Under Six Flags

The most famous symbol of LGBT people and LGBT liberation is the RAINBOW FLAG. Designed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker (1951-2017) in 1978, the six colored stripes – red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple – represent our community’s diversity to friend and foe alike. Baker’s creation became so popular that it superseded the lambda, the labrys, the pink triangle, the equal sign and other symbols. There is hardly a person alive today who does not recognize the rainbow flag and what it stands for. Even Donald Trump took time off from his victory lap at the Republican Convention to hold a rainbow flag (upside down) to show his support for LGBT people. This happened before he became the most homophobic and transphobic president in decades.

The rainbow flag was created to represent all of us, which of course is impossible. The LGBT community is as diverse as humanity itself; and one flag cannot adequately represent our various and sometimes conflicting backgrounds, lives, struggles and interests. It was not long before various groups began to produce flags of their own. The most famous of these is the TRANSGENDER PRIDE FLAG, a symbol of trans pride, rights and diversity created by Monica Helms in 1999. According to Helms, “the stripes at the top and bottom are light blue, the traditional color for baby boys. The stripes next to them are pink, the traditional color for baby girls. The stripe in the middle is white, for those who are intersex, transitioning or consider themselves having a neutral or undefined gender. The pattern is such that no matter which way you fly it, it is always correct, signifying us finding correctness in our lives.” Since 1999 the trans pride flag has been adopted by LGBT or allied governments or communities, which fly the flag at all times or during trans days of pride or remembrance.

Not to be outdone, the BISEXUAL PRIDE FLAG was designed by Michael Page in 1998 in order to give bisexuals their own symbol. Page’s aim was to increase bi visibility, both within the LGBT community and among society as a whole. “In designing the Bi Pride Flag, I selected the colors and overlap pattern of the bi angles symbol,” Page said. “The pink color represents sexual attraction to the same sex only (gay and lesbian). The blue represents sexual attraction to the opposite sex only (straight) and the resultant overlap color purple represents sexual attraction to both sexes (bi).”

Some flags represent different lifestyles within and outside the LGBT community. The LEATHER PRIDE FLAG was designed by Tony DeBlase in 1989. According to DeBlase, “the flag is composed of nine horizontal stripes of equal width. From the top and from the bottom, the stripes alternate black and royal blue. The central stripe is white. In the upper left quadrant of the flag is a large red heart. I will leave it to the viewer to interpret the colors and symbols.” Since 1989 the flag was embraced by leather folk of all sexual orientations or gender identities and has become the proud symbol of the kinky community.

The International Bear Brotherhood Flag (also known as the BEAR FLAG) was designed to represent the bear subculture within the LGBT community. Created by Craig Byrnes in 1995, the colors of the flag – dark brown, orange/rust, golden yellow, tan, white, gray and black – represent the fur colors of various bear species, not human races. The bear flag sports a bear paw print on its upper-left corner, a symbol as significant to bears as the red heart is to the leather/sm/fetish community.

Recently the rainbow flag has been revised to be more representative of all facets of the LGBT community. Last year the Philadelphia advertising agency Tierney revised the flag by adding black and brown stripes to represent our racial diversity. The new flag made its premiere in Philadelphia during that city’s 2017 Pride ceremonies. Amber Hikes, the director of LGBT Affairs, told Philadelphia Gay News that “this flag instills so much pride in me as a queer black woman. … When I see the flag, I feel like I see myself.” This year Daniel Quasar proposed a new, progress-focused rainbow flag that puts white, pink, light blue, brown, and black stripes in an arrow on the left side of the flag on top of the six-striped rainbow flag. Quasar took the light blue, pink and white stripes from the trans flag and added the brown and black stripes to represent people of color “as well as those living with AIDS, those no longer living, and the stigma surrounding them.” This design has since been challenged by Puerto Rican author and vegan activist Julia Feliz, who re-designed the flag to place the black, brown, light blue, pink and white stripes diagonally over the rainbow. Quasar accepts the challenge: “The more flags, the more discussion, the better.” Let a thousand flags wave.

Jesse’s Journal
by Jesse Monteagudo


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