EventssliderTime Out

People look up at the MADO posters hanging high up on posts along the main streets of Madrid and
are flabbergasted.
The Rainbow Flag, universal symbol of Gay Pride, has been bumped off the
high-occupancy posters, potpourris rich with graphics: a martini glass, bears, flowers,
a high-heel shoe, condoms, flowers, teddy bears. . .
But where’s the Rainbow!

by Jack Wright

If it’s the long week after International Day of LGBT Pride in June 28, then it’s Gay Pride time in Madrid. And it is. Till 7 July. But people look up at the MADO (Madrid Orgullo or, in English, “Madrid Pride”) posters hanging high up on posts along the main streets and are confused if not downright flabbergasted.

The posters simply don’t resonate with the celebration of Gay Pride unless they are intended to give new meaning to the celebration: a frivolous event that can’t but stigmatize the Gay Community and, hopefully, in so doing, send the LGTB+ back to the closet.

Steert-level MADO 2024 electronic poster

Just as when the Community have made giant strides toward living unafraid and with pride out in the open – actually have all but made society all-inclusive, as a result – there apparently are forces lurking out there that want to push it back into hiding.

As issued by the Ayuntamiento de Madrid (Madrid municipal government), the posters are really just one poster with two versions: one with black background, the other blue. “Madrid Orgullo 2024” overlays both versions. But in neither is the Rainbow Flag, whose colors reflect the diversity of the LGBT+ community and the spectrum of human sexuality and gender, present in any way, shape or form.

No room to allude to the Pride 2024 motto either: Educación, derecho y paz: Orgullo que transforma (“Education, Right, and Peace: the Pride that transforms [society]”).

Gilbert Baker at the San Francisco Pride, 2012; his original eight-color Rainbow Flag in vector graphics

Since gay activist artist Gilbert Baker created the first Rainbow Flag in 1978, on the urgings of Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay men elected to public office in the United States, the Flag has always symbolized pride and unity of what was then simply called the Gay Community, a term that didn’t of course accurately account for the Community’s diversity. (Thus the current LGBTI and like acronyms.)

Baker’s Rainbow Flag first appeared in California, at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Parade held on 25 June 1978.  Today the Flag is recognized worldwide as originally intended.

The Rainbow Flag crowded out, what populates the posters in Madrid? Many, in point of fact: On the high-occupancy posters are a red high-heeled shoe, a martini glass, condoms, flowers, teddy bears and bursts of fireworks.

Once gendered male, will Erika, coutourier by passionate hobby, suffer from gender dysphoria again because her assigned sex at birth didn’t match her gender identity? She says, “Never!” She’s come out and will stay out, thank you.

Some would argue that with the expunging of the Rainbow Flag, the posters have come to represent the success of Gay Pride in that, as the vanguard of equality and no-gender-left-behind movement, it has become a celebration of and by everyone, no longer exclusive to the LGTBI+. Not true. After fighting valiantly all these years, at times risking life and limb, MADO’s struggle for equality and inclusion is not over. Indeed, significant milestones have been reached but there’s still quite a distance to travel before the finish line. So many won’t still come out of the closet for fear of losing their jobs, of being shamed and disgraced if their gender identity, which is other than the two conventional male or female gender options and doesn’t match their assigned sex at birth, is exposed.

The recent “Report on the Evolution of Hate Crimes in Spain 2023” by the Ministry of Interior reveals that hate crimes increased by 21.3% in respect of 2022. Crimes of sexual orientation and gender identity are second only in number to xenophobia and racism which are larger than the number of crimes of ideology.

Madrid City Hall on Plaza de Cibeles illuminated with changing colors of the LGBTI+ Rainbow, and the fountain in Rainbow colors, to celebrate WorldPride 2017

Gay Pride fights for the equality of the LGBTI+, to be a proud member of society like everyone else. But Gay Pride is not anyone and everyone’s struggle though it needs the support and acceptance of everyone. Gay Pride needs its Rainbow Flag to symbolize its ongoing definitive struggle and cherished goal.

Happily, MADO is now the largest Pride event in Europe. MADO itself would assert that it is “an international benchmark for Peace, Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Freedom.” A far cry from its shaky origins as small gatherings of people in the late 1970s and early 1980s when the long and all-pervasive Franco dictatorship, a regime that persecuted, tortured and imprisoned homosexuals had just ended but not its enduring aftershocks.

MADO, which hosted WorldPride2017, attracts more than 1.5 million people each year, some 300,000 of whom are foreign tourists. As one of the most important Pride events in the world, its contribution to the economy of Madrid is sizeable. It is presumably for this reason that Ana Botella, conservative mayor of Madrid from 2011 to 2015, did not pursue her plan to move the hub of the Pride celebrations out of Chueca in the center of Madrid to the outskirts where the number of ardent attendees would understandably be reduced drastically.

Rainbow umbrellas over Augusto Figueroa Street in Chueca. Can’t rain on Gay Pride’s parade, can you?

On 6 July 2024, the local parades across Spain will fuse into one Grand Finale in Madrid, the Pride Parade. It will kick off at the Atocha Station and culminate at Plaza de Colon. Music will provide a festive ambiance at an event where boundless enthusiasm and “festive” are a defining characteristic, and a manifesto of freedom, inclusion and diversity will be read.

Participation is expected to be massive if one is to go by MADO’s track record over the last ten years. Pride Parade takes pride in bringing together diverse associations, collectives, companies, political parties, etc. across Spain. Exuberant floats grab the scene. MADO, on its website, states that “this has helped make the Pride celebrations and demonstrations collectively include more the two million people annually for the last few years.”

This is the rousing climax of the Madrid Pride though MADO won’t be entirely over until the next day.

MADO programming here





Featured image/©Jack Wright
Electronic poster/©Jack Wright
Montage: Gilbert Baker/Gareth Watkins, CC BY2.0. Baker’s flag in vector graphics/Fibonacci, PD. Both via Wikipedia.
City Hall in Rainbow colors, WorldPride 2017/Wikier 2017, CCO via Wikipedia
Rainbow unbrellas/Javier Perez Montes, CC BY-SA4.0 via Wikipedia
Rainbow Montage Rainbow/Einsichtweise, Pixabay. MADO 2024/©Jack Wright