Last July, a brand new Pride flag debuted on the streets of central London. There was an inclusive addition to the rainbow flag we’ve come to know so well, as Valentino Vecchietti, founder of Intersex Equality Rights UK, added a purple circle on yellow background to incorporate the voices of intersex people. Today, the hundreds of Union Jacks filling the skies on Regent Street will be taken down to make way for the Pride flags to fly again.
While some naysayers on Twitter are being sour about the removal of the Union Jacks, we can’t wait to see the iconic flag hanging in all its glory.
If you’ve forgotten what all the colours and symbols of the Pride flag represent, here’s a quick refresher: Intersex is a term meaning people born with sex characteristics that do not fit into the singular binary definition of male or female. These sexual characteristics can be internal, such as sexual organs or chromosomes, or they can be external, like body hair and breast growth.
But Vecchietti’s addition to the Pride flag is only the most recent revamp, as the rainbow has gone through many changes over the years.
The multi-coloured Pride flag wasn’t created until the 1970s. Before then, one of the only symbols to represent the queer community was the pink triangle, which was created by Nazi Germany to identify gay men. Some of the queer community tried to reclaim it, but understandably other members of the community wanted a new symbol, one that was far away from its bleak backstory.
In 1977, San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker was convinced by friends, filmmaker Artie Bressan and Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California, to create an image for the gay community.
The idea for a colourful symbol came about after Baker went to a show at the Winterland Ballroom and was inspired by seeing the crowd dancing and having fun.
‘Dance fused us, magical and cleansing. We were all in a swirl of colour and light. It was like a rainbow,’ he said.
And there you have it, Baker decided to stitch together the colours of the rainbow to create the original Pride flag. And did you know the eight original colours each had their own meaning?
Hot pink: Sex
Two new revamps came about after this. After Harvey Milk’s assassination in 1978, the flag grew massively in popularity. But this meant that the demand for the flag overtook the amount of hot pink fabric being manufactured, so a new seven-stripe version was born without the pink colour.
The flag was amended again in 1979 to make it an even number of stripes, for logistical reasons. The turquoise and indigo stripes were combined to become a single royal blue strip. The new six-stripe Pride flag became the most famous version and is the one most of us know today, seen at Pride events all around the world.
In 2017, Philadelphia added black and brown stripes to the six-stripe design to highlight the struggles of queer people of colour. And in 2018 designer Daniel Quasar combined the black and brown striped rainbow flag with the pink and blue Transgender flag, designed by Monica Helms, to make the Progress Pride Flag.
‘This new design forces the viewer to reflect on their own feelings towards the original Pride flag and its meaning, as well as the differing opinions on who that flag really represents, while also bringing into clear focus the current needs within our community,’ Quasar said.
There are still debates about which flags should be used, and there will probably be many more variations to come. But the newer designs will hopefully make all members of the queer community feel represented.
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