Moving Beyond the Profit-Driven Progress Pride Flag - Statement Tease

Moving Beyond the Profit-Driven Progress Pride Flag

Over the past two years, there has been a movement to embrace the Progress Pride Flag as the primary symbol for the LGBTQIA+ community, overshadowing the iconic rainbow flag. This new Gay Pride flag by graphic designer, Daniel Quasar is the first Gay Pride flag that cannot be used freely and must be paid for when used commercially and attributed when used personally. Unlike the original Gay Pride flag created by Gilbert Baker, this is the first time in history that a Gay Pride flag cannot be used without paying the creator and attributing him.

The new Progressive Pride flag incorporates the Trans Flag colors of light blue, pink, and white, as well as black and brown stripes within the rainbow design. The reasoning behind this shift is understandable, given the long-overdue conversations about racism and the urgent need to support the trans community during a time of heightened attacks.

However, my discoveries about the questionable origins of the Progress Pride Flag compel us to reconsider its use and promotion until its creator addresses the issues of profiteering. Even if changes are made, I remain skeptical about imposing this flag as the new universal symbol for our community. 

The Issue of Profiting Off The Progress Pride Flag

The majority of people are unaware of this flag's history. Daniel Quasar, the creator, appropriated Gilbert Baker's original 1978 rainbow flag and the light blue, pink, and white stripes from Monica Helms' 1999 trans pride flag, without seeking permission.

Furthermore, the black and brown stripes were borrowed from the 2017 More Colors More Pride Flag, created in collaboration with Philadelphia's Office of LGBT Affairs. To make matters worse, the creator proceeded to LICENSE THE DESIGN FOR PROFIT. Notably, unlike the creators of more than 90 other Pride Flags, the designer of the Progress Pride Flag demands a fee for commercial reproduction of the design and creator name attribution when used publicly or privately.

This includes virtually any manufacturer looking to produce the flag, and these costs are passed on to consumers who purchase the flag or related merchandise. This license is far from a free-use, public domain arrangement even though it borrows so much from the copyright free Gilbert Baker original gay pride flag and others. It requires individuals or entities to obtain permission and pay a fee to the creator before duplicating the flag.

These fees are added to the price of every Progress Pride Flag or related product, and the creator openly acknowledges this practice. The profit margin in this venture is substantial. For example, while a 2'X3' hand-sewn nylon Pride Flag typically costs between $28 (for flags like the Rainbow and Bi Pride Flags) and $40 (for more intricate designs like Leather and Bear Flags), a licensed, sewn Progress Pride Flag comes with a price tag of $125.

Even a budget version of the Progress Pride Flag, printed on fabric, is priced at $55 in the creator's online store. If you find it cheaper elsewhere, it's likely a "bootleg" version from abroad. In one instance, the San Francisco International Airport paid $179.95 for a single 5'X8' Progress flag, which is 150% more expensive than the Rainbow Flag.

To put things into perspective, if this were genuinely about supporting queer people of color and trans individuals, 100% of the profits would be donated to organizations serving these communities. The creator's last reported donation to the community amounted to approximately $8,000, which is far from sufficient. This situation disregards the efforts of artists and activists who have generously offered their Pride Flag designs for everyone to use.

Most of these creators live with financial instability, including Gilbert Baker, who struggled with poverty throughout his life. In my view, it is imperative for us to reject the Progressive Pride Flag until its creator takes the following steps: (a) eliminates the license, (b) apologizes to the artists from whom they appropriated their work, (c) provides a transparent financial report on licensing fee profits to date, and (d) donates 100% of those profits to organizations supporting trans and queer people of color. 


The Power of the Gay Pride Rainbow Flag

Even if these conditions are met, I believe we should not allow the Progress Pride Flag to be imposed as the sole symbol for the entire LGBTQIA+ community. Here's why: The Power of the Rainbow Flag Apart from its historical significance and universal appeal, the rainbow flag has been embraced by LGBTQIA+ individuals worldwide because it does not claim to represent specific races, sexual orientations, gender identities, or nationalities.

Gilbert Baker and co-creators designed it for "all genders, all races, all ages, the rainbow of humanity." The colors in the flag symbolize "universal elements in all of us" rather than specific identities. The rainbow flag's inclusivity has made it a unifying symbol for queer people across the globe. Queer communities from various corners of the world, such as Uganda, Poland, Indonesia, Ukraine, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia, have adopted it to unite and advocate for their rights, often knowing the risks they face under its banner.

On the contrary, I believe that the Progress Pride flag's inclusion of trans and black/brown queer communities, while crucial, excludes other groups. Bisexual individuals represent a significant portion of the LGBTQIA+ community and face disproportionate discrimination, violence, and health disparities. Their flag's colors are absent from the Progress Pride Flag. Similarly, Indigenous Two-Spirit people, who endure higher rates of suicide, poverty, and discrimination than other queer individuals in the US, are not represented by the flag.

