The rainbow flag is a symbol of hope, pride, and solidarity for the LGBTQ+ community. The designer of the rainbow flag, Gilbert Baker, recently passed. He was a very important member of the gay community, leading as an active member of the San Francisco Gay Rights Movement in the 1970s. He was also an artist, an army veteran, and an avid drag performer.
Prompted by Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to serve in public office in the state of California, who also happens to be one of the most notable UAlbany alumni, Baker went on to create the first rainbow flag. He was inspired by the pink triangle used by Nazis to identify homosexuals that was reclaimed by the gay community as a positive and prideful symbol. Here are some of Baker’s words on creating a symbol for the LGBTQ+ community:
It came from such a horrible place of murder and holocaust and Hitler. We needed something beautiful, something from us. 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.
The first rainbow flags debuted at San Francisco’s Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25, 1978. The flag originally consisted of eight stripes; Baker assigned specific meaning to each of the colors: hot pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sun, green for serenity with nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony, and violet for spirit. As time passed, and as demand for the flag grew, it was modified a few times, and the one most commonly used now is a six striped rainbow consisting of the colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.
There is context of what these colors mean in the LGBTQ+ community to me. After reading about what each of these colors is supposed to symbolize, I took the liberty of thinking about it and realizing what these colors mean to me, personally, as a queer person and a member of the gay community:
Red, or life, to represent the value of LGBTQ+ lives in a society that constantly undermines them.
Orange, or healing, to represent the healing that the community must undergo when presented with hate.
Yellow, or sunlight, represents a message about being yourself instead of hiding in the shadows.
Green, or nature, to represent that its within human nature to feel this way.
Blue, or harmony, to represent the harmony and peace that we crave between the community and the rest of society.
Violet, or spirit, to represent the community’s spirit that cannot be broken.
To me, having a gay flag is as important as having my country’s flag on display. I find there’s a sense of pride in having a flag that can define you in some ways. It reminds me that I am proud to be who I am. I have several in my room, as decoration. For my most recent residential life program, I held a paint and sip (with sparkling apple cider, of course) and what I chose to paint was a LGBTQ flag. I now have it leaning by my window, facing out so everyone walking by can see.
“That’s what flags are for. Flags are about proclaiming power … that visibility is key to our success and to our justice.” – Gilbert Baker
I would like to dedicate this blog post to Gilbert Baker, and the legacy he has left behind with the creation of the Rainbow Flag. He lived a full life, unashamed of who he was. He contributed so much to the community, and at such a pivotal time. I’m grateful he left us his art as a symbol of pride, love, hope and activism.
Please Note: The views of our student bloggers do not necessarily reflect the views of the UAlbany Advisement Services Center. These are their stories and their voices.
UAlbany’s Gender and Sexuality Resource Center
UAlbany Counseling Center’s LGBTQ Empowerment and Support Group
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