by Sassafras Lowrey
Whether flying at Pride Festivals or adhered to car bumpers, LGBTQ+ pride flags have become some of the most popular and common symbols to represent the community. Many of us wear them on our clothes, fly them from our homes or businesses. We also look for them when visiting a new city or area to get an indicator of how LGBTQ+ welcoming and accepting that area might be. Like many symbols, the various pride flags that we have come to know, love and fly to represent various LGBTQ+ identities have come about out of a desire to be visible, but also to be findable. They are a way that we have been able to show that we are not ashamed, or embarrassed about who we are and also to signal that to other people as well. Pride flags are and can be a powerful symbol to not only proudly declare our own identities, but also help us to make connections with others. As symbols of visibility and representation pride flags can help to generate community by marking spaces by/for the community.
What Do All Those Flags Represent?
At this point the rainbow flag’s connection to the LGBTQ community isn’t even questioned but that wasn’t always the case! The rainbow flag was developed in 1978 by gay activist Gilbert Baker. The original rainbow flag had eight colors, each with a meaning attached: pink – sex, red–life, orange – healing, yellow–the sun, green–nature turquoise – art & magic, blue –serenity, purple – the spirit. Pink and turquoise were quickly dropped in future reproductions of the flag because of how expensive they were to produce. You can learn more about Gilbert Baker and the history of the flag here.
Philadelphia People 0f Color Inclusive Pride Flag
An updated version of the Rainbow Flag appeared in 2017, when the city of Philadelphia added black and brown stripes to symbolize the important role LGBTQ+ people of color have played within the community, and the importance of uplifting queer lives of color within LGBTQ+ spaces.
Progress Pride Flag
Building on the 2017 Philadelphia Flag, the next year Daniel Quasar developed a more inclusive version he called the Progress Pride Flag. On the Kickstarter, Quasar explained: “When the Pride flag was recreated in the last year to include both black/brown stripes as well as the trans stripes included this year, I wanted to see if there could be more emphasis in the design of the flag to give it more meaning.”
Some other Pride Flags
The Trans Pride Flag was created by transgender activist Monica Helms in 1999. The flag is alternating light blue and light pink, with a white stripe in the middle to represent people of undefined gender. The first transgender flag that Helms created is now part of the Smithsonian Museum!
The Bisexual Pride Flag has bright pink on the top, and bright blue on the bottom with a purple stripe between them representing a spectrum of attraction. The Bisexual Pride Flag was developed in 1998 by Michael Page.
The Leather Pride flag, intended to represent the LGBTQ+ BDSM/Leather community, was developed by Tony DeBlase in 1989 and became popular in the 1990s. The flag has nine alternating black and royal blue stripes, with a white stripe in the middle and a red heart in the left upper corner.
The Bear Pride Flag was designed with inclusion of bear culture in mind. The stripes in gradients of brown, tan, white and black represent human skin and hair tones of members of bear community. Tthe flag includes a black bear paw in the top left corner.
The Pansexual Pride Flag has growing in popularity on the internet and has three horizontal stripes of equal size: blue, yellow, and pink. The blue represents attraction to people who are male identified, the pink represents attraction to people who identify as female, and the yellow represents attraction to people who are nonbinary.
Developed in 2014 by Kye Rowan, a 17 year old nonbinary activist, the Nonbinary Pride Flag has a black, purple, white and yellow stripes. The stripes represent genders outside of the gender binary: people who identify as having many genders, people who don’t have any gender, and people who understand their gender as being a mix of male and female.
The Asexual Pride Flag was developed in 2010 by a collaboration of asexual activists. The Asexual pride flag has since grown in popularity—I even bought a small one at Target last June. The flag is made up of four stripes: purple, white, grey and black. The purple stripe represents community, the white strip represents sexuality, the black stripe represents asexuality and the grey stripe represents the spectrum between sexual and asexual.
Let It Fly
Not everyone in the community feels compelled to fly a pride flag, but if you find them meaningful—and it’s safe for you to do so—it can be extremely empowering to have your Pride Flag on display. Sharing your true colors with the world around can lead to connections with others who share some of your identities and life experiences. This can be a great way to make friends, build community, and inspire others to feel more confident in their own identities as well.