The Origins Of The Rainbow Flag

Black and White with Stripes Gay Rights Poster

Have you ever wondered why the LGBT’s symbol is the rainbow flag?

Artist and gay rights activist Gilbert Baker, born on June 2, 1951, and died March 31 last year decided to create the rainbow flag after being urged by Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California, to come up with the symbol for the gay community.

Back then, our community’s symbol was the pink triangle that was put on us by Hitler and the Nazis during his rule, as a concentration camp badge for homosexuals (and sexual misconducts). It only shows that this symbol has a very negative and terrible meaning so Baker wanted our new symbol to express our beauty, soul, and love that came from us and was not put on us.

According to Britannica, Baker decided to make that symbol a flag because he saw flags as the most powerful symbol of pride. As he said later in an interview, “Our job as gay people was to come out, to be visible, to live in the truth, as I say, to get out of the lie. A flag really fit that mission, because that’s a way of proclaiming your visibility or saying, ‘This is who I am!'”

With the help of a team assembled by Baker including artist Lynn “Faerie Argyle Rainbow” Segerblom, who created the original dyeing process for the flag, seamster James McNamara and an army of volunteers and artists, the first version of the Rainbow flag was born.

It was first flown in San Francisco on June 25, 1978, during the Gay Freedom Day parade:

Big-flag-
I just discovered that the first flag was huge. Very huge.
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Photos by James McNamara, courtesy of Paul Langlotz

The first rainbow flag has 8 colors with specific meaning:

Hot Pink which symbolizes sex, Red is life, Orange is healing while Yellow is sunlight, Green is nature, Turqoise is magic or art, Indigo is serenity and Violet represents spirit.

On why it’s a rainbow, actually there are two accounts of it:

First, coming from Baker’s memoir, he came up with making the flag with rainbow colors when he was dancing in Cow Palace and he noticed how diverse the crowd was:

“Dance fused us, magical and cleansing. We were all in a swirl of color and light. It was like a rainbow.

A rainbow. That’s the moment when I knew exactly what kind of flag I would make.

A Rainbow Flag was a conscious choice, natural and necessary…A Rainbow Flag would be our modern alternative to the pink triangle. Now the rioters who claimed their freedom at the Stonewall Bar in 1969 would have their own symbol of liberation.”



Then there’s Lynn Segerblom‘s account where she claimed she was the one who suggested for the flag to be rainbow colored since she loves the rainbow and her hippie name has a rainbow on it. She also added she was the one who wanted the 8 colors to be included and everyone agreed.

Later on, the Hot Pink color was dropped when Baker decided to find a distributor for the flag and he learned that the fabric for this color became scarce and cannot be mass produced.

With Turqoise, they had the same problem but other sources said the Pride Committee back then wanted to use the Rainbow Flag in honor of the assassinated Harvey Milk and the color needed to be dropped so they could divide the remaining six colors into three during the parade on each side of the street.

Indigo was replaced by the color blue resulting to the most known version of the rainbow flag today:

935Rainbow-2
(c) US Flag Factory

 

Since Gilbert Baker did not trademark the Rainbow Flag and he is open to everyone’s interpretation, there are other variations of the Rainbow Flags that were created for further inclusion.

An example is the flag released by Philadelphia where brown and black stripes were included:

Pride-Flag
(c) Tierney

 

These two stripes represent people of color in the LGBT+ community which was very amazing of them to think of due to the discrimination POC experience not only on the outside of the LGBT community but also inside which is a very sad thing to think of. That’s why, as a POC, I used this concept in the header of my blog.

Brazil also released a flag including the original 8 colors and including a white stripe in the middle as an inclusion and representation of human diversity:

 

800px-9_stripe_LGBT_flag_revelaed_at_Love_Fest_Festival,_during_carnival_in_Sao_Paolo,_Brasil,_on_Feb_12th_2018.
Photo by Eromane via Wikimedia Commons

 

The origins of the LGBT Rainbow Flag may have been a part of a controversy but we could all agree that this symbol was created with love and hard work for all of us and it is now internationally known as the LGBT symbol, always flying proudly and with love.

Interested in getting your own Rainbow Flag? You can get it in the following online stores:

US:

• Amazon

3 x 5 ft LGBT Rainbow Flag by Anley, Premium Flag Maker (POC Rainbow flags are available)
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Mini LGBT Flags by Anley

Local/Philippines:

• Lazada

5ft x 3ft LGBT Rainbow Flag, highly recommended

 

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18 thoughts on “The Origins Of The Rainbow Flag

  1. I had no idea the origin of the rainbow flag. Very interesting history. It’s a well-known symbol but I bet most people have no idea where the idea came from. Now I do. Thanks!

  2. I had no idea how the rainbow flag was born. It was interesting to read what each color represents and how communities are adding colors to include other people as well.

  3. This was super interesting !! I had no idea about all of this ! Thank you for sharing the history of this flag !

  4. This is pretty interesting. I didn’t know this about the flag. My friend’s family member recently came out and it wasn’t easy for her.

    • I’m so sorry to hear that about your friend. What she did is brave. I hope she would find great support (friends or others) that will help her stand and remind her that she is not alone.

  5. One of the things I was curious about glad you discussed it here and I don’t even have to research more on it. This is so informative!

  6. Oh wow!!! I did not know the history behind the rainbow flag and now I love what it stands for even more!!

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