Rainbow flag (LGBT movement)
The rainbow flag, sometimes LGBT pride flag or gay pride flag, is a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) pride and LGBT social movements in use since the 1970s. The colors reflect the diversity of the LGBT community, and the flag is often used as a symbol of gay pride in LGBT rights marches. It originated in California, but is now used worldwide.
Designed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in 1978, the design has undergone several revisions to first remove then re-add colors due to widely available fabrics. As of 2008, the most common variant consists of six stripes, with the colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. The flag is commonly flown horizontally, with the red stripe on top, as it would be in a natural rainbow.
The original gay-pride flag flew in the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25, 1978. It has been suggested that Baker was inspired by Judy Garland's singing "Over the Rainbow" and the Stonewall riots that happened a few days after her death. The flag also strongly resembles the ribbon colors of the WWI Victory Medal, though no connection is evidenced. Another suggestion for how the rainbow flag originated is that at college campuses during the 1960s, some people demonstrated for world peace by carrying a Flag of the Races (also called the Flag of the Human Race) with five horizontal stripes (from top to bottom they were red, black, brown, yellow, and white). Gilbert Baker is said to have gotten the idea for the rainbow flag from this flag in borrowing it from the Hippie movement of that time largely influenced by pioneering homosexual activist Allen Ginsberg. The flag consisted of eight stripes; Baker assigned specific meaning to each of the colors:
|hot pink: sexuality|
Thirty volunteers hand-dyed and stitched the first two flags for the parade.
After the November 27, 1978, assassination of openly gay San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk, demand for the rainbow flag greatly increased. To meet demand, the Paramount Flag Company began selling a version of the flag using stock rainbow fabric consisting of seven stripes of red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, blue, and violet. As Baker ramped up production of his version of the flag, he too dropped the hot pink stripe because of the unavailability of hot-pink fabric. Also, San Francisco-based Paramount Flag Co. began selling a surplus stock of Rainbow Girls flags from its retail store on the southwest corner of Polk and Post, at which Gilbert Baker was an employee.
In 1979 the flag was modified again. When hung vertically from the lamp posts of San Francisco's Market Street, the center stripe was obscured by the post itself. Changing the flag design to one with an even number of stripes was the easiest way to rectify this, so the turquoise stripe was dropped, which resulted in a six stripe version of the flag — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.
It is interesting to note the order of the rainbow is the same as the Electronics Industry Association Standard (EIA) Standard Color-Code, which is black, brown, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, gray, white. The EIA Color Code is used for marking the values of resistors, capacitors and other electronic components. Black is 0, Brown is one, Red is two, and so on.
In 1989, the rainbow flag came to nationwide attention in the United States after John Stout sued his landlords and won when they attempted to prohibit him from displaying the flag from his West Hollywood, California, apartment balcony.
For the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in 1994, flag creator Baker was commissioned to create the world's largest rainbow flag. It took months of planning and teams of volunteers to coordinate every aspect. The flag utilized the basic six colors and measured thirty feet wide. Foot-wide sections of the flag were given to individual sponsors as part of a fundraiser for the Stonewall anniversary event once the event had ended. Afterwards additional large sections of the flag were sent with activists and they were used in pride parades and LGBT marches worldwide. The Guinness Book of World Records confirmed it as the world's largest flag.
In 2003 Baker was again commissioned to produce a giant flag. In this case it marked the 25th anniversary of the flag itself. Dubbed "25Rainbow Sea to Sea" the project entailed Baker again working with teams of volunteers but this flag utilized the original eight colors and measured a mile-and-a-quarter (2 km) across Key West, Florida from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf Coast Sea. The flag was again cut up afterward, and sections sent to over a hundred cities worldwide.
In 2000, the University of Hawaii at Manoa changed its sports teams' name from "Rainbow Warriors" to "Warriors" and redesigned its logo to eliminate a rainbow from it. Initially Athletic Director Hugh Yoshida said that the change was to distance the school's athletic program from homosexuality. When this drew criticism, Yoshida then said the change was merely to avoid brand confusion. The school then allowed each team to select its own name, leading to a mix including "Rainbow Warriors", "Warriors", "Rainbows" and "Rainbow Wahine". This decision was reversed in May of 2013, when current athletic director Ben Jay reversed his earlier decision in February to force all of the men's athletic teams to be just Warriors from the patchwork of names from dropping the Rainbow Warriors name.
