My name is Jaylene Quiles. I am a GLBTQI+ activist and historian from New Mexico. I am a trans, nonbinary gay human and I have always known who I was.
I own the first-ever openly queer business in New Mexico, I am the first nonbinary trans Pride director in the state, and the first director of the first Pride celebration in my hometown of Las Vegas, New Mexico, in 2019. The accomplishments I’ve made have been plenty, but the hatred against me and my community has also been plenty.
As I stand up to homophobic and transphobic people, I am inspired by my dear friend, Gilbert Baker. He once told me, “If we can’t use our voice now, what good is it?”
I first met Gilbert in 2009 at Pride. We held the AIDS quilt together and became very good friends. Knowing that Gilbert created the flag at the request of legendary San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, I once asked him why he chose a rainbow design. “Because the colors represented all of us,” he said.
Gilbert told me that he was “a penniless historian.” He is like other community pioneers who are rarely acknowledged, like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson. These historians have created history that made GLBTQI+ humans safe, visible, and to have a future. Our Pride Flag has inspired activism, a movement, leaders, love, strength — and most importantly, unity. If it wasn’t for Gilbert Baker and his beautiful Pride Flag, many more of us would be dead.
But many have taken advantage of our beloved flag and capitalized from it. Gilbert didn’t want money, he didn’t want fame. After Gilbert’s flag became a global symbol, many other community flags were created. They are part of our evolving generation. But I feel there would be no other community flags without our original Pride Flag. To dismiss that historical fact jeopardizes our existence as GLBTQI+ humans, historians, leaders, activists, and survivors.
To those who think the Rainbow Flag is outdated or not inclusive, I ask you to get to know your community history better. Please, I ask with all my heart and soul, don’t remove our flag. Let our first-ever historical Pride Flag fly free.