Biden puts U.S. on LGBT world stage

The “More Color, More Pride” Flag (photo: Kelly Burkhardt)

Last week I wrote that the U.S. State Department sent out a directive to all U.S. embassies throughout the world. Simply put, it told embassies that they could fly the rainbow flag this June for Gay Pride Month. That single act is as strong as it comes. There are 71 countries in the world where it is still illegal simply to be LGBT.  And many of them imprison, torture or kill LGBT people.  

Imagine the response in some of those 71 countries when the U.S. embassy flies that flag. Some examples: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Uganda, Jamaica, Turkey, Hungary. This simple act is already beginning to have it’s effect. Imagine a closeted LGBT person in those countries seeing the flag flying high. Imagine the government officials of those countries seeing it as they drive down the street.

Reaction to Biden’s policy is already being noticed and reacted to. Here’s a news report from CNA news Singapore:

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday (May 19) has reminded the United States embassy in Singapore that foreign missions here “are not to interfere in our domestic social and political matters.”

This includes issues such as “how sexual orientation should be dealt with in public policy”, it added. The MFA issued the statement in response to a webinar the US embassy had co-hosted with local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) non-profit organisation Oogachaga on Monday.

“MFA has reminded the US Embassy that foreign missions here are not to interfere in our domestic social and political matters, including issues such as how sexual orientation should be dealt with in public policy,” said the ministry. “These are choices for only Singaporeans to debate and decide.”

Last November I was a guest of our embassy in Poland to address LGBT issues.  The zoom conference was, like Singapore, done in conjunction with several universities throughout Poland. My speech was related to U.S. History and my involvement in Stonewall and the gay liberation movement. 

Despite the fact that their citizens were getting a history lesson that the Polish government didn’t want them to learn, the government could not complain since it was a U.S. Embassy program run out of the embassy, which according to international law is U.S. territory. Likewise, flying a rainbow flag on any U.S. embassy anywhere in the world is a rainbow flag on U.S. Territory. Last year this was done in Russia. LGBT people walked by and felt pride. It became so popular that Russian police were stationed across the street from the embassy to disperse the crowds.  

In Turkey the government has forbidden Gay Pride celebrations. Each year LGBT people attempt to march, and each year the police use hoses and arrest people. That flag gives them hope. When people ask me what it was like to be involved with that very first Pride in 1970, my answer is that Gay Pride is the most important export or Gift that our LGBT community gave to the world. Pride in self and community creates a thirst for change. Visibility brings discussion of our issues in the media, which then brings progress. So simply flying that flag brings media attention. That, my friends, was a revolutionary action when we did it in 1970. And it still is today in some places in the world today.