These School Bans On Pride Flags Should Freak All Of Us Out

The rainbow flag is not a dangerous tool to push a political agenda, but a symbol of inclusion that indicates to LGBTQ kids that they are safe.
High school students in Los Angeles take part in a rally on April 22 to support LGBTQ people as districts elsewhere in the nation see pride flag bans and other crackdowns.
High school students in Los Angeles take part in a rally on April 22 to support LGBTQ people as districts elsewhere in the nation see pride flag bans and other crackdowns.
MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images via Getty Images

Every single day, conservatives try new ways to make the queer community less visible by using the language of indoctrination. In many cases, it鈥檚 by spreading the belief that cisgender straight people can be influenced into 鈥渢urning鈥 gay or transgender. On Tuesday, the Central Bucks school board, which oversees the third-largest school district in Pennsylvania, exemplified this idea by banning teachers from displaying rainbow flags as part of a larger effort to stop educators from advocating for 鈥減olitical鈥 issues.

The Central Bucks school board is just the latest group to frame LGBTQ-plus people as polarizing political subjects, rather than actual people just trying to live. In the past year, districts in Wisconsin, Michigan and New York have all cracked down on pride flags in schools, typically citing the belief that they are political in nature.

At first glance, the logic behind banning political symbols at school might seem reasonable enough. The problem is that the pride flag doesn鈥檛 represent a single institution, nor is it a dangerous tool to push a political agenda; it is a community-driven symbol of humanity and inclusion that can indicate to students of all gender and sexual identities that they are in a welcoming and open-minded space.

What鈥檚 more, it can show queer students that they are in a space that won鈥檛 be actively hostile toward them. In a 2019 survey, the education group GLSEN found that 86% of LGBTQ students experienced harassment or assault at school. The organization has also said that LGBTQ students who have supportive educators skip fewer classes and get better grades.

You can鈥檛 indoctrinate someone into the LGBTQ community, and queer visibility is a human rights issue, not an ideological one. Unlike a political organization, there is no central LGBTQ organ, headquarters or single representative whom LGBTQ people take orders from (except maybe Cher). For these reasons and many others, the designation of pride flags as political symbols doesn鈥檛 make much sense. The argument is yet another pretense to pathologize and exclude queer and trans people and to galvanize voters against a common enemy.

It鈥檚 hard not to see parallels between what conservatives are doing and what some violently oppressive countries do to justify silencing the queer community. For example, at last year鈥檚 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, fans said they were prohibited from taking rainbow flags into soccer stadiums. Seeing the U.S. mirror aspects of totalitarian nations shouldn鈥檛 just be concerning for queer people; it should freak everyone out.

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