The rainbow flag celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2003. During the gay pride celebrations in June of that year, Gilbert Baker restored the rainbow flag back to its original eight-striped version and has since advocated that others do the same. However, the eight-striped version has seen little adoption by the wider gay community, which has mostly stuck with the better known six-striped version.
In autumn 2004 several gay businesses in London were ordered by Westminster City Council to remove the rainbow flag from their premises, as its display required planning permission. When one shop applied for permission, the Planning sub-committee refused the application on the chair's casting vote (May 19, 2005), a decision condemned by gay councillors in Westminster and the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. In November the council announced a reversal of policy, stating that most shops and bars would be allowed to fly the rainbow flag without planning permission.
Today some LGBT individuals and straight allies put rainbow flags in the front of their yards and/or front doors, or use rainbow bumper stickers on their vehicles to use as an outward symbol of their identity or support.
In June 2004 LGBT activists sailed to Australia's uninhabited Coral Sea Islands Territory and raised the Gay flag, proclaiming the territory independent of Australia, calling it the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands.
Many variations of the rainbow flag have been used. Some of the more common ones include the Greek letter lambda (lower case) in white in the middle of the flag and a pink triangle or black triangle in the upper left corner. Other colors have been added, such as a black stripe symbolizing those community members lost to AIDS. The rainbow colors have also often been used in gay alterations of national and regional flags, replacing for example the red and white stripes of the flag of the United States. In 2007, the Pride Family Flag was introduced at the Houston, Texas pride parade.
In the early years of the AIDS epidemic, AIDS activists designed a "Victory over AIDS" flag consisting of the standard six-stripe rainbow flag with a black stripe across the bottom. Leonard Matlovich, himself dying of AIDS-related illness, suggested that upon a cure for AIDS being discovered, the black stripes be removed from the flags and burned.
Other countries' LGBT communities too have adopted the rainbow flag. South Africa with one of the most liberal constitutions in the world, has recently adopted The LGBT flag of South Africa at one of the world's biggest costume parties the Mother City Queer Project 2010 to a crowd of 10 000 party goers. The creator Eugene Brockman said "the flag honors every Gay Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered person as they make the Rainbow Nation dazzle".
Rainbow colors as symbol of gay pride
The rainbow flag has found wide application on all manner of products including jewelry, clothing and other personal items and the rainbow flag colors are routinely used as a show of LGBT identity and solidarity. The rainbow colors have become so ubiquitously recognized as a symbol of LGBT pride and identity in recent years that they have effectively replaced most other LGBT symbols, including the Greek letter lambda and the pink triangle. One common item of jewelry is the pride necklace or freedom rings, consisting of six rings, one of each color, on a chain. Other variants range from key chains to candles. In Montreal, the entrance to Beaudry metro station, which serves that city's Gay Village, was rebuilt in 1999 with rainbow-colored elements integrated into its design.
The rainbow flag colors were used to decorate the crosswalks at the intersection of San Vicente Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood for the celebration of Gay Pride Month in June 2012. The location is the entrance to the LA Pride Festival and the crossings were approved by West Hollywood City Council. The popular crosswalks were then planned to become permanent. The rainbow crosswalk inspired a similar rainbow crossing in Sydney for the Sydney Mardi Gras in 2013. This crossing was intended to be temporary and its removal sparked community protests and the DIY rainbow crossing internet activism activities. In June, the Dutch city of Utrecht installed a rainbowcrossing at the Lange Viestraat prior to the nationwide Pink Saturday. In July 2013, the city of Vancouver, BC, Canada installed rainbow crosswalks at the intersection of Davie street and Bute street in the heart of the Davie village as part of the launch of annual pride week. In Stockholm a rainbow crosswalk appeared in front of the Russian embassy as a form of protest against their "anti-gay" law.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to LGBT pride flags.|
- Unsung Heroes of the Gay World: Vexillographer Gilbert Baker
- How Did Gay Pride Flag Originate? KPIX-TV (CBS 5), December 1, 2006
- - VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH GILBERT BAKER - 30 YEARS OF RAINBOW FLAG, June 2008, London
- Gilbert Baker speaks to Homovision.tv about the importance of the Rainbow Flag in the 21st century and why it shouldn't be forgotten.