Statement on the Progress Flag

Lately there seems to be a trend of turning various movements into profit generating corporations. \

Some 15 years ago I met a person who occupied various high level career positions. She said something about how important it was to make yourself into a brand for marketing yourself. I felt I was living on a different planet.

I’ve spent a life time with various movements. to me all people’s lives matter. I’ve known what it is to be an outsider, to be discriminated against, to be abused for who I am. I picked up on a hint of weirdness when the people behind “Black Lives Matter” not the movement, not the people embracing the slogan but the people who branded the slogan voiced opposition to any variation on the wording.

I’m my mid 70s I have been at a lot of marches and heard lots of slogans, songs shared by both the Civil Rights Movement and the Anti-War Movement. The insistence on exact wording of a particular slogan seems awfully corporate.

Which brings to the new LGBT Rainbow flag. It’s not my flag, it doesn’t represent me. Indeed it feels rather like the LGBT Movement is being co-opted in order to be used by some other entity.

The following statement is from the Gilbert Baker Foundation, Via Monica Helms.

Statement on the Progress Flag
by the Gilbert Baker Foundation

“The freedom to use identity symbols is what allows them to become pervasive enough to represent a large-scale community. This is precisely why the rainbow flag was never trademarked. It is impossible to design a symbol with the intent of it being an identifier for an entire worldwide community and think that every instance of that symbol’s use is supposed to be vetted by a single American organization.”

Casira Copes –

In the years since Gilbert Baker created the LGBTQ+ Rainbow Flag in 1978, there has been a growing proliferation of LGBTQ+ community flags.

The Gilbert Baker Foundation remains supportive of these flags, as they echo the Rainbow Flag in spirit and design. To celebrate the unique Rainbow Flag and its growing family, we mounted an exhibit in May of 2021 titled “In Their Own Voices.” In June of 2021, we created “Emojis of Pride,” a campaign to gather petition signatures to add additional pride flag emojis to cellphone keyboards.

During the campaign, we learned a significant fact: the consortium that approves emojis requires that flags be in the public domain, free of copyright, trademark or licensing restrictions. However, the Progress Flag, created by Dan Quasar in 2018, is a licensed for-profit design. Therefore, we were unable to include it when submitting our flags to the consortium.

The Gilbert Baker Foundation continues to embrace all LGBTQ community flags. “Fly the flag that speaks to your soul. There is room in the sky for all of them.”

But as a Foundation we stand against profiting from flags, echoing the legacy of Gilbert Baker. After Gilbert created the original Rainbow Flag in 1978, the San Francisco Pride Foundation attempted to trademark Gilbert’s design. Gilbert retained lawyer Matt Coles who ended the Pride Foundation’s claim to the flag as their intellectual property.

Flags, in general, cannot be trademarked. The Foundation feels that their availability, free of cost and restriction, is an intrinsic necessity. Recent attempts to trademark the Bisexual flag created a schism in Binet, the leading political organization for the bisexual community, and its president, Faith Cheltenham, was forced to resign.

When the Foundation was made aware of the for-profit complications involving the Progress Flag, we researched the matter. The evidence can be found on the website where Quasar’s flags and other merchandise are sold. We also learned that several small companies stopped carrying the Progress Flag because of licensing requirements. In addition, Quasar Digital has made agreements with large corporations like NIKE while they continue to sell their flags to municipalities who merely want to show their support for our trans siblings and communities of color.

We have decided to make this statement publicly available so that institutions and communities that do want to fly the Progress Flag understand that when they do, they may be unwittingly participating in the marketing and profiteering of a symbol that should fly freely in the sky like Gilbert Baker’s flag and all of the other flags our community identifies with. The profiting from the Progress Flag is wrong.

We support the message promoted by Progress Flag design, intended to “force a conversation” about racism and transphobia within the LGBTQ+ community. For that reason, we will keep the Progress Flag as part of our exhibit “In Their Own Voices” as it is a work of scholarship, not commerce.

However, we cannot endorse the use of the Progress Flag as long as Quasar Digital continues to promote its creation as a licensed for-profit flag.

Charles V. Beal
PresidentThe Gilbert Baker Foundation

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April Ashley, Transsexual Pioneer, Dies at 86

Last month April Ashley died. Her New York Times Obituary can be found by clicking Here.

In 1962 she saved my life just by existing. Back then I was a lonely trans-kid living in small rural towns in the Adirondacks and further north in St. Lawrence county New York. I was 15 and had been getting busted dressing up by my parents for a couple of years.

I had heard the names of women who had changed sex before. Christine Jorgensen, Roberta Cowell and others. But their stories were usually limited to a photo caption or a short paragraph or two. The summer of 1962 a tabloid ran a series of articles about April Ashley and her friend and co-worker Bambi (Marie-Pierre Pruvot). It gave her a biography, a history and showed how it was possible for someone like me to do the same.

I clipped those articles and a few others and cherished them because they gave me hope and sustained me in my loneliness.

In the fall of 1962 we faced the Cuban Missile Crisis. We lived about 75 miles or so from the city of Plattsburgh, NY which was home to a major air force base and was surrounded by numerous missile silos. We had been raised with the awareness that a nuclear war would mean probable annihilation which we should face with courage.

I was a teenage trans-kid, my parents knew the path I would walk. I knew the path I would walk. But words had a way of remaining unspoken as though not saying those words meant there was the possibility of a different future.

It had been a school day. My father and mother were there when I got home from school, clippings in hand, an air about them that told me I was in serious trouble, that I might be thrown out.

“Is this what you are?” “Is this what you want to be?”

Thanks to those clipping, that tabloid biography of April Ashley I knew, not thought I might be but knew. I answered, “That is what I am, isn’t it?” There it was the words had been spoken. I wasn’t thrown out, the world didn’t go to war.

I had a role model, I had a dream. I had a vague sort of road map. I would go on to graduate from High School and unhappily go on to college. Over the next four years or so John Rechy’s book “City of Night” would add details of the world and Dr Harry Benjamin’s book would give me the technical knowledge I needed.

In 1967 I made my way to San Francisco and by early 1969 I had hooked up with the Center For Special Problems and was on hormones. I was a patient of Dr. Benjamin. By now one no longer had to seek out surgeons in Casablanca, Denmark or Tijuana. There was Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto and a program with support groups. We had our own words, our own way of thinking about what we were doing.

We became our own role models. Later people would decide to erase the words we used and replace them with euphemisms aimed at obscuring differences between those of us who actually got sex reassignment surgery and those who didn’t.

But still, 60 years later I remember, remember how much comfort it gave me reading April Ashley’s story and knowing I wasn’t alone and how it was possible. I’ve said before the first few made SRS seem like manned space travel. By the 1960s it was like transoceanic passenger flights by 1970 and since like hopping on a commuter flight.

But always I will remember April Ashley.

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