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Gay Pride / Rainbow Flag

Last modified: 2000-09-30 by antonio martins
Keywords: rainbow flag | baker (gilbert) | stripes: 6 |
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Rainbow flag
by António Martins, 20 Apr 1999
See also:

Description of the flag

The Alyson Almanac: A Treasury of Information for the Gay and Lesbian Community describes Rainbow Flag as follows:

In 1978, Gilbert Baker of San Francisco designed and made a flag with six stripes representing the six colors of the rainbow as a symbol of gay and lesbian community pride. Slowly the flag took hold, offering a colorful and optimistic alternative to the more common pink triangle symbol. Today it is recognized by the International Congress of Flag Makers, and is flown in lesbian and gay pride marches worldwide. In 1989, the rainbow flag received nationwide attention after John Stout successfully sued his landlords in West Hollywood, when they prohibited him from displaying the flag from his apartment balcony. Meanwhile, Baker is still in San Francisco, and still making more flags.

In San Francisco, the Rainbow Flag is everywhere: it can be seen hanging from apartment windows throughout the city (most notably in the Castro district), local bars frequently display the flag, and Rainbow Flag banners are hung from lampposts on Market Street (San Francisco’s main avenue) throughout Pride Month. Visiting the city, one can not help but feel a tremendous sense of pride at seeing this powerful symbol displayed so prominently.

Although the Rainbow Flag was initially used as a symbol of pride only in San Francisco, it has received increased visibility in recent years. Today, it is a frequent sight in a number of other cities as well — New York, West Hollywood, and Amsterdam, among them. Even in the Twin Cities, the flag seems to be gaining in popularity. Indeed, the Rainbow Flag reminds us that ours is a diverse community — composed of people with a variety of individual tastes of which we should all be proud.

Sources used for this article were found at Quatrefoil Library in St. Paul, and include:

  • “Vexed by Rainbows” by Paul Zomcheck, in Bay Area Reporter (June 26, 1986)
  • “Rainbow Flag” in The Alyson Almanac (1989)
  • “The Rainbow Flag”, in Parade 90: San Francisco Gay / Lesbian Freedom Day Parade and Celebration (June 24, 1990)
Christopher Pinette, 12 Jun 1996

Which side is up?

Rainbow flag purple up
by António Martins, 12 Jan 2000

There is no “right side up” for this flag. It may be flown either red up or purple up. This information comes directly form Gilbert Baker, the gay artist who conceived of the “The Rainbow Flag” as a symbol of Gay Pride.
James Ferrigan, 26 Jul 1999

I guess that this applies to the plain rainbow flag and to the horizontally symmetrical variants (pink triangle at hoist etc.). However, things like the white lambda on a rainbow background or rainbow smiley flag can’t be freely hoisted upside down, meaning that they may be produced either with red up or with purple up. However, I’d say that most of those variations are more often with red stripe up, as well as plain rainbow flags, especially those that are produced with such a hoisting device that they cannot be inverted.
António Martins, 27 Jul 1999

True enough, and yet it somehow underscores that very point, each gay person is free to be “oriented” in any direction, the freedom it give to groups is likewise unique. A survey we conducted in San Francisco showed that the ratio was about 4 to 1 for red to purple up. We used to tell customers fly red up if you’re in a good mood! The rainbow with the lambda did come both ways in the 1980’ies, also we would also give the customer a choice when mounting the flag on poles. The “red up”, so far as I know, came from an incorrect handout from Lambda Rising in Wash D.C.
James Ferrigan, 28 Jul 1999

Vertical variant

Rainbow flag purple up
by Joàn-Francès Blanc, 07 Jul 1999

On a bar at Bergerac / Brageirac (France) displayed at the entrance of the city, a gay flag with vertical stripes.
Joàn-Francès Blanc, 07 Jul 1999

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