The Progressive Pride Flag also overlooks Asian Pacific Islanders, who are currently experiencing a surge in hate violence. Additionally, the flag fails to include key colors from the Lesbian Pride Flag. For me, the Progress Pride Flag, as a symbol of inclusion, is inadequate and exclusionary. It provides a convenient way for people, LGBTQIA+ organizations, and businesses to appear inclusive of trans and black/brown individuals without taking any substantive action.

If these entities genuinely wish to support trans individuals, they should proudly fly Monica's Trans Pride Flag. Likewise, if they want to stand in solidarity with black queer individuals, they should have the courage to display the Black Pride or the Black Lives Matter Flag. Let's stand against this glaring example of profit-driven pride until the creator addresses these concerns, honor the diverse pride flags created by artists for our community, and celebrate the fact that the rainbow flag encompasses all of us, regardless of our identities or backgrounds. It's a symbol of unity that unites our entire LGBTQIA+ community.

The question remains: how can someone copyright a design that incorporates public domain graphics and ideas that were borrowed, if not stolen, and claim it for themselves for profit?

Let's stop supporting Daniel Quasar's Progress Pride Flag until it is made free for all.

Why We Don't Use The Progress Pride Flag

The Progress Pride flag garnered rapid popularity, but controversy erupted when a viral social media post criticized it for licensing and accessibility issues. The post claimed that the flag, designed to represent the LGBTQ+ community, required people to pay substantial licensing fees for its use, making it less accessible to the very community it aimed to support.

The Progress Pride Flag employs a tiered Creative Commons license. Creative Commons (CC) is an informal licensing framework that outlines terms under which copyright owners permit others to use their work based on the license type. It grants certain rights to encourage widespread use, display, and the creation of derivative works. Under the specific terms of the Progress Pride flag, non-commercial uses are free and open to all, with the option of attribution.

For commercial use, Quasar grants a free license to smaller businesses and creators, while larger corporate entities must request permission and negotiate licensing on a scaling basis. The flag's terms of use emphasize the importance of requesting permission to ensure the flag's message is retained and support is given back to the community it serves.

As there are no Pride flag artists who have ever charged for their Pride flags ever, this leads us to believe the Progress Pride Flag is rainbow capitalism at its finest and is purely rainbow capitalism based marketing. If you're going to make money off of something that is appropriated from other artists like Gilbert Baker (the original gay Pride flag artist) and intend and press the community to replace the original Pride flag with the new Progress one, it's only fair that you give it to the community freely in all forms.

Quasar has exploited the artistic works of Gilbert Baker, Monica Helms, and the Philadelphia's Office of LGBT Affairs for compensation to himself. Pressing the LGBT+ community to adopt a "pay for use" flag is unethical and unfair. Also another question arises: can one creator accurately represent the interests of an entire group? Gilbert Baker did not believe so and opposed formal licensing and ownership, choosing instead to dedicate the flag to everyone. This brings us back to the fundamental question: how can we protect works integral to collective culture from misappropriation?

Copyright and activism intersect in a complex landscape, as evident in the debates surrounding the Pride flag and the Progress Pride flag. Gilbert Baker's decision not to trademark or copyright the original Pride flag arguably allowed it to become a powerful symbol embodying the collective struggles and triumphs of the LGBTQ+ community.

Conversely, the licensing of the Progress Pride flag sparked debates about artist compensation, Daniel Quasar's role, and the flag's messaging and symbolism's protection against corporate exploitation. But at the same time, Quasar seems to be artistically exploiting the Progress Pride flag. While the Creative Commons license offers a framework for controlled usage and compensation, it raises questions about who has the authority to represent an entire community's interests.

Balancing the need to protect cultural works from misappropriation while ensuring inclusivity and openness is a delicate challenge that continues to confront activists, creators, and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. Ultimately, the original Pride flag (created by Gilbert Baker - the simple one with the 6 rainbow colors) remains a potent symbol of resilience, love, and equality. Its impact transcends legal ownership and copyright debates. The flag's strength lies in the hearts of those who wave it, wear it, and find solace, pride, and community in its vibrant colors. We believe the LGBT+ community should hold on to the original Pride flag for these reasons and it is one of our reasons we will not be using it in our product lines.

Whether copyrighted or unregistered, these symbols belong to the people who hold them dear and use them to inspire change. For activists and creators grappling with the complexities of representation, Monica Helms' words in her autobiography, "More Than Just a Flag," resonate: "The only thing an activist owns is their integrity. You lose that, and you are no longer an activist." 

