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What do the colours on the Pride flag actually mean?

Time to read up on your queer history

What do the colours on the Pride flag actually mean?
02 July 2018

Back in 1978, a decade after the Stonewall Riots that give birth to the modern fight for LGBTQ rights in the US, artist and gay rights activist Gilbert Baker had an idea to create a unifying symbol for his community’s struggle: the now iconic rainbow Pride flag.

He literally hand-dyed and stitched together eight strips of vibrantly coloured fabric – and even refused to apply for a trademark for his creation, realising its importance to queer people all over the world.

According to the New York Times, Baker’s first flags had eight colours, with each stripe carrying its own significance: pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sun, green for nature, turquoise for magic, blue for peace and purple for spirit.

But as demand grew for the Pride flag, Baker decided to drop two of the colours — pink and turquoise — because they weren’t widely available at most flag manufacturers.

Flag creator Gilbert Baker in front of his original 8-striped creation

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And the story doesn’t end there. In recent years, there have been calls for the rainbow Pride flag to embrace even more of the diversity of the queer community.

In 2017, the campaign group More Color More Pride introduced a new and improved flag complete with black and brown stripes in order to celebrate non-white members of the LGBTQ community.

Unfortunately, the flag hasn’t been embraced by everyone. In fact, a recent survey of queer communities conducted by Buzzfeed News found that 58% of those surveyed oppose the addition of black and brown stripes on the Pride flag, with the strongest opposition coming from gay men, white people and people over 50.

And wait… there’s more!

Earlier this year, an even newer Pride flag from graphic designer Daniel Quasar made a splash on the interwebs by incorporating the colours pink, light blue and white, which are used on the Transgender Pride Flag.

Quasar told ShortList: “I’ve had some negative reaction, as well as some people wanting to get in on the hype but I do my best not to focus on that and to continue the positive side of the opportunity. Focusing on the negative will only take time away, and there will always be negative people on social media.

“It’s been embraced around the world, which is amazing. I just want people to take a moment to think about those around them who might be having a different experience.

“We sometimes get so caught up in our own narrative that we can lose sight of those really suffering. This flag is a reminder to just take a moment to have a look around.”

For what it’s worth, I reckon we should celebrate every beautiful, queer shade of the LGBTQ community. And no-one ever complained about a rainbow being too colourful, so whack ‘em all on there! 

(Images: Getty)