By Hannah Maine

June is national LGBTQ pride month, and while you may be waving the rainbow flag to celebrate – do you know how the rainbow flag became the symbol for the LGBTQ community?

The rainbow flag is the most widely recognized symbol used to represent the LGBTQ community in the world. It is well-adopted and frequently flown with pride, just as intended when it was created by Gilbert Baker in 1978. Baker was a gay rights activist and an army veteran. He created the flag for the Gay Freedom Pride Parade held in San Francisco on June 25, 1978.

While created in 1978, the flag did not catch on until 1989 due to a national news story. The flag gained national attention when John Stout sued his landlords and won when they attempted to prohibit him from displaying the flag from his apartment balcony.

Originally, the flag had eight colors in total, and each color had a symbolic meaning:

  1. Pink — Sex
  2. Red — Life
  3. Orange — Healing
  4. Yellow — Sunlight
  5. Green — Nature
  6. Turquoise — Magic
  7. Blue — Peace
  8. Violet — Spirit

The flag was later condensed to six colors for practical reasons, as pink was a difficult and expensive fabric to acquire and turquoise was combined into blue to make an even number. Today the flag features red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. The different colors are also said to be symbolic of the diversity of the LGBTQ community.

There are speculations as to where the inspiration for the colored flag came from. It has been hypothesized that Baker’s design was influenced by Judy Garland’s song “Over the Rainbow”. Garland was one of the first gay icons and had recently passed away. Many have also attributed Baker’s inspiration to the Flag of Races borrowed from the Hippie Movement. The Flag of Races used five stripes to symbolize harmony among five major ethnic groups of China.

While the rainbow flag was adopted by the community seemingly immediately, bright colors had been used as emblems of the community for decades, such as the bright pink triangles Nazis used to segregate homosexuals. Baker took the bright colors from a variety of symbols and created a positive symbol that represented pride.

Today, the rainbow flag is a symbol used proudly across the world to represent the pride and acceptance of the LGBTQ community.