Pride month

What you should know about the Pride flags of the LGBTQ+ community

Russell Ku, Andoy Edoria

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What you should know about the Pride flags of the LGBTQ+ community

Andoy Edoria/Rappler

Since the rainbow flag was first unfurled in 1978, there have been different variations of the banner as discussions of integrating other communities in the LGBTQ+ struggle surfaced to the mainstream

Every Pride month or when you go to LGBTQ+-owned or themed establishments, you will often notice a rainbow flag displayed. While the flag has become a universal symbol for the queer community, do you know how did this come to be?

As a discussion on LGBTQ+ representation and rights continues to evolve, American LGBTQ+ group Human Rights Campaign lists more than a dozen flags that represent different facets of queer pride and power. 

Here are things you need to know about some of the basic Pride flags. 

Rainbow flag

Did you know that the rainbow flag originally consisted of eight colors? The original flag was designed by political activist and designer Gilbert Baker. A biography of Baker said the first rainbow banners flew during the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25, 1978. 

The rainbow flag symbolized LGBTQ+ liberation and solidarity in the ’70s. It replaced the offensive inverted pink triangle, a mark used by Nazi Germany to label gay men sent to concentration camps. 

His biography said Baker was encouraged by friends, including San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk, who was one of the first openly gay elected officials in US history, to create the new flag. 

“We all felt that we needed something that was positive, that celebrated our love…. As a community, both local and international, gay people were in the midst of an upheaval, a battle for equal rights, a shift in status where we were now demanding power, taking it. This was our new revolution: a tribal, individualistic, and collective vision. It deserved a new symbol,” Baker wrote in his memoir “Rainbow Warrior: My Life in Color”. 

Here are what each color of the rainbow flag represents:

The rainbow flag would have several tweaks due to factors such as the lack of supply of hot pink fabric and the banner being obstructed by lampposts. The current version of the flag consists of six colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. 

Pride flag evolution

Baker’s rainbow flag would later be tweaked to different variations as discussions on intersectionality or integrating other communities in the LGBTQ+ struggle started to become mainstream. 

For example, the Philadelphia Pride flag was unveiled in the city’s 2017 Pride march to include black and brown stripes to include Black and Latino communities. 

Meanwhile, the Progress flag was introduced by Daniel Quaser in 2018 as a way to “[bring] into clear focus the current needs within [the LGBTQ+] community.”

The flag features an arrow-shaped triangle with black, brown, light blue, pink and white stripes on the left side of the flag to show that “progress still needs to be made” in protecting every LGBTQ+ person, especially minorities and the transgender community. 

The Progress flag would also receive a tweak through the Intersex-Inclusive Pride flag designed by Valentino Vecchietti of Intersex Equality Rights UK in 2021. It is meant to represent people with “diverse sexual orientations; diverse gender identities and expressions; and those with diverse sex characteristics.” (RELATED: Refusing to be invisible: Intersex Filipinos struggle to be seen, understood

The banner includes a purple circle in a yellow background which is the design of the intersex Pride flag designed by Morgan Carpenter Australia in 2013.

Flags for specific communities

Aside from this, different identities within the LGBTQ+ spectrum have their own flags with their own design and meaning. 

Lesbian flag

In the lesbian community, various flags have been designed in an attempt to represent them. The most accepted flag is a simple orange and pink flag designed by online user Emily Gwen in 2018.

“The flag was created to be inclusive and supportive of all lesbians. This includes trans and nonbinary lesbians, including lesbians who use pronouns other than she/her,” Emily said in their Carrd website

Bisexual flag

The bisexual flag was unveiled on December 5, 1998 by Michael Page to “maximize bisexual pride and visibility.” 

“Based on my own personal experience, the vast majority of bi people I have spoken with, feel no connection to the rainbow flag, the pink triangle, the black triangle, the Lambda symbol or the double-edged hatchet. These symbols are viewed as gay and lesbian icons,” Page said in a blog post on the now-defunct BiFlag website which was retrieved through Internet Archive. 

Pansexual flag

While not much is known about who made the pansexual flag, it was first introduced in 2010 to bring awareness to the community from other sexual orientations. (RELATED: Underrepresented voices: Stories from the ‘plus’ in the LGBTQIA+ community

Transgender flag

Transgender US Navy soldier Monica Helms designed the first transgender flag on August 19, 1999. It would debut at a Pride parade in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2000. 

Helms said in an interview with The Outwords Archive that the flag was designed after a conversation with Michael Page who told Helms that the trans community needed its own flag. 

The first flag was later accepted by the Smithsonian Institution in 2014 and placed in the permanent archives of its National Museum of American History

Nonbinary flag

Coming from calls online to make a separate flag for the nonbinary community, Tumblr user Kyle Rowan designed the community’s own flag in 2014. 

Asexual flag

It was a collective of forum users in the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network in 2010, led by user standup, who designed the asexual flag that is being flown today. 

The colors and their placement of the flag was a result of discussions in the forum on how the asexual community can be best represented. 

– Rappler.com 

Are there any Pride activities in your area? Share photos and insights about this year’s Pride month via the gender equality chat room of the Rappler Communities App.

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Russell Ku

Russell Ku is a digital communications specialist at Rappler who believes in the power of stories to build an empathic society.