That Flag Means What Now?

Rainbows are Pretty!

In retrospect, perhaps the most amazing thing is that so many people could have been living in a bubble so tight and for so long that they did not know what this flag symbolizes.

Hidden behind a paywall at the local paper is a really funny bit of local color. One of the big local events here is the Antelope Valley Fair, which is run by a state-appointed board of directors. Last year they had decorative orange flags (to celebrate the colors of the plentiful local crop of California poppies?) out on the grandstand, but thought that the plain orange fields were kind of boring. More color! Someone said, and they thought rainbows were pretty and appealing, so they ordered about a dozen big, readily-available flags to disply for purely asthetic reasons.

Sincerely, no one involved had any idea. (Hel-LO!)

So one person — one — complained. What was in that complaint is unknown; the Fair’s organizers will not identify the complainant. A couple of the commissioners got together and decided to pull the flags down. Then the local mayor — no doubt thinking that “attracting gay people means attracting money and upscale businesses” as though all gay people were wealthy — stuck his nose into the affair and said “I think the flags should go back up.” So the flags went back up. Then enough members of the Fair Board got together and decided that “The mayor doesn’t get to tell us how to run our show,” so they pulled the flags back down again. (EDIT: A commenter was informed that the flags were only taken down once, not twice as I had been informed.)

The picture in the local paper depicts two rainbow flags flying, with a third coming down, and a fourth replaced by one of the unadorned orange flags. And some rather confused-looking guys in cowboy hats watching.

Of course, the shame is that having stumbled into inadvertently flying LGBT pride flags, the organizers of the event did not simply shrug it off and say, “Yeah, their money is welcome here too.” (I went to the fair last year and didn’t even notice that they had flags at all. Chances are 95 out of 100 fairgoers would not have, either.) Instead, they have stated that having become educated about what was going on, they simply do not want to take a position on the issue. What issue? That gay people exist and need not be ashamed of themselves? I’ve a mixed opinion of the Mayor, but he made the right call here (although possibly not for the same reasons I would have preferred).

The local LGBTQ activists have made blandly-appropriate statements of regret about the incident but not made waves. They don’t need to; the farce of this series of events speaks for itself. The fact that the yo-yo flag flap appears next to another story headlined “‘Is AV racist?’ Justice Dept. Inquiry Asks” (concerning alleged racial bias in law enforcement tactics instigated at the direction of municipal authorities, a question which I think will be difficult to answer) does not add luster to a story about what smells like thinly-concealed bigotry.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


    • Just as bad as me, Tod. I haven’t stopped chortling about it yet.

    • We’re all going to hell in a handbasket together, then.

    • Awful? It was insanely hilarious! Please don’t go wobbly, Pat. The truth shall let all free–even nincompoops!

    • By the way, I sincerely apologize to the LGBT community for finding this funny. It’s easy to laugh at the idiocy when it’s not directed at you and yours.

      Onward and upward.

      • Pat, “By the way, I sincerely apologize to the LGBT community for finding this funny.”

        I believe you’ve crossed the line and are entering the zone of “thought” crimes. You should hardly be an apologist for “finding” something funny. Don’t let the Politically Correct SS stomp you into submission–dammit, you’re an Irishman!

  1. Burt:

    You should take solace in your cultural superiority and have pity on those poor rubes. Why would you expect them to know about the flags?

    • Greetings, Scott! And welcome to the society of knuckle-dragging Neanderthals. Nice to have some company once in awhile.

      Now, if you should raise anything less than complete, total acceptance regarding this gay business, be prepared: to even think of wanting to preserve this 5,000 year old institution, marriage, automatically brands you an irredeemable bigot fit for scourging and crucifixion. And all of this hoopla and hooey coming from a segment of the population that is roughly, 3% at its highest estimate. Ah, the bourgeois, we’re so lacking in good manners, culture, taste, knowledge….it’s so bad, we can’t even appreciate an event like this:

      Or this:

      Or this:

      • to even think of wanting to preserve this 5,000 year old institution, marriage, automatically brands you an irredeemable bigot fit for scourging and crucifixion.

        Not so, at least not in my eyes and not here in my forum. There is a difference between disagreement and disavowal. If you can explain yourself appropriately, you may not be agreed with but you will be welcomed regardless of your viewpoint.

        Rational discussion, not trollery or name-calling or ideolgoy or the creation of an intellectual echo chamber, is what we’re about here. People come here — at least I do — precisely to avoid echo chambers and platitudes.

