Color has always been symbolic pertaining to sexual orientation and identity, long before our beloved rainbow striped flag was introduced to the world. While the famous rainbow only ‘came out’ (did you catch that?) in 1978, different signs have been used to signify one’s status in the LGBT+ community as far back as the Victorian era, where gay men would wear green carnations to symbolize their homosexuality. Succeeding this, red accessories such as scarves, ties, and handkerchiefs became popular in the early 1900’s, the red ribbon eventually coming to represent AIDS and raise awareness for the deadly disease that took the lives of millions.
The inverted triangle, colored pink for gay men and black for lesbian women, originated era WWII, to identify homosexuals in Nazi concentration camps. Now, while sexual acts between two man were in direct violation of the German statute at the time, lesbians were not. So the black upside down triangle then came to represent ‘asocial women’ in the camps, such as prostitutes, feminists, women who refused to bear children, and yes, lesbians.
Despite its grim history, however, the triangles was later reclaimed by the Pride movement around the 1970’s, to celebrate our victory and strength in battling oppression. In 1987, the pink triangle, now pointed upwards to prove an active fight rather than resigned defeat, was adopted by AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP) as its logo accompanied by its slogan “SILENCE = DEATH”.
Besides from the numerous colored symbols and signs associated with Pride, the most popular advocate for the LGBT+ community speaks through flags. The first rainbow flag, designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978, was created in response to popular demand for a stable symbol for the LGBT+ movement. However, the rainbow flag is a far cry from being alone as a symbolic flag, given the many different flags that represent our diverse community. While not as popular, each flag acts as an emblem for every aspect of our multifaceted queer clan. In this article, an explanation will be provided for each of these flags.
Although a little less popular than the rainbow, the bisexual flag, created by Michael Page, was created with the intent of giving bisexuals validity and confidence in their sometimes overlooked place in the Pride community. Its colors, pink, violet, and blue, signify the love that bisexuals have to offer. Pink describes the attraction the of the same sex, blue describing the heterosexual attraction, and finally violet, a combination of the two, depicting attraction and love of both sexes (bi). It came out to the public on December 5, 1998.
The pansexual flag, similar to the bisexual flag, in theory, popped up on the internet sometime around 2010. It was created to distinguish itself from bisexuality, as pansexuals have a romantic attraction to not only males and females, but to all genders. The pink stripe represents attraction to females, regardless of birth-gender, just as the bisexual flag does. The blue stripe is for romantic attraction to males regardless of birth-gender, also like the bisexual flag. However, the yellow stripe symbolizes non-binary attraction, such as to genderfluid, bigender, androgynous, and agender people.
The asexual flag was produced through an online vote around the same time as the pansexual flag found its way to the internet. While many submissions were submitted to the contest that had hearts, triangles, “ace of spades”, or circles on them, this flag was chosen to stick to the scheme of the other pride flags and to remove any affiliation or suggestion that these symbols might have held. The four colors hold meaning like the other flags do. Black is for asexuality, grey for grey-asexuality and demisexuality, white represents non-asexual partners and allies, and finally purple, which stands for community.
Polysexuality is the attraction to a sexuality of more than one specific gender or sex, but not all. Not to be confused with bisexuality, which is usually limited to male and females (cis or not), or pansexuality, which is the attraction to people despite any gender or sex. The three stripes: Pink represents the attraction to females. Green shows the attraction to those with non-binary gender identities. And blue, which represents attraction to males. It’s unknown when this flag was created or by whom.
Designed by Monica Helms in 1999, the transgender flag was first presented to the public at the Pride celebration in Phoenix, Arizona the following year. The reason that this flag was made was to note trans peoples’ unique pride through individuality, independence, and validation. The way Helms describes the colors and their significance is as follows:
“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.”
This flag is the genderfluid flag which was created by JJ Poole in 2012. Considered a subgroup of genderqueer, genderfluid is distinct enough to have its own flag, and it applies to someone who identifies themselves as having a flexible or fluctuating gender identity. The symbolizing stripes are as follows: Pink for femininity, white to represent lack of gender, purple for a combination of masculinity and femininity, black to stand for all other gender identities that don’t strictly apply to masculinity or femininity, and blue represents masculinity.
The aromantic flag was created by someone under the username ‘cameronwhimsey‘. Although there is no official flag for aromantics, this is the closest thing so far, and ‘cameronwhimsey‘ explains why they chose these specific colors.
“We designed the flag to be as inclusive as possible and we used fairly basic color symbolism. Green, (being the opposite, complimentary color to red, which usually represents romance), represents aromanticism. Yellow, like the yellow rose which represents friendship, stands for various forms of queerplatonic love. Orange, being red once removed toward yellow, represents lithromantics. And black represents romantics who choose to reject traditional romance.”
Created to go alongside the genderqueer flag, the non-binary flag was created by Kye Rowan in February 2014. It consists of four colors, yellow, white, purple, and black. As yellow is such an independent color, its stripe is used to signify those outside of the binary. White is used to represent those with many or all genders, as white is a color that blankets all colors. Purple symbolizes the nonconformity and/or fluidity of gender, or those that fall between male or female, as it is a mix of blue and pink. Finally, black is used to represent those who do not identify with any gender, as black is known as that which signifies void or absence of color.
And now, finally. As the single most recognized flag in the LGBT+ community, the rainbow flag symbolizes diversity and unity throughout every gender, race, and orientation. While originally created with eight stripes, it has since been reduced to the six color version depicted here. The original colors, sewn by Gilbert Baker in 1978, were all born with meaning attached to them, each symbolizing a different aspect of the beauty of our community. Hot pink for sex, red resembling life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo as harmony, and violet to represent spirit. The hot pink was cut out of the flag due to the unavailability of the fabric, and later, the turquoise and indigo were combined into the royal blue that is on the flag today.
You might be wondering why the rainbow flag, the universally recognized symbol for the LGBT+ community, and the most popular flag of them all is at the very end of this informative article. It’s because at the end of everything after we’ve all recognized and accepted and protested for our trademark originality and individual uniqueness, and the beauty within every one of our sexuality’s’ and identities, we can unite under one flag. We can support each other, lean on one another, embrace our neighbors and harmonize as one. We will march in one protest, holding up our many different signs but still walking on the same road, with the same goals. Through everything, we gather together and combine our strengths. We are a community of the highest forces of nature. We are one.