The last few months have been a period of learning and reflection for me, on a variety of topics, and over the next few weeks I want to share some of the things I have learned. June is PRIDE month and normally there would be parades and celebrations all over the world, but the corona virus pandemic has prevented these events being planned and even though some of the restrictions are being lifted I doubt any large scale events will take place. So what will this series cover? The education series will talk about many different topics, anything I learn about that I think would prove useful for others, whether that is everyday life, kink or crafty. As it is Pride month I want to start with a colourful topic something that makes a PRIDE event a wonderful and uplifting celebration. The rainbow flags are a universal symbol of the LGBTQ+ community, but there are many flags that you see at an event or online, and the flag itself evolved to the 6 colour flag we see today. So, without further waffle, lets talk about the many different flags that have been created to celebrate the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community.
The First Flag.
Gilbert Baker designed the first flag at the request of Harvey Milk and it was flown at the 1978 San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade Celebration. Gilbert said he was inspired by Judy Garland’s Over The Rainbow and although some believe he did not create the flag alone, that does not detract from it being the first official flag, or each colour had it’s own symbolism.
- Hot Pink – Sex.
- Red – Life.
- Orange – Healing.
- Yellow – Sunlight.
- Green – Nature.
- Turquoise – Magic/Art.
- Indigo – Serenity.
- Violet – Spirit.
On November 27th 1978 Harvey Milk and George Moscone were shot by former colleague Dan White after the mayor, Moscone, appointed Milk to be the county supervisor instead of reappointing White to the city board. Harvey was one of America’s first openly gay politicians and activists and after his murder there was a call for the flag he commissioned to celebrate his achievements. Unfortunately in 1978 the hot pink colour was difficult to obtain, and Gilbert Baker and The Paramount Flag Company dropped the colour from the design.
Becoming the traditional flag.
The flag had by now gone through two evolutions but there were still changes to come. When some who didn’t like the odd number of stripes and so the six colour flag came into being, by dropping the violet. According to Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan in her article on Gizmodo, the main motivation behind the move to a six colour flag was because they wanted to hang 3 colours on one side of the street and 3 on the other of the parade route. You can read more about him and watch a snippet of a documentary where he talks about designing the rainbow flag and how it became what he calls ‘the commercial flag’ HERE. In this interview he also talks about how he is so proud that all around the world the rainbow flag is now synonamous with the gay rights movement.
In 1994 on the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots a mile long rainbow flag was paraded through New York. Also the creation of Gilbert he says the only thing he hadn’t thought of was what to do with the flag at the end of the parade. He decided to cut strips off the flags and handed them out, telling people to take them and share them. The following year these strips appeared all over the world. In 2017 Gilbert, aged 65, died in his sleep, and in 2019 he was one of the first to be inducted onto the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor within the Stonewall National Monument, in New York.
In 2017 Tierney created a flag with 2 new stripes, black and brown. Their slogan ‘More Colour More Pride‘ seems particularly poignant given the current ‘Black Lives Matter‘ campaigns and demonstrations taking place across the globe. At the time some LGBTQ+ groups felt this addition was unnecessary. I don’t think it is really my place to have an opinion on this, but I believe given the additional discrimination this group faces it is important to recognise them.
Daniel Quasar gave the flag a complete redesign in 2018 by including colours to represent the trans community as well as those living with aids. He wanted to depict the forward progession of the movement and so he split the flag and his design as well as the colour symbolism is below.
Background: LGBTQ 6 full sized color stripes representing life (red), healing (orange), sunlight (yellow), nature (green), harmony/peace (blue), and spirit (purple/violet)
Hoist: 5 half sized stripes representing trans individuals (light blue, light pink, white), marginalized POC communities (brown, black), as well as those living with AIDS, those no longer living, and the stigma surrounding them (black).Daniel Quasar 2018
Many Other Flags.
There are also flags to represent other groups within the LGBTQ+ communities and if I tried to write something about the origin of each this post would be huge! Instead I am going to include as many as I could find in a slideshow below. If you know of any I miss please do get in touch so I can add it.
I hope that this has been informative and useful. The sheer number of different flags was astounding and found studying the history and stories behind them interesting.
Much of the information for this post was obtained through reading The Complete Guide to Queer Pride Flags, Pride Flags: All of the flags you might see at PRIDE, Flags of the LGBTIQ Communities and Pride Flags: The biggest guide, as well as various google searches. For more information about the flags please pop along to these websites.