        And so is staying on topic. This post is not about same-sex marriage. There is a difference between enforcing topical focus and enforcing ideological uniformity.

        If you want to debate same-sex marriage, there are several reasonably recent threads in this blog community where you may appropriately do so.

        The overriding imperative is to mind your manners. If you can’t do that, you’re outta here and that’s regardless of your point of view. Lest you think this is enforced only against conservatives, please note this portion of a recent thread in which a liberal was called out for bad blogging behavior.

  2. “[H]aving stumbled into inadvertently flying LGBT pride flags…”

    umm, isn’t the LGBT community trying to contend that there isn’t any secret-society, subvert-the-world stuff going on with LGBT advocacy?

    Except it turns out that whoops, there is secret meanings and subversion of symbols, because flying a rainbow flag is now an expression of pro-LGBT advocacy, even if you don’t know.

    OTOH we have people saying that Pokemon is pro-Nazi because one of the characters has the Buddhist symbol for eternal life on its forehead. So I guess Americans insist that symbols mean whatever they want them to mean, and that authorial intent is nonexistent.

    • I don’t see how pointing out that, “hey, we’ve been using a rainbow flag as a symbol for decades.” is subverting the world.

    • So you think that having a symbol or flag is proof of “secret-society, subvert-the-world stuff going on?” I’m not sure which to question first, the idea that a group having a logo indicates nefarious intentions, or that waiving a brightly colored flag is a way to be stealthy.

      • It’s like back in 2008 when BHO was flying all of the “O-man rules the world” flags, and it turned out that the state of Ohio had a very similar logo.

    • The meaning of these flags is not exactly a secret, DD. If it was ever intended to be a secret, it’s been the most poorly-kept secret since Liberace.

      • Burt:

        It is not a secret if you have exposure to the LGBT community, if you don’t I’m not surprised that you wouldn’t know about it. So why do you act so surprised that this folks don’t know?

        • Scott, you addressed the question specifically to me, so I’ll answer, although I suspect others will want to chime in.

          We’re talking about dozens of people here, people who live in Los Angeles County, California, albeit in a more socially conserative corner of the state. But we’re not so conservative here that there aren’t gay bars, public figures known to be gay, LGBT outreach organizations, and dozens of cars with rainbow flag bumper stickers. I can certainly understand running in social circles in which one rarely encounters a (non-closeted) gay person. But I can’t imagine not seeing that flag; it’s all over the place.

          When I started seeing minivans all over my community suddenly sprout, fungus-like, bumper stickers of the cryptic notation “NOTW” I asked people until I found out what it meant. Now I know what statement those folks are making, even though I know that the sentiment it expresses is not to my personal taste. Is that sort of curiosity something that cultural conservatives lack? I would have doubted it, although this incident makes me wonder.

          • Burt:

            I used to live in ATL which a large LGBT population and even then you don’t see the flag as often as you seem to suggest you might. Yes it was in front of bars and bookstores but it wasn’t everywhere.

            As for for folks being curious I think that is more of an individual thing rather than a characteristic of cultural conservatives.

          • “But I can’t imagine not seeing that flag; it’s all over the place.”

            And God knows that nobody would ever, EVER, at ALL think that rainbows were cute or enjoyable. No, every single solitary instance of displaying a rainbow must MUST MUST BE A SIGN OF LGBT SUPPORT.

      • “The meaning of these flags is not exactly a secret, DD. If it was ever intended to be a secret, it’s been the most poorly-kept secret since Liberace.”

        I guess you forgot the story you posted, where at least one group didn’t know about it.

        Or does the world begin and end with what Burt Likko experiences?

        • It apparently begins with what I experience, but then ends with what you experience, which often as not is outrage. It must be exhausting being outraged so much.

          I refuse to buy in to your claim that I am a cultural elitist. What is cultural elitism, if not a declaration that “my way of looking at the world is better than yours?” You advocate a particular cultural mindset at least as much as do I, and you have gone to some effort to apologize for that cultural mindset right here in your comments on this very page.

          I say you are as much of a cultural elitist as I am.

  3. Instead, they have stated that having become educated about what was going on, they simply do not want to take a position on the issue. What issue? That gay people exist and need not be ashamed of themselves?

    Strange as it may seem to you, they would rather not, in the context of this activity, take a position on whether or not the practice of sodomy is shameful. Get used to it.

