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Ali Ghadamkheir
Ali Ghadamkheir

The Art and Activism of Gilbert Baker: The Creator of the LGBT Flag


LGBT Flag: History, Meaning, and Variations




The LGBT flag, also known as the rainbow flag or the pride flag, is a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) pride and social movements. It is a colorful striped flag that reflects the diversity and spectrum of human sexuality and gender. But how did this flag come to be, and what does each color mean? And what are some of the variations and derivations of the rainbow flag that represent different aspects of the LGBT community? In this article, we will explore the history, meaning, and variations of the LGBT flag, and why it is important to show support and solidarity for LGBT rights and visibility.


Introduction




What is the LGBT flag and what does it symbolize?




The LGBT flag is a striped flag that usually consists of six colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. It is typically displayed horizontally, with the red stripe on top, as it would be in a natural rainbow. The flag is a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) pride and social movements. It is used by LGBT people and allies as an outward expression of their identity or support. The colors of the flag represent the diversity and spectrum of human sexuality and gender, as well as other values such as life, healing, nature, harmony, and spirit.




lgbt flag



How did the rainbow flag become a symbol of LGBT pride?




The rainbow flag was first created in 1978 by Gilbert Baker, an artist and activist who was challenged by Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in the U.S., to design a symbol of pride for the gay community. Baker was inspired by Judy Garland's song "Over the Rainbow" and the hippie movement's use of colorful flags. He chose eight colors for his original design, each with a specific meaning. He and his team hand-dyed and sewed the first flags that were flown at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25, 1978. After Milk's assassination later that year, the demand for the flag increased, but due to production issues, some colors were removed or changed over time. The most common version today has six colors: red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, blue for harmony, and violet for spirit.


History of the LGBT flag




The original design by Gilbert Baker




Gilbert Baker was born in 1951 in Kansas. He served in the U.S. Army from 1970 to 1972. After being honorably discharged, he taught himself to sew. He moved to San Francisco in 1974, where he met Harvey Milk, a gay activist and politician who became his friend and mentor. In 1977, Milk asked Baker to create a symbol of pride for the gay community that would replace the pink triangle that was used by the Nazis to persecute homosexuals during World War II. Baker decided to make a flag because he saw it as a powerful symbol of pride that could be seen from afar.


The revisions and adaptations over time




Baker's original design had eight colors: hot pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for magic/art, indigo for serenity, and violet for spirit. He and his team hand-dyed and sewed the first flags that were flown at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25, 1978. The hot pink fabric was scarce and expensive, so Baker dropped it from the design, leaving seven colors. The influence of the Stonewall riots and Harvey Milk




The rainbow flag was created in the context of the gay rights movement that emerged after the Stonewall riots of 1969, when patrons of a gay bar in New York City resisted a police raid and sparked a series of protests and demonstrations. The riots are considered a pivotal moment in the history of LGBT activism and liberation. Harvey Milk, who was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 as one of the first openly gay officials in the U.S., was a leader and spokesperson for the gay community. He encouraged Baker to create a symbol of pride that would unite and empower LGBT people. He also asked his supporters to display the rainbow flag from their windows and balconies. Milk was assassinated on November 27, 1978, by a former colleague who opposed his political agenda. His death sparked a massive candlelight vigil and a wave of grief and anger among LGBT people and allies. The demand for the rainbow flag increased as a way to honor Milk's memory and legacy.


Meaning of the LGBT flag colors




The original eight colors and their significance




As mentioned earlier, Baker's original design had eight colors, each with a specific meaning. According to Baker, he assigned the meanings based on his personal associations, cultural references, and spiritual beliefs. He also consulted a color symbolism book by Charles A. Clairmont called The Book of Flags . Here are the meanings he gave to each color:


ColorMeaning


Hot pinkSex


RedLife


OrangeHealing


YellowSunlight


GreenNature


TurquoiseMagic/Art


IndigoSerenity


VioletSpirit


The current six colors and their interpretation




The most common version of the rainbow flag today has six colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. This version was adopted in 1979, when Baker had to modify his design for the 1979 Gay Freedom Day Parade. He found out that the flag had an odd number of stripes, which made it difficult to split it in half and hang it vertically from lamp posts. He decided to drop the turquoise stripe, leaving six colors. He also changed the indigo stripe to royal blue to match the American flag. The six colors are often interpreted as follows:


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ColorMeaning


RedLife


OrangeHealing


YellowSunlight


GreenNature


BlueHarmony


VioletSpirit


The variations and additions to the rainbow flag




The rainbow flag has undergone several variations and additions over time, reflecting the diversity and evolution of the LGBT community. Some of these changes include:


- In 1988, activist Cleve Jones organized a project called The Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt , which displayed a giant quilt made of panels commemorating people who died of AIDS. The quilt was surrounded by a border of black stripes with white writing that said "We Remember". Jones also added a black stripe to the rainbow flag to represent mourning and solidarity with those affected by AIDS. - In 1994, Baker created a mile-long version of the rainbow flag for the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. He restored the original eight colors and added a ninth one: hot pink for diversity. - In 2000, Baker created another version of the rainbow flag for Key West Pride , which had 26 colors representing all the letters of the. - In 2000, Baker created another version of the rainbow flag for Key West Pride , which had 26 colors representing all the letters of the alphabet. He called it the Rainbow 2000 Flag and said it was a celebration of language and diversity. - In 2017, the city of Philadelphia added two more stripes to the rainbow flag: black and brown, to represent people of color within the LGBT community. The initiative was part of a campaign called More Color More Pride , which aimed to address the issues of racism and discrimination faced by LGBT people of color. - In 2018, designer Daniel Quasar created a new version of the rainbow flag called the Progress Pride Flag , which incorporated elements from the Philadelphia flag and the transgender flag. The flag had a chevron on the left side with five colors: black, brown, light blue, pink, and white. The chevron pointed to the right, indicating progress and movement. The colors represented people of color, transgender people, and those living with HIV/AIDS or who have been lost to the disease. Variations of the LGBT flag




The Philadelphia People of Color-Inclusive Flag




As mentioned above, the Philadelphia People of Color-Inclusive Flag was created in 2017 by the city of Philadelphia as part of a campaign to promote diversity and inclusion within the LGBT community. The flag added two stripes to the traditional six-color rainbow flag: black and brown, to represent people of color. The flag was meant to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions and experiences of LGBT people of color, who often face multiple forms of op


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