A flag for pedophiles? It exists, but it is not a push for inclusion in the LGBT community
As Pride Month 2019 wrapped up, posts warning of a new pride flag resurfaced. Rumours claim that a flag was made to represent pedophiles in order to incorporate them into the LGBTQ community. Although a flag for “Minor-Attracted Persons,” or MAPs, has been used by some online users since June 2018, no Canadian LGBTQ association contacted by AFP was aware of the flag being used or of any attempt to normalize pedophilia.
A variant of the iconic pride flag, using a similar though not identical striped color pattern, has been shared across social media platforms with a warning. One screenshot of a tweet featuring this flag reads: “Minors beware: if you see this flag on someone’s profile, block them immediately. This flag is for MAPS, minor-attracted people, aka pedophiles. They are not LGBTQ and are not welcome to the community.”
This sort of warning post began to flourish on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook in June 2018, and resurfaced in 2019 during Pride Month. In 2018, news websites such as The Daily Caller and LifeSite News claimed that pedophiles were attempting to be included in the LGBTQ community, while on the online forum 4chan, a user looking for “images that prove LGBT community is advocating for pedophilia,” was given the flag as a reference. Together, these articles and forum posts were shared more than 20,000 times on Facebook, according to social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle.
However, no evidence suggests a concerted effort to push for the inclusion of MAPs in the LGBT community with the use of the flag. Russell Dick, co-founder of B4U-ACT, a non-profit organization that promotes resources for self-identified individuals who are sexually attracted to children, told AFP that his organization hasn’t seen “any MAPs trying to become part of the LGBT movement but have seen some MAPs denying it in apparent response to such accusations.”
The concept of Minor-Attracted Persons (MAPs), which is perceived by some as part of the attempt to normalize pedophilia, is an umbrella term used by organizations such as B4U-ACT or The Global Prevention Project, an organization that addresses “risky sexual thoughts, fantasies, and non-contact problematic sexual behavior in adult men and women,” in order to prevent child sexual abuse, as well as some researchers, to define a variety of people attracted to minors.
These include nepiophiles (attracted to babies and toddlers), pedophiles (attracted to prepubescent children), hebephiles (attracted to pubescent children and early adolescents), and ephebophiles (attracted to late adolescents).
Due to past criticism, The Global Prevention Project states in bold font on its website a disclaimer on the use of the term MAP: “To reiterate, this is not a term we invented, NOR is it a term used to rebrand pedophiles OR link them to the LGBTQ community.”
The earliest online instance of the flag appears to be this Tumblr page, archived by US fact-checking website Snopes, which called the initiative a troll experiment. One user of the online platform for visual content presented the flag on a thread dedicated to acceptance of MAPs, “Support NOMAPS” (for non-offending minor attracted persons).
“The NOMAP community doesn’t really have a pride flag, so in honor of pride month I designed a NOMAP pride flag,” the self-proclaimed flag designer wrote, before going in detail over the meaning of each colour.
AFP Fact Check was not able to verify the identity of the author of the post and cannot ascertain whether the person truly identified as a pedophile or simply posed as one.
One Twitter user and self-identified MAP told AFP he knew several people that have been using the flag. “It became pretty popular on Tumblr initially, then over time it spread through Twitter,” David, who uses a pseudonym to protect his identity, told AFP.
“It’s still not by any means a universally accepted part of the MAP community or anything like that. I have mixed feelings about it. I’m wary of people assuming that it’s malicious, trying to get at the LGBT community, but as far as visual symbols go I think it can be useful and it’s a good-looking flag,” he added.
Some Twitter accounts of self-proclaimed MAPs do use the MAP flag in their avatars, but AFP could not verify the identities of the account holders.
Determining the difference between real MAPs who embrace or refuse the flag and trolls posing as MAPs is complicated by the anonymity provided by pseudonyms and aliases used online.
Russell Dick told AFP, “We think there may be some anti-MAPs posing as MAPs and doing various things to create and maintain a very negative picture and understanding of MAPs. So it is hard to tell what’s really happening!”
“The flag has nothing to do with normalizing pedophiles or an attempt to make pedophilia a part of the LGBTQ movement,” Candice Christiansen, founder of The Global Prevention Project, told AFP.
Christiansen, who has received criticism for her work in the past because it was interpreted as an attempt at normalizing pedophilia, said she was targeted because of the flag.
“I received death threats from trolls last year as a result of this flag being attached to my CSA (child sexual abuse) prevention project when I had no idea what it even was,” she told AFP.
“I don’t think Pflag Canada has heard of this,” Omid Razavi, media coordinator for Pflag Canada, a national nonprofit dedicated to helping families understand their relatives’ sexual orientation, told AFP of the MAP flag.
Jennifer Boyce, spokesperson for Egale Canada, another national nonprofit working to promote human rights and inclusion for the LGBTQ community, also told AFP: “No, we were not previously aware of this flag.”
There is no evidence that the flag created in June 2018 to represent MAPs is part of a wider campaign to normalize pedophilia or include it under the LGBT umbrella, as several associations told AFP.
Correction: The headline of this article has been changed to reflect the fact that some online users do associate with the MAP flag. Quotes from a self-identified MAP were added.