    • So, if they don’t fly the rainbow flag, does that mean that they are taking a position on heterosexual intercourse? Missionary, one presumes?

      More to the point: don’t you think that both straight and gay lives are about more than sex? If can see that, then why bring up sodomy here? If you cannot, then look to yourself before you try to address problems you think you see in others.

    • Seriously. I get to fly that flag now, too? Because of my occasional enjoyment of sex in a manner not approved of by you and yours with my girlfriends / wives / friends with benefits? Nowhere Man pretty much covers it. The fact that you seem to think gay folks are nothing more than sodomy speaks volumes.

      But, oh, by the way. What would their position be about lesbians and cunnilingus? Is there a flag for that, too? And is that an act that all of us, gays and straights, should be ashamed of as well?

        • I’m not the one who views an entire group of people as merely a sex act.

          • Neither am I, but the status of sex acts and human relations built around them is the question at issue.

          • So you’re saying gays and lesbians start with their specific sexual acts and then build their lives around them? Interesting.

            And the question was the flying of flags which resembled the flags that are sometimes used to represent the GLBT community. And then you stated that the flag basically represented sodomy. To which it was pointed out to you that homosexuals aren’t the only ones practicing sodomy. And lesbians, without assistance from post-factory devices, can’t practice sodomy at all. So are you merely opposed to sodomy or is it gay sex be it of male or female variety? whether it be

  4. From a semiotics POV, I don’t think rainbow-colored decorations necessarily symbolize LGBT pride in every context. People might wonder a bit, but absent any more explicit references or contextual clues, I think they’d be taken just as colorful decorations.

    • I’m under the impression from Mr. Likko’s post that they procured the *specific* flags of the LGBT pride movement (without being aware of what they were). Like you can obtain something red,white, or blue that might not necessarily mean “America!” – it might mean “United Kingdom!”, “France!”, “Netherlands!”, etc – but if it’s put it in a specific pattern, it generally does represent one of those things.

      • I don’t think that’s the case — according to this article:

        A few people were upset and felt the fair was trying to make a statement and supporting gay rights because the group has adopted a rainbow as their logo.

      • I think it’s well past time Libertarians say it loud and say it proud:
        “We’re here, we’re borderline psychotic, with multiple personality disorders, get used to it!”

        Let’s finally quit the beating around the bush nonsense, and deregulate every single thing that’s ever been regulated. No speed limits, no alcohol restrictions for airline pilots–start up a new airline that gives you great discounts because you don’t have messy, fussy laws to get in the way of your flying pleasure. Let the pilots fly drunk if they want–if you don’t like it, then fly with someone else–Boozer Airlines is for the stout-hearted, risk-takers. Same-sex marriage? Huh. Marriage should be between any two, three, four, five, you name it–any entities that exist. The only restrictions that I would support would be marriages between the dead. Something about that sort of rubs me the wrong way. Maybe make marriage the union of at least one living entity? Yeah, that makes sense. Sort of. The only problem I see, is that people, other voters, might not take such a platform seriously which would be a damn shame. It’s time for the Sasquatch followers, UFO abductees–there are hundreds of women who have been abducted and raped by aliens, but are afraid and shamed to come forth with their painful memories. These are not one night stand ladies by any measure and they are deeply hurt that the aliens didn’t follow through with their promise to “get back” to them. “Getting back” for an alien could mean a trillion years.

        Here’s a little something to brighten your day.

        • And what does this have to do with LGBT pride flags, exactly?

          • Burt, it has to do with the reality that your Utopia might be my hell. Or vice versa. I see absolutely nothing wrong in the decision to remove the flags. What do you think would have happened had they ordered a dozen Naval Nazi flags? You know, to celebrate their proud German heritage. Or, God forbid, they ordered a dozen Rebel flags? What would really blow the top off this silliness, would be setting up several Manger displays with a few Ten Commandments tablets thrown in for good measure.

            The connection Burt, is shared idiocy.

        • Burt, I forgot to ask, is it legal to marry yourself?

          At a minimum, people with multiple personality disorder, should qualify but admittedly, you could get into a bigamy issue.

          Still, there is a very strong Constitutional case to be made here. Would you need one or two lawyers to get a divorce? Who would collect alimony?

          • I’m guessing, the court would have to provide a separate lawyer for each “personality” manifestation.

            What concerns me most is, how can you serenade (with a lute) all of your lovely paramours?

            John Dowland lives and rocks like no other!!

