The Rainbow Flag by Steven W. Anderson appeared in GAZE Magazine (Minneapolis), #191, on 28 May 1993, p. 25:
Color has long played an important role in
our community's expression of pride. In Victorian England, for example, the color green was associated with homosexuality. The color purple (or, more accurately, lavender) became
popularized as a symbol for pride in the late 1960s - a frequent post-Stonewall catchword for the gay community was "Purple Power". And, of course, there's the pink triangle.
Although it was first used in Nazi Germany to identify gay males in concentration camps, the pink triangle only received widespread use as a gay pop icon in the early 1980s. But the most
colorful of our symbols is the Rainbow Flag, and its rainbow of colors - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple - represents the diversity of our community.
Rainbow Flag was designed in 1978 by Gilbert Baker, a San Francisco artist, who created the flag in response to a local activist's call for the need of a community symbol. (This was
before the pink triangle was popularly used as a symbol of pride.) Using the five-striped "Flag of the Race" as his inspiration, Baker designed a flag with eight stripes: pink, red,
orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. According to Baker, those colors represented, respectively: sexuality, life, healing, sun, nature, art, harmony, and spirit. Baker dyed and
sewed the material for the first flag himself - in the true spirit of Betsy Ross.
Baker soon approached San Francisco's Paramount Flag Company about mass producing and selling
his "gay flag". Unfortunately, Baker had hand-dyed all the colors, and since the color "hot pink" was not commercially available, mass production of his eight-striped
version became impossible. The flag was thus reduced to seven stripes.
In November 1978, San Francisco's gay community was stunned when the city's first openly gay
supervisor, Harvey Milk, was assassinated, Wishing to demonstrate the gay community's strength and solidarity in the aftermath of this tragedy, the 1979 Pride Parade Committee decided to
use Baker's flag. The committee eliminated the indigo stripe so they could divide the colors evenly along the parade route - three colors on one side of the street and three on the other.
Soon the six colors were incorporated into a six-striped version that became popularized and that, today, is recognized by the International Congress of Flag Makers.
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.