LGBT activists are complaining that the rainbow is being appropriated by others to be used as a sign of support for the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Children across the world have been creating pictures of rainbows and displaying them to raise people’s spirits during lockdown or as they head out to the front line to combat the virus.
In the UK the symbol has particularly been used as a symbol of solidarity with NHS workers. Some have repurposed the six-colour LGBT flag as a “Thank you NHS” flag, prompting complaints from some LGBT people that their ‘pride’ symbol is being ‘erased’.
One complained that some businesses using the rainbow symbol as a logo “would refuse to hang a rainbow flag outside their business during Pride Season”.
He claimed the LGBT community was being “belittled by the meaning of the rainbow being changed in the current climate”.
The LGBT Pride flag represents a hard-fought battle for fundamental human rights. It’s reinvention as a ‘Thank You NHS Flag’ is contentious for some in the LGBT+ community.
— Jamie Wareham (@jamie_wareham) May 6, 2020
He added: “There are many other ways to show your support for the NHS rather than using a symbol that has an alternate meaning for a large portion of the population.”
Another said: “It’s worrying that the universal symbol of the LGBT+ community might be being ‘overtaken.’”
In an article for online magazine Forbes, LGBT commentator Jamie Wareham highlighted that some in the LGBT community would feel they are being ‘erased’ by the appropriation of the flag.
However, he did admit that the rainbow has been a symbol for other communities for many years.
“Not least in Christianity where the rainbow denotes God’s covenant–a connection between God and all living creatures–with Noah”, he wrote.
The true meaning of the rainbow
Last month, Warwickshire Pride asked its Twitter followers: “Do you think the current use of the rainbow to celebrate the NHS will mean the message behind the rainbow badge is lost?”
Most of the responses indicated support for the rainbow being used to thank the NHS and other key workers.