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The History of the LGBTQ Flag and Community Symbol

The History of the LGBTQ Flag and Community Symbol

Since its inception in 1978, the Rainbow Pride Flag has become a universal symbol for the LGBTQ community. It represents the pride and hope of LGBTQ people and reflects the diversity within the community.

While the flag’s image is well known, its history may not be as well known. Did you know that the current Rainbow Flag is an updated design of the original?

Here is the origin story of the Rainbow Pride Flag and the meaning behind its colors.

What do the colors of the Rainbow Pride Flag mean?

Together, the six rainbow colors of the Pride Flag symbolize hope, and each also has its own meaning:

  • Red: life
  • Orange: healing
  • Yellow: sunlight
  • Green: nature
  • Blue: peace or serenity
  • Purple: spirit

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The History of the Gilbert Baker Pride Flag

In the 1970s, Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California, challenged activist Gilbert Baker to design a symbol of hope for the gay community.

“Harvey Milk was a friend of mine, a major gay leader in San Francisco in the ’70s, and he sent a really important message about the importance of being visible,” Baker said in an interview with the Museum of Modern Art in 2015. “A flag really fits this mission because it’s a way to announce your visibility or to say, ‘This is me!'”

The original Rainbow Pride flag had eight stripes, each with its own meaning:

  • Pink: sex
  • Red: life
  • Orange: healing
  • Yellow: sunlight
  • Green: nature
  • Turquoise: magic and art
  • Indigo: serenity
  • Purple: spirit

Before the rainbow flag, the pink triangle was used as a symbol for the LGBTQ community. During the Holocaust, the Nazis identified gay people in concentration camps by dressing them in pink triangles. While the symbol has since been reclaimed by LGBTQ people, the community has attempted to create a new representation.

“We needed something beautiful, something from us,” Baker said in the MoMA interview. “The rainbow is so perfect because it really fits our diversity in terms of race, gender, age and all of those things.”

The original Pride flag was first raised at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25, 1978.

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How did the Rainbow Pride Flag come about?

After the assassination of Harvey Milk in 1978, demand for the Rainbow Pride Flag increased.

The original flags were hand made and when they began mass production the pink stripe was removed due to manufacturing difficulties. The Paramount Flag Company began manufacturing the Pride flag, but pink fabric was not readily available. So it was taken out of the design, leaving seven stripes: red, orange, yellow, green, teal, indigo, and purple.

In 1979 the turquoise stripe was removed. Baker changed the flag to an even number of stripes. The parade organizers wanted the rainbow to be able to be split in half to evenly line the street along the parade routes. Also during this time the indigo stripe was changed to royal blue.

The removal of the pink and turquoise stripes resulted in the six-stripe version of the Rainbow Pride flag known today, consisting of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.

The Rainbow Lag has represented the LGBTQ community for over 40 years and is one of the most recognizable Pride flags.

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