There are some things which we take for granted in this life, but ultimately when we’re in that kind of funny mode we always end up questioning their existence. “Why is the sky blue?”, “why is the grass green?”, “where did that drag queen hide her willy?”, etc. The list goes on. After 36 years on this earth admiring the blue sky and the green grass my thoughts turned to something which has been part of my world for too many years to mention now; the rainbow flag! It’s always been there but I still don’t know what it means, where it came from and why it’s made up of those colours. So curiosity got the better of me and I decided to investigate!
The Rainbow flag made it’s first appearance at the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Freedom Parade in 1978. The flag was created by artist and vexillographer Gilbert Baker, a friend of the late Harvey Milk. It has since become a symbol of LGBTQ unity around the world. It is now recognised by the international congress of flag makers. What about the colours of the flag? On its original outing the flag had eight colours, compared to its six now, consisting of Pink for Sexuality, Red for Life, Orange for Healing, Yellow for Sunlight, Green for Nature, Turquoise for Magic, Indigo/Blue for Serenity, and Violet for Spirit. A year later the flag had been stripped of two of its colours, Pink and Violet. Gilbert is reported as saying that they “ran out of Pink dye”. The Violet strip was removed to even up the stripes on the flag.
The flag has numerous variations since then with colours added to represent many sections of the queer community. For example, a black strip was added to some flags to symbolize the section of the community that had died from AIDS. On the 25th Anniversary of the flag in 2003, Baker created a Rainbow flag that stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean in Key West. In a *UK Gay News” article in May 2008, Baker said “ In my view the Rainbow Flag is unfinished as the movement it represents, an arc that begins well before me, its breadth far broader than all of our experiences put together, reaching the farthest corners of the world with a message of solidarity and a beacon of hope for those who follow in our footsteps”.
We can interpret what Baker said in many ways, did he mean the flag needs to adapt – maybe. Did he mean it’s time to change the flag into something new – I do not know. In my mind, I believe Baker was saying that the flag’s job is not done, just like the movement for which it stands has unfinished business with society. We have come a long way since the seventies but still have a way to go. Marriage to me is not the major issue, it is the rights that married heterosexual couples receive when married that is important. Rights like taxation issues, our children’s rights and adoption issues are some of the most important. People will say they come hand in hand with marriage rights and yes they do but are we losing the message along the way. Well that’s a debate that will go on for awhile yet. It is my belief that the state’s protection of religious right to condemnation and bigotry is a massive issue that will have to be addressed in due course. Maybe this issue will be dealt with in future articles.