Gilbert Baker: The Gay Betsy Ross

Day 6 of the Pride 30 Project for Pride Month, 2018.

“The rainbow is so perfect because it really fits our diversity in terms of race, gender, ages, all of those things. Plus, it’s a natural flag — it’s from the sky!”

In 1978, colored fabrics were not commercially available, so Gilbert and about thirty of his friends took over a thousand yards of cotton and bottles of dye, purchased with the thousand dollars donated by the Gay Freedom Day Committee, and assembled in the attic of the gay community center on 330 Grove Street in San Francisco. He wanted the flag to have a birthplace connected to the community. The group used trash cans filled with water, salt, and hot pink, red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, indigo, and violet dyes to create what would become the stripes of the flag. Fairy Argyle, a hippie girl known as “the queen of tie-dye,” helped Gilbert dye stars on squares of indigo cotton in an approximation of the American flag.

“Our sexuality is a human right,” he always insisted, “no matter what color that may be.”



QHFTP aims to make LGBTQ history and culture available, and accessible, to all. We cannot work effectively for change unless we know where we've been and the history of those made invisible by mainstream narratives.

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Jeffry J. Iovannone

Historian, writer, and educator with a PhD in American Studies. I specialize in gender and LGBTQ history of the U.S. Email: