The CEO of Manchester Pride has spoken about how his own experiences with racism led to the organisation adopting a racially-inclusive flag with black and brown stripes.
Last year, Mark Fletcher announced the new flag would be used by Manchester Pride to ensure people from ethnic minority backgrounds felt represented and seen.
The decision to drop the classic rainbow flag designed by Gilbert Baker and start using the inclusive flag first used outside Philadelphia’s City Hall in 2017 made headlines around the world.
Alongside the traditional rainbow colours, the eight-stripped pride flag features brown and black stripes as well as colours associated with the trans pride flag.
While seen by many as a progressive move of acceptance, there was still some opposition.
At the time, Nathan Gill, a MEP for Wales, tweeted about his confusion of Manchester Pride’s new flag by stating that he hadn’t recalled ‘ever seeing black or brown in a rainbow’ and asked why a white stripe wasn’t included.
Another Twitter user thought the amended flag was ‘so wrong’ by suggesting the flag should only represent diversity and by ‘adding colours to show different ethnicity, does this become a race issue?’.
But for Mark, it was an important decision that marked the ‘progressive city of Manchester’ while also highlighting how there was still ‘a long way to go’ in the recognition of people of colour in the LGBT+ community.
In an interview on the latest episode of podcast A Gay and a Non-Gay, hosted by comedians James Barr and Dan Hudson, Mark said he was surprised by just how much controversy the decision caused.
“To see the level of hate that was levelled at me personally – and to the organisation was shocking,” Mark said in the podcast.
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“I felt alone, there were peers and people that we worked alongside that should have been supporting, that fell silent.
“People that claim to represent LGBT+ people, they fell silent, they didn’t have anything to say.”
Mark added that he made the decision because of his own experiences with racism and fetishisation he‘s faced as a gay man.
“I’m a private person but I had to check myself and think about what I could do … to initiate change.
“And to use my platform as a queer person of colour to say ‘woah – do you know what is going on here?! This is not OK’.”
During the episode, Mark also discussed other initiatives being taken place to combat racism within the LGBT+ community and praised dating app Grindr for deleting its ethnicity filter as a ‘step in the right direction’ after its existence was ‘racism in its bluntest form’.
The conversation was had as part of a special episode of A Gay and a Non-Gay, which was recorded during the Alternative Manchester Pride Festival held last month and also features an interview with musician Bright Light Bright Light.
Since launching in 2017, the show has quickly become the UK’s most-listened to LGBT+ podcast.
Hosts James Barr and Dan Hudson also recently released a customisable clothing range celebrating pronouns, with sales raising money for trans youth charity Mermaids.
You can listen to the full episode on Apple Podcasts or through their website.