Rainbows have used since ancient times in all kinds of cultures- Greek, African, Native American and Celtic, to name only a few. Even Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition has made use of the rainbow has a freedom symbol. Many of us have marched, waved or proudly flown this flag. Here is how it came into being and we have to go to the West Coast to meet its creator, Gilbert Baker.
The Rainbow Flag as we know it today was developed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in 1978. At the time, there was a need for a gay symbol which could be used year after year for the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade. Baker took inspiration from many sources, from the hippies movement to the black civil rights movement, and came up with a flag with eight stripes.
Color has always played an important power in the gay right movement- Victorian England symbolized homosexuality with the color green. Men often wore green carnations in their coats as a sign of gay recognition.
Lavender became popular in the 1960s, and and pink from the pink triangle has a proud and sad historical background.
has caught on as well- and the colors of the gay flag were no different. Baker explained that his colors each stood for a different aspect of gay and lesbian life:
- Hot pink for sexuality,
- Red for life,
- Orange for healing,
- Yellow for the sun,
- Green for nature,
- Blue for art,
- Indigo for harmony,
- Violet for spirit.
Baker himself and thirty other volunteers hand-stitched and hand-dyed to large prototype flags for the 1978 parade. It was an immediate hit. However, when Baker took his design to the San Francisco Flag Co. to have it mass-produced for the 1979 parade, he had to remove the hot pink stripe. Baker had hand-dyed the color, and unfortunately pink was not a commercially available color.
Gilbert, so many of us have marched proudly beneath our Rainbow Flag. Thank you, Paula.