By KAYLEIGH RONGEY
The University of Mary Washington prides itself on being a diverse and accepting school for all students. Recent events, such as the appearance of homophobic propaganda on campus, have brought students together rather than divide them. The community has united under the philosophy that “Love trumps hate.”
The gay pride flag can be found in dorm room windows and flying on porches in the surrounding area as a symbol of the community’s inclusiveness. This flag appears so regularly around campus, in fact, that it has almost become overlooked, making it easy for us to forget about how far the LGBTQ+ community has come.
Gilbert Baker, creator of the gay pride flag, died at age 65 in his home in New York City this past Friday, March 31. His friend and fellow gay rights activist, Cleve Jones, confirmed the death of the self-proclaimed “gay Betsy Ross.” Despite suffering a stroke several years prior, Jones stated that his friend remained healthy and had not recently been ill. The death was sudden and unexpected.
Baker had been a protester during the gay rights movement of the 1970s and was known for his creative signs and banners. He made the first gay pride flags by dying strips of fabric in trashcans and hand-sewing the pieces together. Some original concepts of the flag featured the pink triangle that had been used by Nazis during World War II to identify gay men while they were in concentration camps.
Baker was finally asked by Harvey Milk, a San Francisco city supervisor, in 1978 to make a flag that would represent the LGBTQ+ community at the gay pride parade that year. Milk was assassinated some months after the event, but the symbol he requested Baker to make continues to embody the gay rights movement.
The untimely death of this hero coincided with “The Transgender Day of Visibility.” Both events show the astounding progress that the United States has made towards equal rights for all genders and sexual orientations since Baker made his first flag. In spite of the Trump administration’s rollbacks, like the ruling on February 22 to remove protections for transgender students who wish to use bathrooms according to their gender identity, UMW students continue to fly the iconic rainbow flag.
A few handmade flyers and an unfortunate legal setback are not enough to deter the community from maintaining its inclusivity and has only brought students closer together in an act of unity. With the loss of this icon in mind UMW continues to be accepting of all genders and sexual orientations.