  5. Being a local Intersex (and lesbian) business owner I called the Fair this morning twice and spoke to two different ladies about it because my business is a sponsor for an event there. I was told that three food vendors complained and the decision was made by two staff members (not board members) to have the flags removed. I spoke to a volunteer police officer friend of mine that was there durring this and was told one set of flags came down and another went up… that there was no multiple changing of the flags.

    The woman went on to tell me that the fairgrounds are politcally neutral and this is why they are not being put back up.

    The people that complained might be anti-gay but the decision was made for neutrality reasons. I like the fairgrounds decision and I think will be better at providing a safer place for glbt attendies rather than spark hate from some people the moment they walk in and see the flags. We are free to attend like anyone else but it’s a public event. We can find hate if we look for it even if it’s not really there. People with migrains don’t need a banner or a flag to let the world know they are there… why do we in the glbt feel the need to do so? So many request equality but issues like this it feels like we’re asking for “more than equal.” If the glbt center sponsored the event then I could be more open to complaining about the flags, but I don’t think this is the case this time.

    • Thanks for the factual addition, Casey. It may be that your sources of information were better than mine, although I have it on very good authority that indeed the mayor and the board were involved, not just staff.

  6. As one of the new OUTreach Center board members, I have spent the last two days emailing and calling to reach the Fair Board. I am most concerned that the “Everyone’s Family Day” we organized for Tuesday will be less safe for our youth in the Out Project. We are a small non-profit with little political experience or connections in such a conservative area, and just want to make our kids feel a little less invisible, a litle less vulnerable. After the recent hate crime graffiti in town “Kill the gays,” this has really hit a nerve. We are simply trying to stand up and say we are part of this community too. Thank you for spreading the word. (formerly the AV GLBT Community Center)

  7. LGBT community isn’t going to protest this like the graffiti issue. On Aug 23rd those who support the rights of all will be going and wearing purple. Call it Gay Day at the AV Fair if you want…unofficial of

  8. I also found it a bit ironic that the story appeared the same day as the story questioning whether the Antelope Valley still has major race issues, and was disappointed that the Fair decided to remove the flags over what amounted to 1 complaint. The truth is that most people never would have noticed the flags, a few might have noticed them and been offended that the Fair chose to fly rainbow flags, regardless of whether the Fair had a position or not.
    Some people would have been amused by the flags, and others, like myself, would have simply seen them as a symbol of inclusion and tolerance, whether that’s what they meant when they put them up or not.
    I can tell you that the AV has come a long way since I first moved here 13 years ago, but even with that, the amount of fear and bigotry here is still evident by the number of criminal incidents committed against our LGBT neighbors and friends every year.

  9. Very good comment on the most ridiculous front page of the AV Press I have seen since we moved here over four years ago. I did note the parallel of this story on the colored flags and the investigation of bigotry in the two cities side by side. My thoughts are why did they devote part of a front page and another part of a page to the flag issue. From a heterosexual Christian woman, which I am, I think this area is full of bigoted yahoos. If you aren’t Christian, white, and fit in a certain mode then you are looked upon with suspicion. I honestly had no idea there were places that replicated “In The Heat of the Night” up here but now I see, unfortunately, that there are. I wanted to write to the Opinion page (which I never have) but I don’t have enough respect for the “journalists” on this newspaper to do so, or the newspaper itself.

  10. It’s really cool to see so many other people from the community commenting here. Thanks for dropping by, Readers from the AV; I hope you stick around for the really cool commenting community we’ve got going here.

  11. I see this as a case of unintended homophobia.
    Yes, the rainbow is a symbol for gay pride, and stems from the kinsey scale on sexuality. (not just because of a flamboyant fashion sense)
    Just like there are colors and flags for bisexuals (like me) and transgendereds. Obviously they had no idea of this when the flags went up. But my problem with it is when they were informed of the matter, those flags came down in a hurry. How am I, along with my LGBT brethren supposed to feel when we see this thing happen? I personally took it to mean that we simply arent welcome at the fair. Fine by me, since I dont want to be in an evironment where Im clearly not wanted or tolerated due to who I wish to date and be intimate with.

  12. On the one hand, removing the flags lets people get all lit up about obvious homophobia in Antelope Valley.

    On the other hand, if they’d left the flags there would have been endless snickering about the dumb hicks in Antelope Valley who put up flags supporting LGBT and didn’t even know because they’re such dumb hicks.

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