9 Pride Flags Whose Symbolism Everyone Should Know
It's officially Pride Month, which means you're going to spend the next 29 days surrounded by all things rainbow. The rainbow pride flag, created in 1978 by gay activist Gilber Baker, has occasionally gone through some cosmetic changes — including a recent petition to add black and brown to the flag to help uplift historically marginalized queer people of color — but it is still the single most unifying and identifiable symbol of the LGBTQ community. The rainbow flag, however, is not the only queer pride flag around, so to get prepared for Pride, here's nine pride flags whose symbolism everyone should know.
In 2017, a month before his death, Baker spoke with ABC7, a local San Francisco news channel, explaining that gay rights activist Harvey Milk had been the one to approach him, seeking a symbol under which the LGBTQ community could unite, something that "would take the place of the dreaded pink triangle used decades ago by the Nazis to identify homosexuals."
Baker told NBC7 he wanted to make a flag because "[f]lags are about power. Flags say something. You put a rainbow flag on your windshield and you're saying something." Baker ended up saying something with each color he chose to put on the flag: "Pink is for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sun, [...] green for nature, turquoise for magic, blue for serenity and purple for the spirit. I like to think of those elements as in every person," he explained. "[E]veryone shares that."
Baker's original flag has since inspired dozens of other pride flags, representing a vast array of sexual orientations, romantic orientations, and gender identities. Chances are, if you go to Pride this year, you're going to spot quite a few of these nine flags amongst the crowd.
The transgender pride flag is one of the most well known out of all of these. Chances are, you've seen it before... maybe even recently, when a student wore the flag to a meeting with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
Trans woman Monica Helmes created the flag in 1999, and according to transgender organization and business Point 5cc, Helmes described its color scheme thus: "The stripes at the top and bottom are light blue, the traditional color for baby boys. The stripes next to them are pink, the traditional color for baby girls. The stripe in the middle is white, for those who are intersex, transitioning or consider themselves having a neutral or undefined gender. The pattern is such that no matter which way you fly it, it is always correct, signifying us finding correctness in our lives."
Considering a national survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that around 5.5 percent of women and 2 percent of men identify as bisexual, it's surprising the bisexual flag isn't more well known. According to bisexual organization Biscuit, when Michael Page, the flag's designer, put it together in 1998, "there was no universal symbol under which the [bisexual] movement could unite," and to this day, "many people don’t really know where [the flag] came from of what it represents."
According to Biscuit, the flag's colors each had a meaning: "[P]ink, a colour [sic] often associated with homosexuality, represents same sex attraction; blue, its opposite in the common consciousness if not on the colour [sic] wheel, different sex attraction; and the purple a melding of the two."
The aromantic pride flag is one of those with a difficult-to-trace history. It seems to have bloomed from the depths of the internet, which is a good thing — it's a much-needed flag for a romantic orientation that isn't often talked about. Generally, an aromantic person experiences little or no romantic attraction to other people. But this doesn't mean aromantic people don't experience love.
In a piece about common misconceptions associated with aromantics, BuzzFeed noted, "[A]romantics can also feel love as deeply and intensely as romantic people. Whether it friendly love, familial love, parental love, or partner love, nonromantic love can be as passionate and emotional for some aromantic people as romantic love is."
The genderfluid flag is another with murky origins, but it's just as important as other flags you'll see at Pride events. Folks who are genderfluid fit under the transgender umbrella, and they generally "don't identify with a fixed gender," Dr. Liz Powell, a sex educator and psychologist told Refinery29. "They may move back and forth between gender presentations and identifications, or participate in queering of presentations by mixing masculine and feminine presentations." Folks who are genderfluid may also swap pronouns, or may use neo or nonbinary pronouns like "xe/xir."
"In short: Defining 'gender-fluid' is very unique to each individual who identifies with the term," Refinery29 added.
Speaking of nonbinary folks, we've got our own flag, too. I identify as nonbinary, which means I identify as neither a man nor a woman. Other folks who identify as nonbinary may identify more toward the masculine side of the scale, more toward the feminine, or somewhere off the scale entirely.
There are multiple versions of an intersex flag, but this version was designed by Intersex Human Rights Australia in 2013 as a way to offer intersex folks something different. "Many attempts [to create an intersex flag] have seemed derivative, of a rainbow flag, of gendered pink and blue colours [sic], of transgender symbols, or an infinity symbol used by some bisexual groups," the organization said in a statement on its website.
It chose a circle to represent intersex folks because "[t]he circle is unbroken and unornamented, symbolising [sic] wholeness and completeness, and our potentialities. We are still fighting for bodily autonomy and genital integrity, and this symbolises [sic] the right to be who and how we want to be."
According to internet archives, the pansexual pride flag popped up on Tumblr as early as 2010. People who are pansexual generally identify as being attracted to everyone, regardless of gender. LGBTQ blog Freedom Requires Wings identifies the pansexual flag as having colors that "encompass the genders that pansexual people are attracted to — that is, everyone!": Pink to represent feminine people, blue to represent masculine people, and a yellow/gold stripe to represent folks of nonbinary or other genders.
Folks who are genderqueer have experiences that are "subjective and completely different and fluid for everyone," Meg Zulch wrote for Bustle in 2015. "Some of us feel masculine and feminine at the same time. Some of us feel feminine one day and masculine the other. And then some of us don't feel masculine or feminine (also known as agender). Many of us don't feel the need to physically transition since we don't identify as either gender, and then there are those of us who do. Everyone's experience with gender is different, even in gender non-conforming communities."
According to the organization Genderqueer and Non-Binary Identities, the genderqueer flag was designed by Marilyn Roxie in 2011. Its colors — lavender, white, and dark green — like all colors in pride flags, have meanings. Lavender "is meant to represent androgynes and androgyny," white is "meant to represent the agender identity," and dark green is "meant to represent those identities which are defined outside of and without reference to the binary."
And last but certainly not least is the asexual pride flag. I'm asexual — "ace" for short — and I can tell you that for me, being asexual means having very little sexual attraction to anyone. But other asexual folks do have sex, and even enjoy it. Like many identities on this list, asexuality is highly subjective and everyone experiences it differently — but all of our experiences are valid.
The asexual flag's colors represent identities within the asexual umbrella, according to The Asexuality Archive. Black is for straight-up asexual, grey is for grey-asexuality and demisexuality, white is for non-asexual partners and allies, and purple is for the asexual community as a whole.
All of these flags represent valid and welcomed identities in the LGBTQ community. When you're at Pride this year, remember to look for some of the lesser-known flags, and remember that folks who identify with them need support as much as folks who identify with the rainbow flag that you'll see all over this June.