In Britain, the 11th of November is celebrated as “Remembrance Day”. On the day, the British armed forces who lost their lives in conflict are remembered. And millions of people wear poppies around the day to pay their respects.
Traditionally, the poppy flowers are either made of paper, fabric, or metal. They are red with a black center and a green leaf. People buy the flowers and the sales go towards the Royal British Legion. According to Wikipedia, the Royal British Legion is a British charity that provides financial, social and emotional support. The support not only extends to members and veterans of the British Armed Forces, but also to their families, and dependants.
Poppy Purple Poppy White
Poppy flowers are made in more colors than just the traditional one. A purple poppy is for the animals who served in wartime. While the black poppies are to remember the African and Caribbeans communities who contributed to the effort. Whether it was as servicemen and servicewomen, or as civilians.
White poppies are also available. White poppies are worn by those who remember the civilians and soldiers who died in the war. The poppy is also for those who were put behind bars or killed for refusing to fight.
The wearing of the poppy is clearly a very patriotic gesture. And certain beliefs and rituals are tied to Britain’s Remembrance day.
But in 2016, a new Poppy was introduced.
Inaugural LGBT poet, Laureate Trudy Howson introduced the idea of a “Rainbow Poppy”. She is an actress turned poet, who explores internal and external landscapes through her poetry. Specifically focusing on the LGBT+ community.
In 2016, Howson posted a design of the flower on her website. And wrote
“The rainbow poppy is a campaign I’m running to bring attention to the brave soldiers who died for our country during WWI at a time when their sexuality was still criminalised.”
Several rainbow-coloured poppies have been sold over the past years but nothing clearly indicates that Howson’s design is the reason.
Even though this does not create a conflict of interest, the rainbow-coloured poppies did incite a controversy.
But what makes Rainbow Poppies controversial?
Many people raised issues with the introduction of LGBT+ centric poppies. According to Sun UK News, they adjured the LGBT+ community to “get some respect”.
Twitter exploded with reactions when a post commented about eBay selling the rainbow-coloured poppies. Many people suggested that the rainbow-colored poppy was pushing the LGBT+ agenda a bit too far.
If your gay, bi, trans or whatever, i don’t care. You have a pride month to celebrate who you are. Please dont take over the one day a year where i get to remember my friends and all those that died for this country. Leave the poppy alone and have some respect. pic.twitter.com/ocRcnAdkIM
— Trevor Coult MC (@TrevorCoultMC) November 5, 2019
hate me, but LGBTQ+ have a whole month dedicated to them for once in your fucking lives think about other people and stop making everything about sexuality. Let the people who fought for their country have that ONE day to themselves, do not even try to make it about sexuality https://t.co/FsOLI3TGJZ
— 𝓖𝓪𝓲𝓵 (@abigailjamessss) November 3, 2019
Both these posts pointed out, pretty problematically that the focus is on the British armed forces and soldiers and civilians who lost their lives during the war. And that the rainbow poppies were distracting from the cause. The rainbow poppies were focused on the LGBTQ+ agenda rather than the respects that have to be paid. A few also said that the traditional poppy was for everyone. It is all-inclusive.
And about the eBay seller, she revoked her products after facing severe heat and abuse from people. The Sun UK, said, “The tweet has gone viral – and the seller has now had to stop selling the badges after claiming she was bombarded with “vile and rude messages”.
On the flip side, many people called them out for being hypocritical and insensitive.
Stating that the rainbow poppies are similar to purple, white, or black poppies, opposing views are being called out. When purple poppies can be dedicated to animals who sacrificed their lives in the war, why shouldn’t the LGBTQ+ armed forces?
Furthermore, many LGBT+ people were victims of violence and abuse during the time. And an iconic figure is Alan Turing. The homosexual man who broke the Nazi Enigma code. Turing was convicted of “indecency” since homosexuality was still a crime then.
And like him, many other members of the LGBT+ community lost their lives during the war. And to call remembering them a disrespectful act can be perceived as double standards.
A whole month..? So no one cares about a purple poppy literally remembering HORSES that died, but when it comes to the likes of LGBTQ men and women (such as Alan Turing, Wilfred Owen maybe?!?) who had monumental impact in the wars… suddenly it's wrong? Smells like homophobia
— 🤯 (@zfaholly) November 4, 2019
So is everybody purposely ignoring the fact it's for Alan Turing lol it's 2019 Google exists
— kiera🍄 (@mooncakegrl) November 4, 2019
Strangely many people from the community are also against the rainbow poppies. And support the opinions of Abigail and Trevor.
The problem here seems to be how the rainbow poppy is perceived in the first place. What does the rainbow poppy represent? It has less to do with sexuality and more with the violence LGBTQ+ people had face during the time despite their sacrifice in the war. And if one can remember horses for their sacrifice, paying respects to the LGBT+ community should not be a problem whatsoever.
Also, regarding the pride month, the pride month is a celebration of diversity, inclusivity, demand for equal treatment, and against violence and abuse. None of which the rainbow poppy truly represents. One cannot and should not equate that to the remembrance of lives that were lost during the war.
But tell us what you think? Whose side are you on?
Read next: Hey Starbucks! Where’s our Rainbow?
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