Metro Weekly

Welcome the Rainbow Wave

Pride rainbows are not just an LGBTQ calling card, but an affirmation to all who celebrate diversity and reject absolutes.

Credit: Ted Eytan / Flickr

Welcome to June! I don’t know that it has any official designation, but the Library of Congress says June is LGBTQ Pride Month, and that’s certainly good enough for me.

An official designation is beside the point, anyway. The rainbow flags are out. Whether sprouting from corporations or community, the rainbows are here. In 2023, with the LGBTQ community under serious assault, they are absolutely welcome.

D.C.’s Capital Pride Alliance announced this year’s theme, “Peace, Love, Revolution,” in early April. At the time, Uganda was considering upping its persecution of our community, adding the death penalty for something called “aggravated homosexuality.” Garden variety homosexuality is only worth life imprisonment, it seems. In the couple months since the alliance’s announcement, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has signed the legislation. Let’s hope the Ugandan judicial system does the right thing and neuters it.

This is not merely some faraway foul play, nor hardly the only place on earth where being queer might get you legally executed. It’s the kind of momentum some Americans applaud. After all, there’s cabal of loathsome Americans that have promoted this sort of bigoted legislation. Just because they’ve lost some ground at home doesn’t mean they haven’t been busy elsewhere.

Right out in the open, Pastor Tom Ascol, who swore Gov. Ron DeSantis into office for his second term, turned to Twitter to quote Leviticus (yawn) and defend the new Ugandan Law, as reported by The Daily Beast. The obvious joke is “Tom Asshole,” which is not the Trump-esque sort of name-calling I’d usually encourage. But in this case, I encourage. Go nuts.

These are the people who give the rainbow flag, from Gilbert Baker’s 1978 iteration to the glorious versions that have followed, its power. While the rainbow is tied to the queer community, its multicolored montage more broadly represents diversity, which is our brand.

The rainbow, as a political symbol, is a beautiful representation not only of diversity, but of nuance and a rejection of absolutes. And that’s what truly gets under our bellicose bullyboys’ skins.

A willfully ignorant rallying cry on the stunted right is to ask, ceaselessly, “What is a woman?” We could use self-definition. Maybe chromosomes? However you want to define womanhood, because it’s radically simple or sociologically complicated and everything in between — ditto for defining “man” — what’s more telling is that these simpleminded culture cretins demand black-and-white definitions to make themselves more comfortable, to keep everything and everyone properly labeled and their worldview unchallenged.

Take Iran, where a religious fatwa has allowed gender-transition/confirmation surgery to flourish. Far from being a celebration of Trans folks, however, it’s a demand to force people into binary boxes in a society that runs on gender segregation. When the state demands women wear hijabs and men keep their hair cut short, people who identify as neither are a threat to the state’s foul foundation.

That’s the theme that runs throughout this rightwing, fear-based need to force the world into black or white, day or night, man or woman, dead or alive, etc. Naturally existing nuance is the enemy to these frightened fools.

American history is painful when it comes to efforts to define race. But when slavery and segregation were law, the state demanded a racial identity and strained to force that categorization into every corner of society. The Nazis needed to know Jew or gentile. Let’s quantify your blood, examine your family tree, measure you every which way and sort you into the proper cage. There will be no ambiguity!

While they demand a world in black and white, human eyes can detect hundreds of hues of gray. Bigots can’t have that. Not when you’re operating under a mindset of friend or foe, with us or against us, good or bad.

Even Chick-Fil-A, certainly not famous for being an ally to the queer community, is not immune to right-wing cultural requirements. Hiring an executive in charge of “diversity, equity and inclusion” is very offensive to people who oppose diversity, equity and inclusion, to the point of bigots suggesting boycotts. I won’t eat there, but my personal boycott stems from not wanting folks bullied. It is not simply two opposing views, unless you think bigotry is as valid a view as inclusivity and equality.

I am no fan of Ronald Reagan. I cringe whenever I pass his statue at Ruth Bader Ginsburg National Airport (aka DCA). But he’s the person most associated with the phrase “Peace Through Strength.” Today, I am guessing he might have had a point. With the haters ratcheting up the vitriol, feeling particularly smug in attacking the Trans community, we need to show strength.

It’s not just the queer community. Our rainbow is vast, and we can count most Americans as allies to varying degrees. The variance is fine, because we get nuance. Our allies need not be all or nothing. They simply need to recognize that the world that bigots want, where “men are men and women are women” and variation is unwelcome, is not the world they want. The rainbow is for everyone who celebrates liberation and individual rights and kindness. It’s a really big rainbow, thankfully, because we’re stronger together.

Now I can move past Ronny and celebrate someone I admire, Maya Angelou. She said that in diversity there is beauty and strength. Amen!

In keeping with Pride’s theme of “Peace, Love, Revolution,” I add my own mantra: Peace through strength; strength through diversity. A rainbow illustrates diversity obviously. But strength? Well, rainbows certainly scare the bejesus out of the haters, and that’s not too shabby.

Will O’Bryan is a former Metro Weekly managing editor, living in D.C. with his husband. He is online at

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