A photo showing gay men lifting a pride flag in the style of the 1945 flag raising by Marines on Iwo Jima has caused controversy on social media. The image, created by photographer Ed Freeman over a decade ago, started making the rounds on Facebook following the Supreme Court decision to allow gay marriage in the United States.
A vocal backlash soon erupted, with many saying the image was disrespectful towards the 6,800+ American soldiers who had died at Iwo Jima. The outrage got to the point where Freeman was “swamped with vitriolic hate mail” and received death threats.
This isn’t the first time the iconic flag raising photo has been copied. Via The Washington Post:
More recently, the British Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses Association (BASSA) union came under fire in 2010 for adapting the Iwo Jima image to show stewardesses raising a union flag, and Under Armour apologized this year for adapting it for a T-shirt in which athletes are shown raising a basketball hoop. The shirt was removed from stores, and company officials said in a tweet that “we deeply regret and apologize the release of a shirt that is not reflective of our commitment to support & honor our country’s heroes.”
Freeman said there is “no way in hell” that he meant his adaptation of the Iwo Jima image to be provocative. “This picture was just a flashpoint for a lot people who are looking for a reason to lash out, so I guess I get to be the whipping boy,” he said. “I’m fine with that if that’s what it takes.”
While a bunch of guys lifting up a basketball net is exactly the kind of trivializing idea that should be condemned, take a moment to reflect on what marriage equality represents to the gay community. Despite what some may think, being gay is not all sequins and pride parades and being fabulous. Historically, it has involved being outcast, persecuted, beaten, and murdered.
Not 50 years ago, a gay bar in New Orleans called the UpStairs Lounge was intentionally set on fire with over 60 people inside. Thirty-two died. It was the deadliest attack on LGBT people in the history of the United States, but not the only one. The number of men and women murdered because of their sexuality through history certainly rivals the horrific numbers of dead from the battle for Iwo Jima.
Those soldiers fought and died for American freedom – a phrasing that gets thrown around so much it has lost a lot of its meaning. The freedom for gays to be able to live their lives in safety, to have the same rights as straight people, didn’t just happen on its own. Countless people fought for those rights and continue to fight for them around the world. Ed Freeman’s photo doesn’t set out to trivialize the sacrifice of our troops, it simply highlights the gay community’s own struggle for liberty and freedom. A struggle that reached a historic milestone in June: the freedom for Americans to marry whomever they love.
(Via The Washington Post)