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The History of LGBT Pride Flags

Celebrate LGBT history month through discovering the origins of the community's most coveted symbols.

By: Chase Congleton

The month of October marks LGBT History Month and there is plenty of LGBT history that is often untold. For instance, the rainbow flag is one of the most iconic symbols for the gay community, yet many people do not know the story behind the flag. In celebration of this month, let’s look at a brief history behind a few notable LGBT-related flags.

Rainbow Flag

The rainbow flag, also commonly known as the gay pride flag, first debuted in 1978 by artist Gilbert Baker. According to the Huffington Post’s article, “The History and Meaning of the Rainbow Pride Flag,” the flag originally consisted of eight colors: pink, red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, indigo and violet.

Within the span of a couple years, the flag changed and became the current six-stripe design that it is today. At the time, the pink fabric cost too much to reproduce and the turquoise and indigo stripes were dropped together in favor of royal blue.

Each color contains its own meaning: red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, blue for serenity and violet for spirit. The rainbow flag has become an iconic symbol for the LGBT community and has continued to spark hope and camaraderie between allies and the community.

Bisexual Pride Flag

The bisexual pride flag, designed by Michael Page in 1998, was created with the intention to maximize bisexual visibility within the LGBT community. The flag seeks to erase the stigma regarding bisexuality.

The bisexual flag, which is much simpler in comparison to the rainbow pride flag, consists of three colors: pink, purple and blue. Similar to the rainbow flag, each color on the bisexual pride flag represents a different component of the community.

Pink represents sexual attraction to the same sex and blue represents sexual attraction to the opposite sex. The purple stripe in the middle of the flag represents sexual attraction to both the opposite and the same sex. In Page’s own words, the flag stripes and positions contain a deeper meaning.

“The key to understanding the symbolism of the bisexual pride flag is to know that the purple pixels of color blend unnoticeably into both the pink and blue,” Page said, "just as in the ‘real world,’ where bi people blend unnoticeably into both the gay/lesbian and straight communities.”

Transgender Pride Flag

The newest flag on this list is one that was created by American transgender woman Monica Helms. She created the transgender pride flag in 1999 after realizing there was a need for a flag for the transgender community.

According to Refinery29’s article, “The History of the Transgender Pride Flag,” Helms chose the colors and positions of the stripes for a specific purpose. The light blue stripes represent the traditional color used for baby boys while the pink stripes represent the traditional color used for baby girls.

“The stripe in the middle is white,” Helms said,” for those who are intersex, transitioning or consider themselves having a neutral or undefined gender.”

Helm’s flag first made its public debut at the Pride parade in Phoenix, Arizona in 2000. Since its creation, the flag has been used in countless LGBT parades and festivals, and is a staple part of transgender communities in countries all across the world.

Examining the struggles the LGBT community faced since the 1960s helps put in perspective how much society has progressed and how much more society needs to progress for equality. While same-sex marriage has been legalized in the United States since 2015, there are still no federal laws protecting the LGBT community from discrimination in the workplace.

Understanding the history behind a few of the pride flags contextualizes the LGBT community’s growth in strength. The pride flags have all paved a part of the yellow brick road toward overcoming adversity and finding tranquility on the other side.

Photos by: Whitney Martin

Model: Emmett Chisenhall



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