June is Pride Month! While you’re no doubt familiar with the rainbow flag that represents the LGBTQ+ community, you may be wondering what’s up with all the other multi-colored flags you see flying. Here, we break down the meaning behind the many stripes and shades. — by S. Michael Maury
Special to VoxPopuli
Click above to view larger images of the flags in a slideshow. Read their histories, significance and symbolism below.
Gay Pride Flag
The rainbow flag represents the LGBTQ+ community at large. Think of it like the United Nations flag — all LGBTQ+ flags fly under this one. It’s also often used to specifically represent gay men — the G in LGBTQ+. (See the flag for lesbians below.) This flag also encompasses the Q of LGBTQ+ which means “queer,” an epithet activists began reclaiming in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It also represents “questioning,” as in still exploring one’s own sexuality and/or gender.
Like the American flag, the gay pride flag has changed through the years. It was originally designed in 1978 by gay activist Gilbert Baker who was commissioned by San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California. Inspired by Judy Garland’s song “Over the Rainbow,” each rainbow hue in the original flag represented something. What the colors of the flag mean: hot pink = sex; red = life; orange = healing; yellow = sunlight; green = nature; turquoise = magic and art; indigo = serenity; violet = spirit. However, the pink stripe was removed because the fabric proved too expensive to mass produce, and the turquoise stripe was eliminated as well, leaving the flag with the six stripes you see.
“Progress” Pride Flag
Portland, Ore., designer Daniel Quasar calls this a “reboot” of the original gay pride flag on his Kickstarter page where he’s raised more than $25,000 to bring his new pride flag to fruition. LGBTQ activists had already updated the flag in 2017 with black and brown stripes to represent people of color and racism. Quasar’s reboot includes those ideas as well as people living with and dying from AIDS (also represented by the color black), and the colors of the trans community flag. The arrow shape and positioning is equally significant. “The arrow points to the right to show forward movement, while being along the left edge shows that progress still needs to be made,” Quasar says on his Kickstarter.
Lesbian Flag There have been many versions of flags representing lesbians — the L in LGBTQ+. One design repurposed the symbol that the Nazis forced lesbians to wear during the Holocaust. Another featured a cheeky lipstick kiss that alienated “butch” lesbians. Last year, Emily Gwen, a 24-year-old from Australia who tweets as @diabolicdyke, designed a new lesbian flag (pictured here).
“Despite featuring prominently in the acronym, lesbians too have been made to feel unwelcome and uncomfortable in 'gay' spaces, where unchecked misogyny is allowed to fester,” Carrie Lyell, editor of DIVA magazine told Cosmopolitan magazine. DIVA is Europe's best-selling magazine for lesbians and bi women. “That’s just one of the reasons that having our own colours is important."
What the colors of the flag mean: dark orange = gender non-conformity; orange = independence and freedom; light orange = community; white = unique relationships to womanhood; light pink = serenity and peace; pink = love and sex; dark pink = femininity.
Bisexual Flag Designed by activist Michael Page in 1998, the bisexual flag was made to better represent the bisexual community — the B in LGBTQ+ — people who are attracted to men and women. The flag was designed with a deliberate overlap of the traditional colors for males and females, signifying the attraction to both. What the colors of the flag mean: pink = same-sex attraction; purple = attraction to both sexes; blue = opposite-sex attraction.
Love really is love. Happy Pride!
Flying for the T in LGBTQ+, this flag represents the trans (a.k.a. transgender) community — people who identify with the opposite gender from which they were born. It was designed by transgender woman and Navy veteran Monica Helms in 1999. Helms has said it makes no difference which way the flag is flown, “it is always correct, signifying us finding correctness in our lives.” What the colors of the flag mean: light blue = traditional color for baby boys; light pink = traditional color for baby girls; white = intersex, transitioning or gender-neutral.
Asexual Flag Created by the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) for the purpose of “hav[ing] a symbol that belongs to all of us.,” the flag was inspired by the network’s logo. What the colors of the flag mean: black = asexuality, feeling no sexual attraction; gray = graysexuality, occasional sexual attraction, and demisexuality, attraction with emotional connection; white = sexuality; purple = community.
Genderfluid Flag Created by J.J. Poole in 2012, this flag represents those that do not identify with one gender but rather a gender identity that transitions between male, female or elsewhere on the gender spectrum. What the colors of the flag mean: pink = femininity; white = all genders; mulberry = femininity and masculinity; black = lack of gender; blue = masculinity.
Seventeen-year-old activist Kye Rowan wanted a flag that better represented the non-gender-conforming community, so he designed this flag in 2014. People in the non-binary community don’t identify as male or female, and they usually prefer using gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “them” rather than “he” or “she.” What the colors of the flag mean: yellow = genders beyond the gender binary; white = those that identify with many or all genders; purple = genders that blur the line between male and female or combine the two; black = those that don’t identify with any gender (i.e. agender).
No one’s quite sure who designed this flag, which popped up online around 2010. It flies for those who are all about connecting with people of every stripe: men, women, trans men, trans women, people who don’t identify with either gender and people who identify with every gender. Actor Dan Levy’s fictional character on Schitt’s Creek summed it up in what is quite possibly the best explanation of pansexuality ever when he shared his preferences with Stevie, saying “I like the wine, not the label.”
What the colors of the flag mean: magenta = attraction to those who identify as female; cyan = attraction to those that identify as male; yellow = attraction to those that identify as both or neither.