Last modified: 2015-06-27 by randy young
Keywords: rainbow flag | baker (gilbert) | stripes: 6 |
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The rainbow is a symbol of gay pride, as
opposed to gay liberation, which used the pink
triangle on various colored fields.
Jim Ferrigan, 14 Feb 2003
The plain 6 stripes does seem to be the flag of choice over the
world and probably so for a simple reason of recognition: the flag is
often use to mark gay friendly (and in some place, gay safe)
establishment so you want to be sure that your target clientele will
Marc Pasquin, 26 Oct 2004
The rainbow flag has become the easily-recognized colors of pride
for the gay community. The multicultural symbolism of the rainbow is
nothing new and it plays a part in many myths and stories related to
gender and sexuality issues in Greek, Native American, African, and
Marcus Schmöger, 26 Aug 2001,
quoting from this page
The rainbow flag [meaning]:
The Alyson Almanac: A Treasury of Information for the Gay and Lesbian Community describes Rainbow Flag as follows:
In 1978, Gilbert Baker of San Francisco designed and made a flag with six stripes representing the six colors of the rainbow as a symbol of gay and lesbian community pride. Slowly the flag took hold, offering a colorful and optimistic alternative to the more common pink triangle symbol. Today it is recognized by the International Congress of Flag Makers, and is flown in lesbian and gay pride marches worldwide. In 1989, the rainbow flag received nationwide attention after John Stout successfully sued his landlords in West Hollywood, when they prohibited him from displaying the flag from his apartment balcony. Meanwhile, Baker is still in San Francisco, and still making more flags.
In San Francisco, the Rainbow Flag is everywhere: it can be seen hanging from apartment windows throughout the city (most notably in the Castro district), local bars frequently display the flag, and Rainbow Flag banners are hung from lampposts on Market Street (San Francisco’s main avenue) throughout Pride Month. Visiting the city, one can not help but feel a tremendous sense of pride at seeing this powerful symbol displayed so prominently.
Although the Rainbow Flag was initially used as a symbol of pride only in San Francisco, it has received increased visibility in recent years. Today, it is a frequent sight in a number of other cities as well — New York, West Hollywood, and Amsterdam, among them. Even in the Twin Cities, the flag seems to be gaining in popularity. Indeed, the Rainbow Flag reminds us that ours is a diverse community — composed of people with a variety of individual tastes of which we should all be proud.
Sources used for this article were found at Quatrefoil Library in St. Paul, and include:
For a long time past the rainbow flag has been a sign under which gays
and lesbians declare themselves to homosexuality. The rainbow colours
symbolize plurality and love of life. The original
version had been designed in 1978 by Gilbert Baker, an artist from San
Francisco, and has been changed several times
since then due to printing reasons (colours).
Over the last years the flag has gained popularity as a symbol. The open
display of the flag in different forms (e.g. car sticker, button on
clothes) shows, that the gay community has enormously gained in
self-confidence. They don’t hide themselves any longer, but openly
show their gayness in the public.
Marcus Schmöger, 26 Aug 2001, translating from BcWsD.COM
It is interesting to note that the flag’s colors are used for
many other items also, such as mugs, beach towels, tee-shirts etc.
for sale in souvenir shops. Sometimes the actual flag is reproduced
and sometimes the colors are used for non-flag design elements, e.g.
a tee-short with six small beach umbrellas embroidered across the
front, one in each color of the flag.
Tom Gregg, 20 Aug 2001
There is no “right side up” for this flag. It may be flown
either red up or purple up. This information comes directly form
Gilbert Baker, the gay artist who conceived of
the “The Rainbow Flag” as a symbol of Gay Pride.
James Ferrigan, 26 Jul 1999
I guess that this applies to the plain rainbow
flag and to the horizontally symmetrical variants
(pink triangle at hoist
etc.). However, things like the
white lambda on
a rainbow background or
rainbow smiley flag
can’t be freely hoisted
upside down, meaning that they may be produced either
with red up or with purple up. However, I’d say that
most of those variations are more often with red
stripe up, as well as plain rainbow flags, especially
those that are produced with such a hoisting device
that they cannot be inverted.
António Martins, 27 Jul 1999
True enough, and yet it somehow underscores that
very point, each gay person is free to be “oriented” in
any direction, the freedom it give to groups is likewise
unique. A survey we conducted in San Francisco showed
that the ratio was about 4 to 1 for red to purple up.
We used to tell customers fly red up if you’re in a
good mood! The rainbow with the lambda
did come both ways in the 1980’ies, also we would also
give the customer a choice when mounting the flag on
poles. The “red up”, so far as I know, came from an
incorrect handout from Lambda Rising in Wash D.C.