Rainbow Capitalism Exposed

Rainbow capitalism highlights the problematic exploitation of the LGBTQ+ community by profit-driven corporations through selective campaigns and merchandise during Pride Month. While it's heartening to witness increased corporate support for LGBTQ+ causes, the recent removal of Pride-themed products exposes the shallowness of their commitment, deepening the divide between corporate interests and the community they claim to champion.

This raises the critical question: are these corporations genuinely dedicated to advancing LGBTQ+ rights, or are they merely seizing a lucrative market opportunity? Erik Carnell, a transgender graphic designer whose artwork was pulled from Target due to recent protests, aptly pointed out that companies like Target often seek to profit from LGBTQ+ people without standing by them when faced with challenges.

This sets a dangerous precedent, suggesting that corporations can conveniently distance themselves from the LGBTQ+ community if public sentiment turns against their products. The issue of rainbow capitalism also prompts us to consider how various communities can protect their cultural rights against appropriation or misrepresentation. Copyright law unexpectedly emerges as a key player in this discussion, offering creators from diverse backgrounds the chance  to perpetuate and invigorate the LGBTQ+ movement.

To delve into the heart of the rainbow capitalism issue, it's essential to explore the origins of the rainbow itself, symbolized by the original Pride flag created by the American artist, designer, and activist Gilbert Baker (1951-2017) in 1978. This iconic flag serves as a reminder of the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights and the importance of maintaining the authenticity of the movement, even in the face of corporate commercialization.

Rainbow capitalism is wrong when a company uses Pride month to sell gay pride merchandise for profit when they typically do not support the LGBT/gay community year round. 

Flyers Posted Urging a Boycott of the Progress Pride Flag Have Appeared in San Francisco's Castro District 

In the heart of San Francisco's vibrant Castro District, a wave of curiosity and speculation has gripped the community, as enigmatic flyers have emerged, calling for a boycott of the Progress Pride Flag, a symbol introduced in 2018 by the artist Daniel Quasar. This flag, designed to honor the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community, has recently ignited a passionate debate that is, in some ways, creating a rift within the community itself.

For nearly half a century, the Rainbow Flag, first unfurled in 1978, has proudly symbolized the LGBTQ+ community, embracing its rich tapestry of identities. Yet in more recent times, members of the transgender, Black, and Brown communities have found resonance in another emblem of their pride, the Progress Pride Flag.

"I believe there's a longstanding history of certain segments within our community being marginalized or overlooked within the movement. Even in the heart of Castro, we are not immune to discrimination," notes LGBTQ+ activist Honey Mahogany.

Gilbert Baker, the creator of the Rainbow Flag, envisioned a society that was even more inclusive. "Flags hold power; they communicate something. When you display a Rainbow Flag on your car's windshield, you're conveying a message," Baker observed in a poignant interview with ABC News, shortly before his passing in 2017.

While a significant number of individuals passionately advocate for the Rainbow Flag to remain as the emblem of diversity and inclusivity, not everyone embraces the Progress Pride Flag. Recent evenings in the Castro have seen the mysterious appearance of flyers, gently urging residents to reconsider their allegiance to the Progress Pride Flag. These flyers suggest that this new flag, which incorporates elements of both the Trans Pride Flag and the Rainbow Flag, is being exploited for profit.

"The Rainbow Flag has long been associated with Gilbert Baker, and to integrate it into a new design without the community's blessing is quite audacious," remarked Michael Walker, a visitor to the predominantly gay neighborhood of the Castro.

Nevertheless, this ongoing debate has sparked questions about its potential impact on the community's unity and dialogue. "I thought it was meant to bring the community together, not divide us," reflected long-time resident Andy Anderson, highlighting the importance of unity in the face of change.

Because the Progress Pride Flag incorporates elements of Gilbert Baker's Rainbow Flag and Monica Helms' Trans Pride Flag without their consent, it raises questions about the use of their original designs and the potential implications for trademark protection. From the looks of the Progress Pride Flag, it does not look like a significant artistic transformation, as most of the gay community has been saying. 

Since the Progress Pride Flag was successfully trademarked despite its incorporation of elements from other well-known flags, it's possible that the examination process was not as thorough as it should have been, potentially leading to lapses in identifying potential conflicts. This oversight could have allowed the trademark to be approved mistakenly. The trademark application process involves a comprehensive review to determine whether the proposed trademark may cause confusion or infringe upon existing trademarks.

However, if this examination was not conducted rigorously, or if there were inadequacies in recognizing the potential conflicts between the Progress Pride Flag and the original flag designs, it might have resulted in an inadvertent approval of the trademark. Such situations underscore the complexities and subjectivity involved in trademark decisions.

For a new gay pride flag to be adopted (if it is to even replace Baker's longstanding true blue Pride flag) it should be given to the community without profit with consent and approval from the original artists or their estates and the gay community.

Back to blog