I wrote this column about gay rights activist, artist and creator of the Rainbow Flag, Gilbert Baker back in 2013 for the The Sydney Morning Herald.
Four years later, these words have never meant more. This is a historic moment for Australia. Your decision to #VOTEYES means much much more just marriage equality. It will be closing the circle on a lifetime of struggle, misunderstanding and discrimination.
I want reform for my heroes – Yves Saint Laurent, Oscar Wilde, Ellen DeGeneres, Jane Addams.
I want reform for my beautiful LGBTIQ friends – who have only ever raised me up.
I want reform for all our kids. I want reform so I can feel proud about being Australian once more.
I republish it here, read it to inform your choice and please #VOTEYES
Say It Loud, Say It Proud.
In 1978 an artist called Gilbert Baker hand-dyed a piece of fabric and fashioned it into a beautiful rainbow flag to march under in the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. It instantly became a symbol of protest against oppression and hope for a free future.
One theory suggests Judy Garland’s singing of “Over the Rainbow” inspired Baker but popular consensus is that it was derived from The Flag Of Races which was a popular demonstration tool used at racial tolerance demonstrations throughout America during the 1960’s.
The flag which was emblazoned on everything from t-shirts to guitars comprised of five horizontal stripes – red, black, brown, yellow and white –symbolising the different skin colours of the human race. Baker liked the notion that a flag can belong to a community not just a country and created his rainbow with a similar thought process.
Each stripe holds a specific meaning: pink for sexuality, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for magic and art, blue for serenity and violet for spirit.
The Gay Pride Flag joins the Peace Symbol, the Black Beret, the Anarchy emblem and countless others as part of our visual history.
Clothes have long been used in both propaganda and protest to send everyday messages to the government, a sovereign, even parents. Punks, Skinheads, Beatniks, Goths – all of these groups chose fashion as a way to highlight their rebellion.
Protest clothes are the most immediate way to let someone know your convictions without needing to say anything at all.
An old teacher of mine was an early feminist, which essentially meant she was a Hippy. “Clothes were the fastest way we could let other members of normal society know that we were different” she explained. “It sent a consistent message that what we wanted, what we thought, who we were – was very different to the norm. It was a way of speaking when we didn’t have any voice”.
Last year Prime Minister Gillard spoke out against gay marriage saying ”My position flows from my strong conviction that the institution of marriage has come to have a particular meaning and standing in our culture and nation and that should continue unchanged.”
How bitterly disappointing.
I’m not going to pretend to be a gay rights activist. What would I know? I’m a married, white, Australian born, mother of two. There are millions of me. I’m qualified only to talk about how I feel and right now I feel passionately that this issue needs reform and resolution.
I’m not alone. The recent Neilson poll revealed that sixty-two per cent of voters would like to see gay marriage legalised – a rise from 57 per cent a year ago. Only thirty-one per cent are opposed. We have the numbers.
I want marriage equality for many reasons. I want it for my friends, for many of my heroes- Yves Saint Laurent, Oscar Wilde, Ellen De Generes, Jane Addams – but mostly I want it for my children.
At the moment they’re at an age where they are innocently tolerant of all differences. They don’t see skin colour, sex or race as things that can be judged.
I would like them to grow up in a country where that freedom didn’t have to change. Dolly Parton put it perfectly when she said “There’s just not enough love in the world as it is…”
I’ve written about how memories cling to clothes. Emotions linger too. No more strongly than when they’re covered in a symbol of protest.
I’ve never really thought about what Gilbert’s rainbow represented. I own a Gay Pride t-shirt but I bought it because I liked the colours. Yesterday I dug it out of my closet. Although I may not be in a position to argue the policy I can still lend my support. Clothes let you do that.
So I’ll be exercising my own conscious vote when I wear Gilbert Baker’s rainbow next to my heart.
And I’ll be wearing it with Pride.