James Ferrigan, 28 Jul 1999
I work for COC Nederland, which is the oldest existing gay rights
organisation in the world (founded 1946). I have noticed that in
Western Europe we use the flag red stripe up, while our colleagues
in Eastern Europe use it the other way round. I’ve seen this use
in Romania, Bulgaria and Moldova. The countries in former
Yugoslavia use it with the red stripe up, maybe because Yugoslavia
was always a “Western European” country.
Maxim van Ooijen, 12 Jun 2005
The Gay Pride Flags I observed in Provincetown, the US East
Coast’s gay Mecca, were being flown with the red stripe
at the top.
Tom Gregg, 20 Aug 2001
Not only that there is no "right side up", but the flags with red and purple stripes up are frequently used together as well. A good example is the photo found here
(image). Unfortunately, there is no info on the origin of the photo, except
that it was clearly taken before 2012-10-03 and that it is from some Gay Pride event. It is used merely as an illustration of the article, which was published on the date given above, but is rather
vaguely related to its content.
Tomislav Todorovic, 28 Dec 2014
On a bar at Bergerac / Brageirac (France) displayed at the
entrance of the city, a gay flag with vertical stripes.
Joàn-Francès Blanc, 07 Jul 1999
Similar flags with red stripe at the top were carried at Atlanta Pride 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia. The photo is available here.
Tomislav Todorovic, 14 June 2015
This is a vertical variant of the rainbow flag, actually a
Knatterfahne (flapping flag),
i.e. a vertical flag with vertical stripes, the red at the hoist.
Seen during the CSD (Christopher Street Day) Parade in Munich.
Marcus Schmöger, 22 Aug 2001
Just like the horizontal variant may be flown either with red or with purple at the top, the "portrait" vertical variant may be flown either with red or with purple at the hoist. The flags
with the purple at the hoist were used at the Pride Parade in Jerusalem, on 2008-06-26. Their hoisting was a
combination of those of German Knatterflaggen and Auslegerflaggen, only with
both the staff and the outrigger going each through a sleeve.
The flags with the same pattern, only hoisted like German Haengeflaggen, were used in Tel Aviv, on 2005-07-18 and in Jerusalem, on 2009-06-25.
Tomislav Todorovic, 06 July 2013
Another variant, with colors arranged horizontally but in shape similar to the German Auslegerflaggen, only with the outrigger going through the flag sleeve, was seen at Stockholm Pride Parade on 2010-07-31. The photos can be found here and here.
Tomislav Todorovic, 09 June 2015
Similar flags, only a bit less oblong, were also used in Hannover, Germany, during the "Demo for All" (/Demo für Alle/) rally on 2014-11-22. The photos from the event can be found
Tomislav Todorovic, 19 June 2015
«Now, more than 20 years later,
Baker has decided it is time to bring his initial design out of the closet.
»…« But the new-old flag, which was unfurled with no
fanfare or explanation on Valentine’s Day, left many Castro
»(San Francisco, Calif., U.S.)« residents and tourists puzzled.
»…« the prospect of having to revert to an eight-color
flag after more than 20 years of using the six-color version is cause for
major headaches. »…« So far, Baker says he does not
plan to insist that all the rainbow flags flying in the Castro be changed to
show their true colors; only the big one honoring »Harvey«
Milk »…« the nation’s first openly gay
»assassinated« in 1978). «The idea of the rainbow
is what counts», he says.»
Knut A. Berg, 09 May 2000, quoting from sfWeekly.COM
However, contrasting written descriptions of the
original flag against the currently
proposed 8-stripe version suggests that some color shades are
António Martins, 01 Apr 2005
As exposed above, Gilbert Baker has tried to re-introduce the 8-striped version of the
Gay Rainbow Flag in 2000. As can be read here, he kept doing so since then: in 2004, he created a collection of flags
named "Out 2 Vote" by adding the colors of original Gay Rainbow Flag to the designs of flags of all U.S. states and territories. The whole
collection can be viewed at Baker's website.
Tomislav Todorovic, 01 Sep 2013
The 7-striped version seems to have been re-appearing recently as well. A photo of this flag, hoisted together with the U.S. national flag, can be found here (image). However, the fifth stripe from the top is not blue, which was
described as used on the original 7-striped flag, but turquoise, which was the part of original Baker's design.
Tomislav Todorovic, 01 Sep 2013
The seven-striped rainbow flag was hoisted in front of the Legislative building in Regina, Saskatchewan, on 2014-02-09, as shown in a video, @ 0:01 - 0:16, available
here. A photo of the flag hoisted in front of the building is available at the same page, as well as a close-up of the flag. Another close-up is available here
(photo) and another photo showing both the flag and the building can be found at the Saskatoon Pride Festival Facebook pages.
An unrelated photo of hoisting the flag in the USA can be found here (image) and although it is not quite clear, it is possible that the flag was hoisted with the purple stripe at the top.
Tomislav Todorovic, 24 Jun 2014