A Beginner’s Guide to Queer Pride Flag
June has long been sought as LGBTQ+ Pride Month in honor of the Stonewall riots that happened in NYC in Jun 1969. During Pride Month, it’s not uncommon to see the rainbow flag proudly shown as a symbol of the LGBTQ movement.
However, how did that flag become a sign of LGBTQ pride?
The Gilbert Baker Pride Flag
In case you didn’t know yet, Gilbert Baker is an American artist who invested in the symbol of Pride for gay people in 1977. He comes up with the original Pride flag.
He was inspired by Judy Garland’s Over the Rainbow song. They flew the flag in June 1978 during the Gay Freedom Day Pride celebration in San Francisco.
Even though others argue whether Baker was the only designer of the flag that started everything, what it signifies remains the same. Baker took inspiration from the sky's natural flag, the rainbow, and used its eight primary colors to design a flag with symbolic meanings embedded in each of the hues (hot pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony, and violet for spirit).
On June 25, 1978, at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day march, the first rainbow flags were flown. This was a very special moment in history when the representation of gay and queer flags was proudly shown to the public. They were originally handcrafted by Baker and a group of volunteers, but Baker eventually sought to have the flag mass-produced so that it could be used by everyone. The current six-striped flag was created when pink and turquoise stripes were eliminated from manufacture and indigo was switched out for standard blue (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet).
The red stripe is currently atop the rainbow flag, just as it would be in a real rainbow, and this design is the most widely used. The rainbow of colors eventually evolved to symbolize both the vast individuality and the strong communal bonds that exist within the LGBTQ+ world.
The Changes in LGBTQ+ Flag Over the Years
After the debut of the Rainbow Flag at the Gay Freedom Day Parade in 1978, demand for the flag significantly increased, and Baker wanted to mass-produce the flag for the public. He asked Paramount Flag Co, a flag manufacturer in San Francisco. Nonetheless, hot pink was not in high demand, and there was not enough of that particular ink accessible for widescale production. That’s why Baker dropped the pink strike.
Another alteration came in 1979 after Harvey Milk’s assassination, who had since become a San Francisco City Supervisor (the first openly gay man elected to office in California). The 1979 Pride Parade Committee sought to honor Harvey by showing hundreds of rainbow signs on the street lamps along the parade route. The plan is composed of splitting the Rainbow Flag, with three stripes on the street’s one side and three on the other. Baker removed the turquoise stripe to permit an even number of stripes. Today, that 6-striped repetition has become the most popular version of the Rainbow Flag.
To honor the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in 1994, Baker collaborated with the drag street performance and protest group Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to make a mile-long Rainbow Flag. Baker also worked with volunteers in Key West, Florida, to make a mile-and-a-quarter Rainbow Flag extended from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.
In decades since the original 8-striped Rainbow Flag or Baker, many variations of the flags have been made by other activists and artists to symbolize other marginalized communities.
On top of that, in 1999, trans woman Monica Helms made the Transgender Pride Flag along with two stripes of pink and two stripes of light blue to represent the traditional colors for girls and boys, plus a white stripe in the middle for people who consider themselves to have a neutral or unidentified gender.