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Petition demands an end to the ‘rebranding’ of the rainbow as an NHS flag and the ‘erasing of queer history’

Lily Wakefield May 27, 2020
NHS Pride Flag

The six-striped rainbow LGBT+ Pride flag has been rebranded as a symbol for the NHS. (Custom Flags NI/ Facebook)

Hundreds of people have signed a petition to stop the six-colour rainbow being used as a symbol for the NHS, rather than as the LGBT+ Pride flag.

Drawings and paintings of rainbows have been springing up in windows across the UK, with schools and parents encouraging children to “spread hope” to those unable to leave home, and to show solidarity with key workers and the NHS during the pandemic.

The trend was picked up by online sellers, who began selling “thank you NHS flags” with the same six-colour rainbow designed by Gilbert Baker that has represented LGBT+ Pride since 1978.

Elsewhere, Plymouth Citybus suffered criticism from the LGBT+ community after it announced it had altered its rainbow Pride bus, printing the words “thank you NHS and key workers” on the side.

Now, a queer teen has started a petition against the rainbow being used as an NHS sigil.

NHS rainbow ‘erases LGBT+ history’.

The campaign was started by 16-year-old Bella McMonagle from Northern Ireland, who told Forbes: “I and thousands of other LGBT+ people in this country feel like they are having their history erased – both young and the old members of the community. I thought someone should speak up and do something about it.

“I know, and my online supporters all agree that we love and respect what the NHS workers are doing for us. We aren’t blaming them at all for our flag being ‘rebranded’.

“It’s the fact that now there are some homophobic people flying the symbol, which we used and we have fought to be able to use, claiming that it isn’t our symbol.

“People like us have been attacked for simply even wearing that flag and when you see the very people who have hurled abuse at you flying your flag it just doesn’t sit right with a lot of us.”

Petition calls for the NHS to be given its own flag.

McMonagle also said that she feels the NHS “deserves” its own symbol, suggesting: “Maybe a blue flag with the letters NHS on it, a full seven coloured rainbow flag, a white flag with an actual image of a rainbow on it, a flag with the NHS colours (blue and white).”

The six-colour Pride flag, however, should remain for the LGBT+ community, she said.

“Yes we can’t take all the rainbow for ourselves, we don’t own it,” she said.

“But the six colours flag has been synonymous with LGBT+ pride since 1978, and we will fight not to be erased.”

More: Bella McMonagle, lgbt pride, NHS, petition, pride flag, rainbow, Thank you nhs

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