June 2019

50 Years of Pride - The History of the Rainbow Flag

4 minutes

50 Years of Pride - The History of the Rainbow Flag

To mark the last week of world Pride month, the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots (28th June 1969) and Pride in London which concludes with the iconic parade across London on Saturday 6th July, we have created a rainbow NU logo.

Many people don’t know the design history of the pride flag so we’ve rounded up some research resources for you. A little Pride history lesson courtesy of NU Creative Marketing Manager Liam and the internet.

How much do you know about the Pride flag design we all know and love today?

The original rainbow pride flag dates back to 1978, when it was created by San Francisco-based queer artist Gilbert Baker for a mere $1,000.

Harvey Milk was the first openly gay elected official in the history of California and he urged Gilbert Baker to create a 'symbol of the community'. The original 8 colour rainbow flag was the result.

Allegedly inspired by Judy Garland's 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' from the Queer classic film The Wizard of Oz, each colour had a particular meaning behind it.

When Harvey Milk was assassinated, demand for the rainbow flag went through the roof and due to production challenges a rainbow flag with fewer colours was created. It was reduced to 7 and then 6 colours. This is the origin of the rainbow flag design we know and love today.

Are there other pride flags?

The rainbow flag is the most well known LGBT+ flag and symbol of Pride, however over the years more flags that represent different parts of the overall community have been created. 

Arguably the most well known of the other flags are the ones that represent the transgender and bisexual communities.

What was the symbol of pride pre-rainbow flag?

The only alternative symbol of pride similar to the rainbow flag is the pink triangle, often seen pointing downwards or inverted. The triangle has its origins as a symbol of 'homosexual' holocaust victims and later became more widely used as a symbol of the victimisation of the community as a whole. The pink triangle was seen widely at protests, a symbol of 'queer resistance'.

The pink triangle still has a place in the LGBT+ community and Pride events across the globe, however the rainbow flag shifted the focused toward Pride as both a celebration and a protest.

When did 'pride' begin?

The Stonewall Riots on 28th June 1969 were not the first time the queer community protested and fought for their rights, however it created a ripple of rebellion amongst New York City queer residents. It showed that gay rights needed to be more aggressively fought for, they were not just going to be handed to people.

There are many untruths about what actually happened at the Stonewall Inn that night, however this is a great video featuring people who were there debunking some of the myths. 

The rainbow flag was created almost 10 years later and the LGBT+ community had a recognisabe symbol to go along with their protests and celebrations.

How is the rainbow flag used today?

The iconic rainbow flag is now used across the world to celebrate Pride and the LGBT+ community, fighting for rights in parts of the world where progress still needs to be made. The flag is so recognisable its presence can bring communities together, break records and cause controversy. It's now used by many brands and companies to show their solidarity with the community and raise money for charity. 

Could the rainbow flag change again?

Manchester Pride caused a stir in 2019 by unveiling their use of a rainbow flag with two additional colours, brown and black, to represent the often underrepresented BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic people) in the LGBT+ community. The decision divided people. Could this be the Pride flag of the future? Time will tell.

There you have it, a brief history of the pride rainbow flag. Whatever way you plan to celebrate 50 years since the Stonewall Riots and pride this year, remember how the pride flag came to be. A symbol of protest, adversity, hope and diversity.

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