October is LGBTQ history month, and today, Friday October 19, is Spirit Day! Show your LGBTQ spirit by wearing violet or purple or by changing your profile pictures to show something that is violet or by giving your picture a purple hue.
A brief History of the Rainbow Flag and those who created it:
“A true flag cannot be designed – it has to be torn from the soul of the people.” – Gilbert Baker
Who is Gilbert Baker? He’s the man who originally created the rainbow flag we now accociate with LGBTQ Pride.
In 1977 Harvey Milk was elected to the San Fransisco Board of Supervisors. He was the first openly gay man elected to a high public office in a major United States city. Once elected, he asked his friend, Gilbert Baker, to make a symbol of pride for the gay community as Baker had become very proficient with a sewing machine after his honorable discharge from the Army. Milk wanted a positive alternative to the pink triangle, which had been originally used in Nazi Germany to label gay men and was then “taken back” in the early 1970’s by gay men themselves.
Baker dyed the fabrics of the new flag himself and, with the help of volunteers, stitched together eight strips of brilliant color into a huge banner that spoke volumes: hot pink stood for sexuality, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for the sun, green for nature, turquoise blue for art, indigo for harmony and violet for spirit.
A few of his handmade Rainbow Flags were flown in the 1978 “Gay Freedom Day” Parade in San Francisco. Baker then sought out the Paramount Flag Company to see about mass producing the flag. However, the hot pink color was not readily available commercially so the company produced a seven striped flag instead.
On November 27, 1978 tragedy occured when Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Mascone were assassinated at the San Fransisco City Hall.
Filled with grief and rage, the Gay Freedom Day Committee (now called San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee) quickly decided that the Rainbow Flag should be flown from the light poles along both sides of Market Street for the 1979 Gay Freedom Day Parade. To make it look right, they split the colors onto two flags, flying each of the three-striped flags on alternate sides of the street. They had to eliminate the indigo stripe to make an even six colors, and since then, we’ve stuck with those six colors: red, orange, yellow, green, indigo, and violet.
This is a campaign button for Harvey Milk from the 1970’s before he cut his hair and shaved his mustache.
They always say behind every man is a woman. It’s an age old phrase, even if a bit sexist. But for Harvey Milk, that woman was actually a man named Scott Smith who was his business partner in the camera shop they owned together, his partner in life, and the man who helped to run his political campaigns behind-the-scenes. Here, Scott is on the left with Harvey embracing him from behind.
And last, but certainly not least, here is a picture of Gilbert Baker and his famed rainbow flag.
*The flag shown in the picture at the top of this blog post was sewn by Gilbert Baker for the 2003 Key West PrideFest in celebration of the 25th aniversary of the original flag. It is the world’s largest pride flag sitting at 1.25 miles long! Since 2003, sections of the Key West Pride flag have appeared at Pride events all over the world.