A bus company rebranded its ‘Pride bus’ to an ‘NHS bus’ and it angered LGBT+ people and healthcare workers alike
LGBT+ people and frontline healthcare workers alike were left perplexed after a British bus company rebranded its Pride bus into an “NHS bus”.
In a cascading series of barbed jokes, satirical memes and angered critiques, countless Twitter users hounded Plymouth Citybus for “re-appropriating” the Pride flag and erasing the queer community.
As one user joked: “Can’t wait for Thank You NHS month in June!”
On Saturday morning, the mass transit company uploaded photographs to Twitter of a red double-decker bus splashed with the six-striped rainbow flag. On its side, the message “Thank you NHS and key workers” was printed.
🌈 Rainbows have become synonymous with hope and the NHS during the current pandemic, so we thought what better way to show our thanks to our amazing NHS and key workers, than to re-brand our Pride bus to our rainbow 'NHS' bus? 🌈
Look out for the bus on our roads soon! pic.twitter.com/yqq6OLNjq2
— Plymouth Citybus (@plymouthbus) May 16, 2020
Transit company rebrand Pride bus to ‘Thank You NHS’ bus, sparking confusion and criticism from LGBT+ community.
“Rainbows have become synonymous with hope and the NHS during the current pandemic,” Plymouth Citybus wrote.
“So we thought what better way to show our thanks to our amazing NHS and key workers than to rebrand our Pride bus to our rainbow ‘NHS’ bus?”
But the rebranded Plymouth Citybus vehicles were punctured by countless LGBT+ people who accused the company of erasure.
Indeed, as the coronavirus continues to paralyse Britain and the world, housebound families have encouraged children to doodle rainbows to hang in windows to motivate medics on their way to work.
But what has now emerged as an emblem of solidarity with frontline staffers has been increasingly mired by brazen rebrands of LGBT+ Pride flags, rattling queer folk who are already contending with the coronavirus pandemic’s eradication of 2020’s Pride season.
From eBay merchants flogging ‘Thank you NHS” flags that are literally just Pride flags to anti-LGBT people and even world leaders refusing to associate rainbows with supporting workers, the bizarre collision of ways to spread hope to medics and the historic symbol of the LGBT+ community is a rather unexpected one.
Noah considered it a sign from God, Aristotle grappled with its geometry and Dorothy sang about soaring above it. The rainbow has had, over the years, more meaning and significations tacked onto it than it contains colours.
To Gilbert Baker, the rainbow was an enduring international symbol of the LGBT+ community, and this meaning has persevered ever since.
As a result, many LGBT+ people – many key workers themselves – expressed unease at Plymouth Citybus’ rebranded Pride bus.
They said the move may have had good intentions, but the delivery erased the community in the process.
The rainbow is the only universal symbol celebrating LGBTQ rights. There are so many other ways to celebrate the NHS without erasing that.
Im sure this was meant well, but it is hugely Ill conceived
— Jack Duncan🌹 (@JackDunc1) May 17, 2020
this really worries me, we’re seeing the six-stripe pride flag being used for a really legitimate cause but which i can’t help but feel is eroding a symbol with a 50+ year history of struggle and protest ✊🌈 https://t.co/zHIByYzivI
— ben (@benh96) May 16, 2020
And there it is, the systematic erasure and rebranding of LGBT+ symbology I suspected would happen the minute the general public started using rainbows instead of coming up with their own fucking idea! Insensitive rebranding to grab public favour at the cost of insulting others!
— Ross Paterson (@roostarr) May 16, 2020
as a key worker, you can keep it https://t.co/kk7nyJYlEm
— bébé spice (@jxespice) May 17, 2020
— Ems, The Social Justice Paladin (@GayRollerCEng) May 17, 2020
This puts queer people in an awfull position. On one hand you’ve taken an empowering symbol and dusted the LGBTQ+ off like unwanted cobwebs. But you’ve also made it hard for us to speak out without being labelled uptight killjoys.
Always 🏳️🌈 consult 🏳️🌈 communities 🏳️🌈 first! https://t.co/0OkKLnzHkm
— Sacha Coward (@sacha_coward) May 17, 2020
see also pic.twitter.com/ulYTqX8uI5
— rushy🌼 (@rushybby) May 16, 2020
Moreover, some users called for the community to commit to using Pride flags designs more inclusive of trans and queer folk of colour.
I understand the frustration around the rainbow flag being used for the NHS, but think it's a great opportunity for us to commit to using one of these flags instead! They recognise people of colour and trans people more explicitly. pic.twitter.com/6YlVmoBnMl
— Séancé 🦢 (@MeltingSwans) May 17, 2020
Plymouth Sutton & Devonport MP and shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard defended the bus.
“I’m not going to join the outrage at Citybus over their awkward rebranding the pride bus to support the NHS,” he wrote on Twitter Sunday morning.
I’m not going to join the outrage at Citybus over their awkward rebranding the pride bus to support the NHS. They did the right thing by supporting #plymouth pride, and supporting the NHS is good too. Let’s not play one group off against another at a time of crisis please https://t.co/LSocIpNGim
— Luke Pollard MP (@LukePollard) May 17, 2020
‘They did the right thing by supporting Plymouth pride, and supporting the NHS is good, too.
“Let’s not play one group off against another at a time of crisis, please.”
A Plymouth Citybus representative told PinkNews: “The Pride bus in Plymouth has been borrowed to show support to the NHS and fellow key workers.
“It is a temporary measure. We are working with Pride in Plymouth for a new 2020 Pride bus to show our continued support.
“Plymouth Citybus is an inclusive company and represents the community it serves.”