This article was originally published in The Stranger's June 2000 Queer Issue.
The man who invented the rainbow flag considers himself the Betsy Ross of the gay movement; I like to think of him more as the Holly Hobbie of it. The rainbow flag/bumpersticker/windsock aesthetic—the neighborhood covenants with which all homosexual citizens must comply—is only partly about rainbows. It’s mostly about insecurity, with 30 years worth of accumulated tchochkes seeming to argue that being gay is a whole lot like being a fifth-grade girl. So much purple, so much pink, so much My Pretty Pony and Rainbow Brite. To step into a gay bookstore—depending on how many bookish womyn were in charge versus how many recipe-sharing leathermen—was always like stepping into a cross between the student-council spirit store and a stage set for Godspell.
How many lesbian mystery novels can feature a cat? How many self-help books does one messed up teenager need? How many “Nobody Knows I’m Gay” T-shirts can the gay market possibly absorb? We don’t really need this stuff anymore—the T-shirts, the self-help books, the cats. We’ve moved on. The hardest thing about being accepted by the rest of the world is that we can no longer identify with our windsocks; we cannot take refuge in our bawdy refrigerator magnets. Gays and lesbians have come to realize that The Wizard of Oz is increasingly useless as both theology and security blanket. When you get over the rainbow, you get over the rainbow.