American team sports—and because of the presumed homophobia that remains in male locker rooms within these American leagues. Evidence of such attitudes abounded; basketball’s Tim Hardaway said in 2007, “I hate gay people, so I let it be known,” while San Francisco 49er Chris Culliver stated before the 2013 Super Bowl, We ain’t got no gay people on the team . . . they gotta get up out of here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff . . . Nah, can’t be . . . in the locker room” (Billings 143.) With my mini-exhibition I wanted to emphasize how LGBT people constantly have to fight for their rights to be themselves. This example of Tim hardaway and Chris Culliver being homophobic is evident of that.

I also wanted to emphasize how the LGBT community deserves to be celebrated for continuing to fight for equal rights even when the consequences are unknown and likely dangerous. In another article called "Rainbow flag” by Linda Rapp, she states “Businesses sometimes fly the rainbow flag to indicate that they are gay-friendly or as an expression of pride by the owners. Such displays occasionally lead to controversy. In 1998, for example, Selectman John Miller of Ogunquit, Maine, demanded that innkeepers David Mills and Garry John remove a rainbow flag from their building. In the ensuing weeks, five rainbow flags were stolen from the inn, openly gay Selectman Robert G. Brown resigned in protest, and citizens collected more than four times the number of signatures needed to recall Miller” (Rapp 1.) When the LGBT community is celebrated, people get angry. This is the main reason it is so hard for LGBT individuals to come out and why what Renee Richards, Jason Collins and Gilbert Baker did for the LGBT community is so important.

Ultimately it is fundamental to show the LGBT community that they are accepted and will not be judged by who they are going forward. In another article called “Free to fly the rainbow flag: the relation between collective autonomy and psychological well-being amongst LGBTQ+ individuals” the authors bring up a great point when they say “Bans on lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) individuals’ freedom to marry, or policies explicitly telling LGB individuals not to disclose their sexual identity (e.g., the US military policy to not-disclose a non-heteronormative sexual orientation; Burrelli & Feder, 2009) send a message to LGB individuals that their group should suppress its sexual identity” (Caouette 4.) In conclusion all of the hardships that LGBT individuals have had to face for all of history are what the artifacts are a symbol of. Renee Richards, Jason Collins and Gilbert Baker will continue to leave a legacy and their artifacts will be emblems.

Rapp, Linda. "Rainbow flag." GLBTQ Arts, 2005, pp. 1-4. Google Scholar.

Johansson, Anna, Diana Mulinari and Pia Laskar. "Decolonising the rainbow flag." Culture unbound: Journal of current cultural research, vol. 8, no. 3, 2017, pp. 192-217. Google Scholar.

Anderson, Eric, Edward Kian and Danny Shipka. “‘I am happy to start the conversation’: Examining sport media framing of Jason Collins’ coming out and playing in the NBA.” Sexualities, vol. 18, no. 5-6, 2015, pp. 618-640. Google Scholar.

Billings, Andrew C, Natalie Brown-Devlin, Leigh M. Moscowitz and Coral Rae. “The Art of Coming Out: Traditional and Social Media Frames Surrounding the NBA’s Jason Collins.”  Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly. vol. 92, no. 1, 2015, pp. 142-160. Google Scholar.

Kraus, Carolyn. “Sports: Transgender issues.” GLBTQ: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian. 2002, pp. 1-4. Google Scholar.

Julie Caouette, Fiona Cooligan, Frank J. Kachanoff and Michael J. A. Wohl. “Free to fly the rainbow flag: the relation between collective autonomy and psychological well-being amongst LGBTQ+ individuals.” Self and Identity. 2020, pp.1-33. Google Scholar.