Should The Castro Pride Flag Be Updated? People Have OPINIONS

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Exactly one years and two weeks from today will be the 25th anniversary of the day the giant Castro Pride flag was installed at the intersection of Market and Castro Streets, at what we now call Jane Warner Plaza. Some say the Gilbert Baker-designed Pride Flag one of San Francisco’s most appropriate and enduring landmarks, a symbol that has spawned LGBTQ rights movements around the world. Others say that at 25, the flag is showing its age. There’s a movement afoot to replace the Pride Flag with a new version called the Progress Pride Flag.

“Now, more than ever, when our City and communities across the country are coming together to unequivocally declared that #BlackLivesMatter and #BlackTransLivesMatter, we would like to request the San Francisco Castro Merchants to take action and update it’s flag so that every resident and visitor knows that we too, stand with Black and Brown LGBTQ+ people,” says a petition on the matter.

The newer Progress Pride Flag is, in some respects, so non-controversial that they are even flying it at Safeway. The new “chevron” design is updated to add more racial inclusivity and with trans flag colors to acknowledge the transgender movement.

And the traditionalists who want to permanently keep the old flag have far more signatures on their own petition. “Unfortunately, a small group of activists from the Castro Cultural District stand against the Rainbow Flag installation,” that petition says. “They want to reclassify this treasured installation as a local community flagpole so they may fly other LGBTQ+ community flags. We at the Gilbert Baker Foundation support all LGBTQ+ community flags. But this flagpole is not the place to fly them. We have urged community leaders and politicians to find room in the area for another flagpole to display community flags.”

The conflict came to a head last summer when the Bay Area Reporter published an editorial urging the Castro Merchants Association to update the flag. That came on the heels of a tense, four-hour community meeting about racism in the neighborhood, particularly at certain bars. “Symbolism is important (otherwise Confederate statues would not be toppling across the country),” the Reporter wrote. “It’s time that the flag in the Castro changes to reflect all of us.”

The Castro Merchants Association that maintains the flag has called for a compromise solution, that is, adding a second flagpole and flag. “We propose to leave the internationally recognized, beloved, and historic symbol where it is and explore locations in the Castro to install a new flagpole,” they said in a release to the Bay Area Reporter. “We believe the creation of an alternative space would best reflect our two sincere beliefs: symbols can change over time yet queer history matters.”

Meanwhile, the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District is urging the Merchants Association to change the flag, in what has become an incredibly loaded issue.

“We have to certainly recognize the importance, the legacy, of the history of the flag that stands there now, the Gilbert Baker flag,” Castro LGBTQ Cultural District co-chairperson Carnell Freeman recently told the Chronicle. “But we also have to understand when we look towards the future, we want to know where we stood at this particular point in our time, where people recognizing the issues facing by Black queer people, Indigenous, as well as transgender people.

“It’s not taking away from the past, it’s not taking away from the legacy and history, I think we’re building upon that, or we could build upon, that’s more inclusive.”  

A Wednesday, September 8 Town Hall meeting on the topic was cancelled. But you can still give your feedback on an online survey about the changing the Castro Pride flag.

The original Pride flag by Gilbert Baker (who passed in 2017) has regrettably been co-opted by Bud Light, Burger King, and for-profit brands, though Baker himself never made a dime off designing the now globally popular flag. This is frankly a generational issue, that also breaks down by income and wealth, on whether the Castro’s Pride Flag should still be something you also see on Bud Light ads. 

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  1. Mel Baker
    October 27, 2021 at 12:42 pm — Reply

    Create a second flag pole for the Progress Flag, which is not an international flag, but an American and western Europe issues flag. The international flag is marched under around the world. People put their lives at risk in places like Uganda, Chechneya and China to fly the international rainbow flag. The simple color spectrum flag has always represented All diversity. The Progress flag reminds us of the issues facing the United States and should be flown, but it should not replace the universal symbol that has advanced our movement. Preserving our history is important, especially in the very place it was first flown. The pink triangle is still placed on Twin Peaks every year, even though that symbol reclaimed from Nazi oppression is rarely used.

  2. Daniel
    June 28, 2022 at 5:40 am — Reply

    If they want to fly the version with the chevron at a different location, so be it. I’m gay and I feel more represented by the Gilbert Baker rainbow flag than the newer one. The GB one has been around for decades and is the most internationally recognisable symbol of the LGBT+ movement. It’s also a part of our history. I don’t agree with replacing it. The newer one is pertinent to the US and the issues there around race and gender.

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