The Artist Abroad

Pride versus prejudice

/ 01:09 AM June 15, 2019

NEW YORKOn this Pride Month, the homophobic nature—and hypocrisy—of the Trump administration was made evident (yet again) when it forbade US embassies to fly the universally recognized rainbow colors of the LGBTQ community on official flagpoles even though previous administrations had allowed the practice. They were, however, allowed to display the colors in other places.


Nevertheless, embassies in India, Nepal, South Korea, and Austria were among those that chose to signify their solidarity. The New Delhi embassy was lit up with the rainbow lights; in South Korea, a rainbow flag was displayed near the Stars and Stripes; Randy Berry, the top US diplomat in Nepal, posted a photo of himself and his staff decked in rainbow colors, posing beside balloons that stated “Pride 19”; and in Vienna, the embassy posted a picture of the Pride flag fluttering from the flagpole in May, in recognition of International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.

The State Department ruling contradicts President Donald Trump’s recent pledge to “stand in solidarity” with the LGBT community around the world. On May 31, Trump was the first Republican president to recognized Pride Month, stating via Twitter, “As we celebrate LGBT Pride Month and recognize the outstanding contributions LGBT people have made to our great Nation, let us also stand in solidarity with the many LGBT people who live in dozens of countries worldwide that punish, imprison, or even execute individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation.”


Thus does the left hand not know what the right hand does. (That may be because Trump has such small hands, one can’t see the other.) Trump was rightly called out for, in the words of Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, his “gross hypocrisy, with an emphasis on gross.” Griffin went on. “You can’t celebrate Pride and constantly undermine our rights — including attacking #TransHealth, discharging #TransTroops, refusing to protect LGBTQ youth, and cozying up to dictators who brutalize & marginalize LGBTQ people.”

Trump may have been following the lead of his vice-president, Mike Pence, known for his anti-LGBTQ record, and whose wife, Karen, works at a school with exclusionary policies when it comes to gay and transgender employees and students.

In early 2015, as governor of Indiana, Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act  (RFRA) which was immediately criticized by critics both conservative and liberal, straight and gay, that the law would permit discrimination against gays on the basis of religious beliefs. The tremendous backlash and the threatened loss of out-of-state business forced the revision of the law to prevent potential discrimination.

Most appallingly, while campaigning in 2000 for a seat in the House of Representatives, Pence supported gay “conversion therapy” on his campaign website, where it said, “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” Pence won and in Congress he quickly aligned himself with the Tea Party Caucus, the ultra-conservative bloc.

This refusal to acknowledge the humanity and therefore the rights of those who are, and/or who dare to be, different, from heteronormative society, comes on the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village.

In the wee hours of June 28, 1969, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village finally stood up to a police raid, part of routine police harassment and brutality to which they and their communities had long been subjected to. According to Wikipedia, “Very few establishments welcomed openly gay people in the 1950s and 1960s. Those that did were often bars, although bar owners and managers were rarely gay. At the time, the Stonewall Inn … was known to be popular among the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community. … Police raids on gay bars were routine in the 1960s, but officers quickly lost control of the situation at the Stonewall Inn. Tensions between the New York City police and gay residents of Greenwich Village erupted into more protests the next evening, and again several nights later. Within weeks, Village residents quickly organized into activist groups to concentrate efforts on establishing places for gays and lesbians to be open about their sexual orientation without fear of being arrested.”

The very next year, in 1970, the first Gay Pride march took place in New York and several other US cities, and now takes place annually in many cities globally. Just recently, the New York Police Department Commissioner James P. O’Neill McNeill apologized for his department’s behavior that fateful night half a century ago: “What happened should not have happened. The actions taken by the NYPD were wrong, plain and simple. The actions and the laws were discriminatory and oppressive, and for that, I apologize.”



I’ve noticed some declarations about this year being the 121st anniversary of Philippine Independence, and from at least two places that should know better: the Philippine government itself, and from Positively Filipino, an online magazine.

This is wishful thinking, one that brushes aside history. The declaration of independence was made on June 12, 1898 but formal independence came only on July 4, 1946. Between those two bookend dates, the brutal 1899 Philippine-American War erupted, resulting in US occupation of the archipelago until 1946. While mainstream US historians, the media, and a vast majority of Americans know nothing of this war, rightly regarded as the “forgotten war,” there is no excuse for Filipinos to participate in this act of historical amnesia. If we wish to grow as a nation, we would do well to remember the Filipino adage, “Ang hindi lumilingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makararating sa paroroonan.” Whosoever fails to reckon with his or her beginnings will never attain his or her desired goal.

Copyright L.H. Francia 2019



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TAGS: biphobia, homophobia, LGBTQ pride, Pride Month, rainbow flag, Stonewall Inn, transphobia, US embassies
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