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To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the Brexit Party is kicking off about the ‘rainbow poppy’

Josh Milton November 7, 2019
'Rainbow poppies' that aren't actually a thing have cultivated controversy. (Twitter)

'Rainbow poppies' that aren't actually a thing have cultivated controversy. (Twitter)

A rainbow poppy has become an issue so thorny that even potential politicians are joining in the debate.

Brexit party candidate Nicholas Goulding has stated that the Remembrance Poppy should not be used to promote the LGBT+ community.

Goulding is against the rainbow poppy as the symbol, used each year to pay respect to those who lost their lives in conflict, should be “kept outside the political frame”, he told Yahoo! News.

This comes as this week, several Twitter users took screenshots of an eBay listing of a ‘rainbow poppy’ and expressed their fury, claiming the LGBT+ community had “hijacked” the red remembrance poppy.

Yet nowhere on the product page did it state ‘LGBT+, ‘gay’, ‘queer’ or anything on the spectrum. The poppy had no intended significance other than being multi-coloured.

Former solider to the queer community: ‘Don’t take over’ Remembrance Day.

Goulding this week retweeted a message by former soldier Trevor Coult.

In the tweet, Coult said that there’s no need for a poppy specifically to respect queer folk because they “have a Pride month”.

LGBT+ users and allies gave Coult a history lesson in the role the community played in the role, such as Alan Turing.

The gay man who, after cracking the German Enigma codes and being credited for playing a large part in ending the Second World War, was chemically castrated for having gay sex.

Users emphasised that none of these people – Turing included – were “gay for a month of year” and deserve to be remembered all the same.

“Those men, some of whom were gay, bi, or trans, died so that freedom wouldn’t be policed – which is exactly what you’re doing,” said Josh.

“Excuse me Josh,” Coult replied, “let’s not be completely silly.

“Back in the First World War, their [sic] were no transexuals, so stop with your b******s.”

The poppy is not for ‘political controversy’, stressed Brexit Party member. 

Goulding, who is running as the party’s candidate for Eddisbury, Cheshire, in the forthcoming general election, expressed his support for Coult by retweeting his message.

Furthermore, Goulding expanded on his support in an interview: “It, the poppy symbol, has been established as an emblem of remembrance and it shouldn’t be adulterated for other means.

“It shouldn’t be used for other purposes, no matter what that purpose should be.

Poppy field, Cotswolds, United Kingdom. (Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Poppy field, Cotswolds, United Kingdom. (Tim Graham/Getty Images)

“It should be there to unite everyone in the country. If you take an emblem and use it for political controversy, then you are undermining a symbol for the nation.”

He added that he’s not against “other campaigns” and said that the red poppy can be worn by all no matter their political affiliation as they “all share the same heritage.”

“When you see the leaders sitting next to each other at the Cenotaph, that’s acceptable as they display national unity.”

Goulding continued that those in the wars who died for their country “did so without making reservation as to who it was for”, so “we shouldn’t use that to make any point”.

So, can you buy a rainbow poppy?

No.

At least, the two pictured.

There are two poppies primarily used as images in the debate. One from a now de-listed eBay page and another that was a one-off redesign that appeared to never enter production.

The now defunct 'rainbow, glittery poppy style badge'. (eBay)
The now defunct ‘rainbow, glittery poppy style badge’. (eBay)

Neither were affiliated with the Royal British Legion, the charity that sells the official red remembrance poppies, where proceeds go to aid retired veterans and service-people.

When someone buys a poppy, no matter the design, from a non-RBL source, it is often up to the seller to decide if shares of the profit is donated to the charity.

But wait, what does a rainbow poppy mean?

One is simply multi-coloured.

The specific badge bearing the brunt of backlash is not explicitly tagged as an ‘LGBT+’ poppy, neither is it described as being specifically used to respect queer soldiers in isolation.

Moreover, proceeds of the poppy went to “charity”, the seller said, who has since halted its manufacturing and appears to no longer sell anything on their page.

In other words, a multi-coloured poppy has had a lot of meaning loaded into it.

The other rainbow poppy design making the rounds on Twitter was designed by LGBT poet Trudy Howson in 2016. (LGBT Poet Laureate)

Moreover, the second circulated picture of a ‘rainbow poppy’ was designed by LGBT+ poet Trudy Howson in 2016. It’s the official poppy design with a rainbow segment on one petal.

They wrote: “The rainbow poppy is a campaign I’m running to bring attention to the brave soldiers who died for our country during WWI at a time when their sexuality was still criminalised.”

It appeared that the poppy was never manufactured, and it was brought to national attention last year when Doncaster Pride organisers posted it on their Instagram page.

The second rainbow poppy design clogging up Twitter timelines was a one-off, never-sold design by Doncaster Pride. (Instagram)
The second rainbow poppy design popping up on Twitter timelines was a one-off, never-sold design that Doncaster Pride reposted last year. (Instagram)

But as organisers told PinkNews, the poppy was “designed to acknowledge the bravery of serving LGBT+ armed forces personnel and as a mark of respect to all those that have served their country in the past, many serving whilst hiding their true identity”.

So, this design of the poppy did not commemorate LGBT+ people involved in the war and them only.

Instead, it respected everyone as well as raising the visibility of queer soldiers whose activity is so often left out of the history books.

 

More: Alan Turing, Brexit Party, poppy, rainbow poppy

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