London flies a new Pride flag: A story of how the rainbow flag got its stripes

If you’ve been walking around central London recently, you may have noticed lots of new flags hanging above certain streets.

As the endless Union Jacks fell after the Queen’s Jubilee, a new Pride flag adorned Regent Street, one of London’s busiest areas.

To celebrate 50 years of Pride Month, the Crown Estate has ordered 100 Pride flags to be hung above Regent Street for the first time.

But the flag on display isn’t the typical rainbow flag you’re probably familiar with.

This version is the intersex pride flag and was designed by Valentino Vecchiette in 2021.

Vecchiette, who is the founder of Intersex Equality Rights UK, added the purple circle on a yellow background to incorporate the voices of intersex people.

Intersex is a general term for people born with sex characteristics that are not exclusively associated with a singular binary definition of male or female. These sex characteristics can be internal, such as sex organs or chromosomes, or they can be external signifiers, including body hair and breast growth.

But adding Vecchiette to the pride flag is just the latest chapter in a fascinating journey to create a flag that represents all the diversity within the LGBTQI+ community.

The first flag

Although the basic rainbow design of the Pride flag seems ubiquitous in 2022, it wasn’t until the 1970s that it was created.

Until then, one of the only symbols to represent the queer community had been the pink triangle, created by the Nazis to identify homosexuals.

Although it was reclaimed and used proudly by some members of the queer community, others wanted a new symbol, free from the dark origins of the pink triangle.

In 1977, San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker was convinced by friends, filmmaker Artie Bressan and Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official, to create an image of pride for the gay community.

Initially, Baker was against the idea of ​​flags, thinking they represented patriotism. But the year before had been 1976, the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the United States as an independent republic, and the stars and stripes had been everywhere.

“After the orgy of buntings and hype surrounding the bicentenary, I thought of flags in a new light. I discovered the depth of their power, their transcendent and transformational quality. I thought about the emotional connection they hold,” Baker explains on his site.

Later that week, Baker went to a show at the Winterland Ballroom. As he watched the diverse crowd dance around him, an idea struck him.

“The dance merged us, magical and purifying. We were all in a whirlwind of colors and light. It was like a rainbow,” he said.

Baker stitched the colors of the rainbow together to create the original Pride flag. The original eight colors each had their own meaning.

Hot Pink = Sex

Red = Life

Orange = Healing

Yellow = sunlight

Green = Nature

Turquoise = Magic/Art

Indigo = Serenity

Violet = Spirit

Two new variants appear

Baker’s flag gained popularity, first in San Francisco’s gay scene. After Harvey Milk’s assassination in 1978, many organizations adopted the flag to commemorate his accomplishments.

But due to the growing popularity, the flag had to change. Demand for the flag exceeded the amount of hot pink fabric being made. Thus, a new 7-stripe version was born without the pink color.

The flag was changed again in 1979 to an even number of stripes, for logistical reasons. The turquoise and indigo stripes have been combined to become a single royal blue stripe.

The new six-stripe Pride flag has become the most famous version and is probably the one you will see at most Pride events around the world.

Greater inclusion

Over the years, some people have advocated for changes to the flag, to better represent the breadth of experiences of queer people.

In 2017, the City of Philadelphia added two stripes to the six-stripe design to highlight the struggles of queer people of color.

The new black and brown stripes were placed at the top of the flag. While some argued the addition was divisive, the design was quickly picked up by other cities, including Manchester in the UK.

As awareness of the different struggles felt by marginalized groups within the queer community grew, more flags were created to signify individual groups.

In 1999, Monica Helms created the transgender flag, consisting of five stripes of light blue, pink and white.

After the popularity of the Philadelphia version, designer Daniel Quasar created a version of the Pride flag that incorporated the colors of the transgender flag, as well as the new brown and black colors.

With its white, pink, light blue, brown and black chevron, the new design, named the Progress Pride Flag, was created not just to represent trans and queer people of color, but to bring them to the fore. Quasar also wanted the black band to represent people affected by HIV/AIDS.

“This new design forces the viewer to reflect on their own feelings towards the original Pride Flag and its meaning, as well as differing opinions about who this flag truly represents, while clearly highlighting current needs within our community,” Quasar said.

Although there are still heated debates and divisions within the LGBTQI+ community over the original rainbow flag and its subsequent redesigns, different versions are still regularly created.

A new version in 2017 from the flag’s original designer, Baker, added a lavender stripe to represent diversity.

A different design in 2018 added a red, blue and black chevron to represent India’s self-respect movement, anti-caste movement and left-wing ideology.

So Vecchietti’s 2021 design to incorporate the purple circle and yellow background of the intersex flag into Qasar’s Progress Pride flag, which is currently flying in London, becomes the latest chapter in a nearly 45-year history of Pride flags. .

About Nancy Owens

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