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What's with All These Rainbows?

We're two weeks in June, the month of LGBTQ Pride. Rainbow flags are flown almost everywhere and their design is incorporated everywhere, including on website banners, billboards, t-shirts, promo materials, donuts, and even underwear.

We've written a few posts regarding the psychology of colors, but the rainbow Pride flag is the whole spectrum. Let's dive in to get to know what's arguably the most fabulous of all flags.

The original rainbow Pride flag was designed by Gilbert Baker, an American artist, designer, and activist. The flag was, in his own words, started "with some fabric in the wind. I knew how to sew—as I said, it came from being the drag queen that couldn’t afford the clothes I liked so I had to make them all."

The Contemporary Pride Flag by Gilbert Baker

Baker was very thoughtful about the flag's origin story. He decided the Pride flag needed a birthplace, so instead of making it at home, he made it at 330 Grove St. in San Francisco, which was the Gay Community Center at the time. He and other artists took over the top-floor attic gallery and put in huge trash cans filled with natural dye and salt and thousands of yards of cotton.

"I wanted to make it at the center," Baker said in an interview with Inside Out (SF Museum of Modern Art's blog), "with my friends—it needed to have a real connection to nature and community.

And so, about three weeks after he'd turned 27, the flags went up in the United Nations Plaza in downtown San Francisco.

"We picked the birthplace very carefully, and it happened on June 25, 1978." Baker said. "That was deliberate—even in those days, my vision and the vision of so many of us was that this was a global struggle and a global human rights issue. And now here we are all these years later—we’re not there yet by any stretch of the imagination but in my lifetime we have come far."

Originally, the flag had eight colors, but hot pink (representing sex) was removed simply because there wasn't enough fabric in this color to turn it into flags. The demand for this flag skyrocketed after Harvey Milk was assassinated on November 27, 1978. Milk, an American politician, was Baker's friend and the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

The second color that didn't make the cut (literally) was turquoise (representing magic/art). The organizers of the 1979 San Francisco Pride Parade wanted to split the flag evenly into two to decorate each side of the route, so they had to settle with the six colors we now have today: Red (life), orange (healing), yellow (sunlight), green (nature), blue (harmony), and purple (spirit). Indigo was replaced by blue because getting just the right indigo dye proved to be quite challenging.

A rainbow or Prima USA Travel: White (Melrose S), Pink (Jewel), Baby Blue (Bradford), Brown (Brighton), Black (Chester), Red (Brighton), Orange (Allegro), Yellow (Denali S), Green (Crue), Blue (Vivace), Purple (Gem)

As the world continues to grow and evolve, so does the Pride flag. We've seen several iterations and new designs of the rainbow flag.

The Progress Pride Flag by Daniel Quasar

The most recent reboot was designed by Daniel Quasar and debuted in 2018. Quasar is a non-binary artist and graphic designer. Dubbed the Progress Pride flag, it incorporates the six-colored rainbow Pride flag, the Trans Pride flag, with two additional colors, brown and black. These two colors "represent people of color, “as well as those living with AIDS, those no longer living, and the stigma surrounding them,” Quasar wrote on his Kickstarter campaign to fund the Progress Pride flag.

The Trans Pride Flag by Monica Helms

White, pink, and baby blue were adopted from the original Trans Pride flag created in 1999 by Monica Helms, an American Navy veteran and a transwoman. The baby blue and pink are "traditional" colors for boys and girls (we can talk about its actual history in a different post), while the white represents those who are intersex, transitioning, or consider themselves gender-neutral. The Trans Pride flag is symmetrical, so that, "no matter which way you fly it, it is always correct, signifying us finding correctness in our lives,” Helms said.

The Philly Pride Flag by City of Philadelphia & Tierney Agency

The brown and black were designed by Amber Hikes who dubbed the flag the More Color, More Pride. It first unfurled in 2017. Hikes was the executive director of the City of Philadelphia's Office of LGBT Affairs and created the flag with advertising agency Tierney. It was introduced at a City Hall ceremony in June 2017. The inspiration came from queer people of color.

"We’re never going to stop letting ourselves, each other, and the whole damn world know that our liberation has always been led by BIPOC queer and trans folks-- and when we do get free, when we get free together, it will be with Black and Brown queer & trans folks at the front," Hikes wrote on their Instagram.