An hour after changing their Facebook profile picture to the Progress Pride flag on Thursday, the city of Winston-Salem appeared to cave to anti-LGBTQ+ comments by changing it back to a generic one.
After more than a hundred comments — both positive and negative — and a swath of Facebook reactions depicting laughter and anger, the photo was removed and replaced with the city’s traditional logo and white background.
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The city’s Director of Marketing and Communications Frank Elliott told TCB that the profile photo was “put up without authorization” and “posted prematurely.”
An emailed statement from Elliott reads, “The diversity background to the city logo, which was briefly displayed on the city’s Facebook page, was posted prematurely and removed. In addition to being Pride Month, June is also recognized as PTSD Awareness Month, Gun National Violence Awareness Month and Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, among others. The city is dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion, however, as a matter of fairness we cannot promote one cause over the others through our logo.”
One negative comment written by a Dickie Hamilton on the since-replaced profile picture reads, “Read what the bible says about pride. It’s not good,” followed by the American flag and Christian cross symbol emojis.
“This is wrong. I protest,” another from a Pat Blackburn reads.
Still, supporters of the LGBTQ+ community were quick to call out the city for its decision to change the picture. On a photo by @winstonsalemmemes, a comment by Instagram user @heythatisphil wrote, “Do better @cityofwinstonsalem.”
On May 15, city councilmembers unanimously approved the installation of a Progress Pride flag crosswalk mural at the intersection of Trade and Sixth streets downtown at the recommendation of a Human Relations Department ad-hoc subcommittee. The subcommittee previously conducted a nondiscrimination study to look at issues and opportunities with the LGBTQIA+ community. Sherita Cain, Human Relations/DEI analyst with the city told council that the goal of this recommendation was to “celebrate the diversity of this community and to have a more inclusive society.” The mural — which will be installed mid-June — is meant to symbolize the city’s support of the LGBTQIA+ community, Cain said. Southwest Ward representative and first openly gay Winston-Salem city councilmember Kevin Mundy told TCB he’s glad that the mural is going “right there in the middle of the arts community.”
Many organizations change their profile picture on social media to support the LGBTQIA+ community during June, including other local governments. Nearby, the city of Charlotte changed their profile picture on Thursday to celebrate Pride.
The first Pride March was held on June 28, 1970 in New York City. The first Pride March in North Carolina was held in June 1986. To kick off a celebration of love, unity and equal rights, the Pride Winston-Salem Festival will start at 10 a.m. on June 24 in the Downtown Arts District. The celebration includes a parade as well as an array of live music, entertainment, street vendors and activities.
Pride Month has also been recognized by the federal government. Former President Bill Clinton proclaimed June as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month in June 1999, declaring, “I encourage all Americans to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that celebrate our diversity, and to remember throughout the year the gay and lesbian Americans whose many and varied contributions have enriched our national life.” Former President Barack Obama and the country’s current President Joe Biden have also made proclamations in June that recognize the LGBTQIA+ community.
In recent years, a spate of anti-LGBTQ+ — specifically anti-transgender — bills have been sweeping across the country, and in North Carolina; where there have been bills introduced that would ban trans girls from competing in school sports, restrict gender-affirming health care, ban drag shows and ban books that center LGBTQIA+ experiences from schools.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, there have been more than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in statehouses across the country this year. More than 210 of those bills specifically restrict the rights of transgender people, the highest number of bills targeting transgender people in a single year to date, HRC reported.
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