Throughout history, a lot has happened to get to the Pride flag that we all recognise today. It’s still changing, with updates as recent as February of this year. While you may recognise the six-stripe rainbow flag as the standard, there are seven, eight, and nine-stripe variants, which all signify different things. Have a look through our flag 101 and find out what each stripe means and where the flag and it’s revisions came from. Let us know the flag love the most in the comments.
Beyond the flags, there are many terms which people may use throughout Pride 2018. To both relate to different sexual orientation and gender identities, and to describe the movement and events itself. Beginning in the mid to late 80’s, LGB was a term that was used to replace ‘gay’ in reference to the community which identified as either lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Activists decided that the term gay community didn’t represent all the people that it referred to. Since the 90’s this has been adapted to LGBT, to encompass people who identify as transgender as well. We have a breakdown of the specific LGBT flags in our LGBT Flag blog post.
This initialism is broadly used to emphasise sexual and gender-identity diversity, however in order to make the term more inclusive, other variants are also commonly used. The addition of a Q – becoming LGBTQ – adds an initial standing for queer. This is an umbrella term which covers those who are not heterosexual or cisgender (someone who’s sense of identity/gender is the same as their birth sex) as well as those questioning their identity. The most popular current term is LGBTQ+, which covers everything that we’ve already talked about, as well as other spectrums of sexuality and gender identity. Check out our Celebrate Diversity blog post which goes through a number of these, as well as the associated flags.
Rainbow Pride Flag History
Gilbert Baker designed the original Pride flag in 1978. He gave it eight stripes, and each stood for something different. Pink for sexuality, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for the sun, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony and finally violet for spirit.
Thirty volunteers dyed, and hand stitched the first two flags for the Pride parade that year. These two flags currently fly over the LGBT Community Centre in New York City, and the Castro in San Francisco.
Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official, was assassinated in November of 1978. Demand increased for the rainbow Pride flag immensely. The Paramount Flag Company began selling a seven-stripe version of the flag to help meet this high demand. As Gilbert Baker also ramped his production up, he too dropped the hot pink stripe. During this year there wasn’t enough availability of the hot-pink fabric. This seven-stripe version stayed in use from 1978 to 1979.
The flag hung in San Francisco from lampposts in Market Street, which meant that they fell vertically. This, however, meant that the post obscured the green centre stripe.
The way they remedied the situation was to redesign the flag once more. In 1979 San Francisco removed the turquoise stripe, which gave us the six-stripe version. In 1989, the rainbow flag began getting nationwide – and ultimately worldwide – recognition.This six-stripe version is the most popular flag today.
New Rainbow Pride Flag Designs
Philadelphia City Hall created a new Pride Flag in 2017. They added a black and a brown stripe to the six-stripe popular flag. They said this was ‘to highlight black and brown LGBTQIA members within the city’s community’. However some activists in Philadelphia said that they felt this was unnecessary and divisive.
During carnival in Sao Paulo, Brazil released a nine-stripe Pride flag in 2018. At Love Fest Festival, in February, the original eight-stripe flag had a ninth, white stripe added to the centre.
This white stripe is to represent all colours combined and signifies human diversity not only in terms of gender and sex preferences, but also religion and ethnicities. The nine-stripe 2018 flag design is to show peace and union among all.