Monday, October 25, 2010

That's So Gay: The Rainbow Pride Flag

I hate it when people use the phrase "That's so gay" in a negative way. It's usually used to describe something tacky or tasteless. I've decided to take the phrase back and make it positive. This is the first in a series of posts I will do about all things gay.

I have to admit I am a bit of a newbie when it comes to gay culture, symbols and landmark events. My lack of knowledge is what enticed me to want to do these posts. Do you know where the rainbow flag started and why? Do you know what Stonewall was all about? The origins of the pink triangle? If not, I hope you find these blogs as informative as I have researching them.

That's So Gay: The Rainbow Pride Flag

The Rainbow Flag as we know it today was developed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in 1978. At the time, there was a need for a gay symbol which could be used year after year for the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade. Baker took inspiration from many sources, from the hippies movement to the black civil rights movement, and came up with a flag with eight stripes. Color has always played an important power in the gay right movement- Victorian England symbolized homosexuality with the color green, lavender became popular in the 1960s, and and pink from the pink triangle has caught on as well- and the colors of the gay flag were no different. Baker explained that his colors each stood for a different aspect of gay and lesbian life:
  • Hot pink for sexuality, 
  • Red for life, 
  • Orange for healing, 
  • Yellow for the sun, 
  • Green for nature, 
  • Blue for art, 
  • Indigo for harmony, 
  • Violet for spirit. 
Baker himself and thirty other volunteers hand-stitched and hand-dyed to large prototype flags for the 1978 parade. It was an immediate hit. However, when Baker took his design to the San Francisco Flag Co. to have it mass-produced for the 1979 parade, he had to remove the hot pink stripe. Baker had hand-dyed the color, and unfortunately pink was not a commercially available color.

Later that year, when the city's first openly gay supervisor, Harvey Milk, was assassinated, the 1979 Pride Parade Committee found in Baker's flag the perfect symbol for the entire gay community to unite under in protest of this tragedy. The committee got rid of the indigo stripe to make the colors evenly divisible along the parade route: red, orange, and yellow on one side of the street; green, blue, and purple on the other. (This version also conforms to traditional color theory- the three primary colors and three secondary colors in art- rather than the spectrum of light colors of R O Y G B I V. Thus, today's six-color flag was born and displayed during the 1979 Pride Parade.

The flag quickly caught on like wildfire in cities across the country. It was even officially recognized by the International Congress of Flag Makers. In 1989 the flag was given international recognition when West Hollywood resident John Stout successfully sued his landlords after they tried to prohibit him from hanging the flag from his apartment balcony. At New York's Stonewall 25 Parade in 1994, a gigantic 30-foot wide, one mile long rainbow flag was carried through the parade route by over 10,000 volunteers.

As with any symbol, the varieties that the rainbow flag currently comes in are limitless. When large rainbow flags were first carried along parade routes with the carriers at the corners and along the sides, they found that people along the parade route with throw change into convenient valley created in the flag's center. At first, some people in the gay community took offense to this- they didn't want people to feel that they were pitiable and in need of charity. But movements cannot exist on spirit alone, so many organizations took to this occurrence with enthusiasm and the practice continues to this day.

Bob Out
(Information about the Gay Pride Flag was taken from


wozzel said...

aah. awesome post Bob :) and most informative :)

R.J. said...

Great idea for a post, Bob. Well done.

bunny said...

Bob, that's so gay! (which I mean in a GOOD way!) :) Very enlightening!

Wonder Man said...

I like this, Bob

robertga99 said...

Thanks, Y'all!