The 17th of May is the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexphobia and Transphobia. IDAHOBIT, or more commonly in Belgium, IDAHOT. Since a few years cities, communes (municipalities) and districts in Flanders fly the rainbow flag on this occasion. This year, the District of Borgerhout in Antwerp is also flying the latest version: the Progress Pride Flag with intersex symbolism.
First things first. For a fourth year in a row, all cities, municipalities and districts fly the rainbow flag. In Wallonia, this is much less a ‘thing’.
The yearly tradition of flying rainbow flags on government buildings, was started by the provincial rainbow houses of Flanders:
- UniQue in Flemish Brabant.
- Het Roze Huis in Antwerp.
- Casa Rosa in East Flanders.
- Regenbooghuis Limburg.
Jennifer Tuttle, coordinator of the Flemish IDAHOT campaign, is proud. “This is how they show solidarity in the fight against homophobia, lesbophobia, biphobia and transphobia. The symbolic value of that flag in public places should not be underestimated. If just one person feels less lonely as a result, we have already made a difference.”
“Education, the business world and other organizations are also increasingly paying attention to IDAHOT and we are also seeing more questions about it. That is why we have decided for the first time this year to offer them the opportunity to officially register their participation on our website www.idahot.be“, says Dimitri Cools, chairman of UniQue. “That way they can inform the general public about how they support people from our community.”
IDAHOT is not limited to raising the rainbow flag. This year, KLIQ and the rainbow houses are joining forces and at the beginning of June will offer free online training to municipalities and cities that want to continue working on an inclusive rainbow policy. Interested parties can register on the KLIQ website: www.kliqvzw.be.
So, the District of Borgerhout chose to fly three rainbow flags.
On the photo, you can see the Peace rainbow flag. With conflicts in Russia and Ukraine and in Israel and Palestine – a hot political topic in Borgerhout – opting for a peace symbol is a given.
In the middle, there is the ‘traditional’, six-striped rainbow flag. Those two are important to District Alderman for Diversity and Community Development Ben Van Duppen (PVDA). “We want to send out a signal of peace, solidarity and inclusion”, he says.
“The peace flag has been out for two months. As the Borgerhout council, we hereby send a signal of peace and tolerance, this concerns all conflicts on a global level. Yemen, Palestine, Ukraine, but also about all those other forgotten conflicts that affect a lot of people. That message of peace and tolerance also fully fits the theme of IDAHOT.”
On the right, the Progress Pride Flag with intersex symbol. That version was proposed by member of the district council Thanh Beels (Groen). “The diversity within the LGBTQIA+ community is increasing. But that does not mean that the community is by definition inclusive. In recent years, due to events at home and abroad, the theme of racism has come to the fore in society, but also within the LGBTQIA+ community. Because there is racism there too.”
History of the rainbow flag
Gilbert Baker (1951 – 2017) is credited with having designed the rainbow flag as a symbol for non-heterosexual people. It was first used at the San Francisco Gay Liberation Pride Parade of 1978.
The original version had eight stripes, each with a meaning.
- Hot pink for sex.
- Red for life.
- Orange for healing.
- Yellow for sunlight.
- Turquoise for magic and art.
- Indigo for serenity.
- Violet for spirit.
Hot pink was quickly dropped as it wasn’t available in the industry. From 1979, the six-stripes version, with royal blue replacing turquoise and indigo.
But in recent years, some found the six-stripes flag inadequate. They feel pride organisations and events are too much geared towards cisgender, white, homosexual men.
In 2017 Philadelphia Pride added a black and a brown stripe for people of colour (POC).
That version never really took off, but the 2018 Progress Flag designed by Daniel Quasar did. It integrates black, brown and the Transgender Pride Flag colours baby blue, white and pink in a chevron to show progress. There is quite fierce resistence to that flag. As advocates of the six-striped rainbow flag argue adding colours to represent people instead of a concept goes against Gilbert Baker’s design.
But nevertheless, the flag or at least adding light blue, pink, white, brown and black in pride visuals, is becoming the norm.
In 2021, Valentino Vecchietti of Intersex Equality Rights UK redesigned the Progress Pride flag to incorporate the intersex flag. This design added a yellow triangle with a purple circle in it to the chevron of the Progress Pride flag. Intersex Equality Rights UK posted the new flag on Instagram and Twitter, and it since went viral on social media.
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