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27-31 August 2019
Poznań, Poland
Europe/Warsaw timezone
programme last update: 23 August 2019
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Contribution Paper

Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 3.44

Disunited Under One Flag? LGBT activists and allies against Trump


  • Dr. Siobhan MCGUIRK

Primary authors


Following the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, residents of an affluent Washington, D.C. suburb staged a striking protest, flying rainbow flags from their homes when Vice-Present elect Mike Pence took up temporary residence in the area, in response to his homophobic and misogynistic voting record. Although notably few homeowners identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans (LGBT), their flags remained long after Pence left. His presence also compelled city-wide queer and trans rights groups to organise a “queer dance party” outside his house, replete with rainbow imagery. Similar protests later targeted the offices and homes of other Trump affiliates promoting anti-LGBT legislation. At first blush, these actions suggest an unusually coalitional statement of solidarity in the battle for LGBT rights, coalesced around an internationally recognisable symbol of gay liberation. Ethnographic data however reveals the fractions, tensions and ambivalences undergirding homeowners’ and activists’ attitudes and actions. Homeowners described their flags as protesting the Trump Presidency overall, rarely mentioning LGBT rights, through a “non-aggressive” aesthetic. Meanwhile, local LGBT activists began to explicitly eschew and critique rainbow imagery when mounting an anti-corporate protest against D.C. Pride, whose sponsors included companies that donated to the Trump campaign or benefited from his policies. These examples demonstrate how different groups are reassessing the parameters of LGBT identity, rights, and allyship, and the contours of resistance to the Trump administration, through selective engagements with and disavowals of, the rainbow flag. Their interventions raise important questions concerning the space between symbolic and tangible displays of political resistance and solidarity.