The History of the LGBTQ+ Flag, Gilbert Baker, & What It Represents

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The LGBTQ+ Flag

The rainbow flag, also known as the gay pride flag or LGBTQIA+ flag (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual etc.) is the main flag for the LGBTQ+ community. The colours of the flag represent the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community, and it is also used as the gay pride flag during Pride marches. 

The flag was originally designed by the San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker, and the design of the flag has undergone several redesigns since its debut in 1978. The most common variant consists of six stripes: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet, and flies horizontally, with red typically being to at the top of the flag, to reflect a natural rainbow. In more recent years, black and brown was added onto the flag in 2017 to represent LGBTQ+ people of colour.

Gilbert Baker was an openly gay activist who was born in  1951, and grew up in Parsons, Kansas, and went on to serve in the US army for about two years. After being honorably discharged from the army, he taught himself to sew, and in 1974, Baker met Harvey Milk, arguably the most famous LGBTQ+ activist at the time. Milk challenged Baker to design a pride flag for the community, and the original pride flag flew at San Francisco’s Gay Freedom Day Parade on the 25th of June 1978.

Additionally, it has been suggested that the flag was inspired by the song “Over the Rainbow“, which was sung by Judy Garland, one of the 1st female gay icons, and the Stonewall riots that happened after her death. Another suggestion of how the rainbow flag came to be was at college campuses during the 1960s, where some people were demonstrating for world peace, by carrying a “Flag of the Races” (or the “Flag of the Human Race”). The 1st design of the rainbow flag was commissioned by the fledgling pride committee, and was produced by a team which was led by Baker himself, and included the artist Lynn Segerblom, who was also known as, “Faerie Argyle Rainbow.” Lynn also created the original dying process of the flag, and Baker is said to have drawn inspiration for the flag from The Flag of the Human Race, as well as the Hippie movement of the time. He was also influenced by the gay activist Allen Ginsberg. 

The colors of the rainbow flag are as follows, and what they represent, according to Baker: 

  • Black & Brown: represents LGBTQ+ people of colour. 
  • Hot Pink: which represent sex.
  • Red: which represent life.
  • Orange: which represents healing. 
  • Yellow (my favourite colour): which represents sunlight, as yellow has connotations of the sun. 
  • Green: which represents nature, as green has connotations of grass, which is grows out the earth. 
  • Turquoise: which represents art & magic
  • Indigo: which represents serenity.
  • Violet: which represents the spirit. 
The Progressive Flag 

In addition, in 2018, a designer began a campaign to “re-boot” the Pride flag to make it more inclusive for LGBTQ+ people of colour. They did this by adding a five colour chevron to better represent LGBTQ+ people of colour, as well as the trans community.

The designer of the reboot is Daniel Quasar, who identifies as queer and non-binary. They rebooted the original rainbow flag, stating that it would, ““all aspects of our community.”

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