From Gilbert Baker to Amber Hikes: The History of the Pride Flag
Each year in June, the LGBTQ+ community celebrates Pride Month, honoring the riots against discrimination and police brutality that occurred throughout the country before coming to a head at the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969. While commemorating this fight for justice and equality, Pride Month also recognizes all of the great achievements and positive impacts that the LGBTQ+ community has had throughout the world.
With its array of vibrant colors that resemble a rainbow, the Pride flag is boldly and joyfully visible at Pride events and protests and throughout the month of June as a major symbol of solidarity, acceptance, hope and love for the LGBTQ+ community. But it’s also become an enduring, year-round symbol of unity and identity.
Though it's colorful, bright and impossible to ignore, there is also great significance behind the design of the flag and the variations created over the years. Let's dive into the history of this important flag that represents a vital community.
Representation Gets a Fresh Start
The official Pride flag was created in 1978 by Gilbert Baker, a gay artist and activist who lived in San Francisco and who had been tasked by politician Harvey Milk to come up with a positive symbol for the gay community. Milk had been elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors a year prior, becoming one of the first openly gay people to hold this type of visible and influential public position in a major American city.
A Powerfully Symbolic Design Comes to Life
Only 27 years old at the time, Baker’s beautiful rainbow was inspired by the symbolism behind the American flag. The United States had celebrated its bicentennial in 1976, and the U.S. flag was spotted everywhere from porches to articles of clothing. "It really put the seed in my head. I was like: 'Wait a minute, we are a global tribe, and a flag really fits our mission,'" the artist said in a 2015 interview with CNN. The presence of the ubiquitous stars and stripes everywhere impressed upon Baker the need for a similar "rallying sign" for the LGBTQ+ community.
The World Takes Notice of the Iconic Symbol
Baker was soon asked to mass-produce the flag for distribution, but because of expenses and the fact that some colors of fabric were unavailable, the pink and turquoise stripes were eventually removed. This left the standard six-striped flag that we know today, which incorporates red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet stripes.
New Flags Honor Identities With Colorful Inspiration
Though the Pride flag represents the entire LGBTQ+ community, various multi-color striped flags have been created to designate different identities within the community. This includes the bisexual Pride flag, which has a broad magenta stripe at the top, a broad stripe in blue at the bottom and a narrower deep lavender band in the middle, as well as the transgender Pride flag, pictured here with two light blue stripes, two pink stripes and a white stripe in the center.
Amber Hikes Introduces an Even More Inclusive Design
Another new Pride Flag was introduced in recent years thanks to civil rights activist Amber Hikes, a queer Black woman. Hikes entered the city government in Philadelphia after reports of racism within the city's LGBTQ+ community, galvanized by the injustice and determined to assist people of color within her own community. After being appointed as Executive Director of Philadelphia's Office of LGBT Affairs, she created the More Pride, More Color campaign in June 2017. This initiative worked to develop a version of the Pride flag with black and brown stripes at the top to represent LGBTQ+ people of color within the community. The flag garnered a lot of attention worldwide, and many people received the flag well — including writer and actress Lena Waithe, who wore the flag to the Met Gala in 2018.