As the years go by, there seems to be more and more flags popping up around each Pride month. Each of these flags serve as a symbol of representation for a diverse community that exists within an even bigger community. And, seeing these different flags nowadays is far more frequent than Prides past, be it at any of the parades, festivals, or rallies.
But, how can there be so many flags? Are they all really that different from each other and not just an excuse to wave a bunch of pretty colors around?
Yes. Each flag and its colors had been chosen carefully by each of their respective communities, and each has its fair share of history to have gotten to look how they are now.
This blog post will serve as a helpful guide to twelve of the pride flags you’ve most likely seen floating around in the streets or online, as well as ones we’ve displayed at our Clarity Clinic locations.
The Progress Pride flag is what most people will associate as being the “modern standard” for flags flown at Pride. It was designed by nonbinary artist Daniel Quasar in 2018, and its aim is to celebrate diversity and calls for inclusion while staying true to its iconic origins.
The original “rainbow flag” design was created in 1978 by activist Gilbert Baker and initially had 8 colors (pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for magic, indigo for serenity and violet for spirit). But, due to shortages of hot-pink fabrics, as well as maintaining the stripes to an even number so as not to obscure any other stripes from the lampposts they hung from, the pink and the turquoise stripes were dropped and the iconic six-stripe flag design was born.
As time went on, more calls for representation of discriminated identities resonated within the community, and several redesign projects were established. Two significant design proposals were the Philadephia City Hall Pride Flag, which added a black and a brown stripe to highlight the discriminated members of color within the community, and the City of Seattle Pride Flag, which, along with a black and brown stripe, added a pink, light blue, and white stripe to represent the transgender, nonbinary, intersex, and other gender non-conforming identities.
As concerns of legibility arose, Quasar resolved this by designing the additional colors (black, brown, pink, light blue, and white) as an arrow, instead of stripes, placed on the left. On the reasoning behind this, Quasar states, “The arrow points to the right to show forward movement […] and illustrates that progress [towards inclusivity] still needs to be made.”
Today, the Progress flag is seeing extensive use both during and outside of Pride month. It can be seen flying from the flagpoles of corporations, state universities, and even at the US capital. This design has also served as a blueprint for further redesigns, most notably a Progress-style flag that incorporates Intersex representation.
No matter where the design goes next, the main element of the rainbow stripes remain, as the rainbow colors are still integral to the history and original meaning of this flag. It’s main role was, and still is, giving LGBTQIA+ people the symbol of representation they need to move Pride forward.
Bisexual – A person who is sexually attracted to both men and women
The bisexual pride flag was introduced in 1998 by activist Michael Page (co-founder of Bi Visibility Day, observed yearly on September 23). The 1990s saw a significant push for bi visibility and representation in American culture. The three principles of this push included increased awareness and recognition of bisexuals in the LGBT movement, dispelling the notion that bisexuality is “just a phase” (be it on the path to homosexuality or heterosexuality), and eliminating the misidentification of bisexuals as either just “gay” or “straight” based solely on their current partners.
The flag has three colors: dark pink represents attraction to people of the same gender; dark blue represents attraction to people of the opposite gender (for nonbinary people, it refers to attraction to a person of a different gender than their own); and purple (the overlap between pink and blue) represents attraction to two or more genders.
Pansexual – A person whose sexual attraction is not limited by conventional definitions of biological sex, gender, or gender identity
The pansexual pride flag was created in 2010 and posted on the internet by a user known simply as Jasper V. It came about as a means to mark the distinction between pansexuality and bisexuality as the two communities are commonly confused with one another.
The flag has three colors: magenta represents attraction to people who identify as female, regardless of biological sex; cyan represents attraction to people who identify as male, regardless of biological sex; and yellow represents attraction to people who identify as any gender-nonconforming identity beyond the traditional gender binary.
Asexual – A person who experiences no sexual attraction to any gender
The asexual pride flag was introduced in 2010 after a month-long design contest spearheaded by the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN). After debilitating and gathering interest from other asexual community websites, including non-English forums, a multi-stage vote was held to determine the winner. The selected design was created by AVEN user standup, and due to the competition’s international presence, the flag has achieved widespread recognition and use.
The flag has four colors: black represents asexuality as a whole; grey represents demisexuality and grey-asexuality (levels of “partial” attraction); white represents allies and non-asexual partners; and purple represents community.
Transgender – A person who identifies with a different gender than the one they were assigned to at birth
The transgender pride flag was designed in 1999 by transgender activist and US Navy veteran Monica Helms. She decided to create the flag after a meeting with Michael Page, creator of the bisexual pride flag, who remarked that “the trans community needs a flag too.” Helms made the first transgender flag herself and flew it for the first time at the Phoenix pride parade in 2000. The flag was later donated by Helms in 2014 to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History as a part of their LGBTQ history collection.
The flag has three colors over five stripes: the two blue stripes represent the traditional color for boys; the two pink stripes represent the traditional color for girls; and the middle white stripe represents those who are transitioning, intersex, or don’t identify with conventional gender identities (e.g. nonbinary, genderqueer, gender-neutral, and so on).
Helms herself has stated, “the pattern is such that no matter which way you fly it, it is always correct, signifying us finding correctness in our lives.”
Nonbinary – A person whose gender identity is not exclusively “male” or “female”
The nonbinary pride flag was created by Kye Rowan in 2014 as a complement to the genderqueer flag that was created a few years prior. Their goal was to create a flag specifically for the nonbinary community because, while genderqueer in it itself is an umbrella term, many nonbinary people didn’t feel as though the definition of genderqueer didn’t apply to their specific experiences. So, the flag was created to be “flown alongside” the genderqueer flag and not to “replace it.”
The flag has four colors: yellow represents people whose gender identity doesn’t exist inside the traditional gender binary; white represents people who experience multiple gender identities; purple represents people who identify their gender as a “blend” of male and female; and black represents people who don’t identify with any gender.
Intersex – A person born with a variation of reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the standard medical or social definition of “male” or “female”
The intersex pride flag was created in 2013 by Morgan Carpenter, executive director of Intersex Human Rights Australia and founder of the Intersex Day project. The flag was created at a time when concerns over the rise of inappropriate depictions to describe intersex people, as well as the human rights violations they’ve historically faced, grew to a point where proper representation was instigated to bring further awareness to the intersex community.
The flag consists of two colors with a design different from any other pride flags seen so far: a yellow background with a purple circle in the center. Both colors were specifically chosen to represent colors outside any association with traditional gender stereotypes (i.e. blue and pink) with a similar philosophy applied to the circle to have no association to gender at all. In Carpenter’s own words, “the circle is unbroken and unornamented, symbolizing wholeness and completeness, and our potentialities. We are still fighting for bodily autonomy and genital integrity, and this symbolizes the right to be who and how we want to be.”
Lesbian – A female-identifying person who is romantically and sexually attracted to other women
The lesbian pride flag has seen a multitude of changes over the years. The first iteration of a lesbian flag was introduced in 1999, featuring a double-ax on a black triangle against a purple background. No significant update to the lesbian flag came around until 2010 with the introduction of the “Lipstick Lesbian” flag, which featured colored stripes similar to the modern lesbian flag but with a prominent lipstick kiss marking the top left corner. Then in 2018, a 7-striped “orange-pink” design, using similarly colored stripes without the lipstick mark, was introduced by Emily Gwen, and it’s the first of two variations of the “standard” lesbian flag you’ll see now at Pride events.
The 5-stripe version of the flag has five colors: the dark orange represents gender nonconformity; the light orange represents community; the white represents relationships unique to womanhood; the light pink represents peace and serenity; and the dark pink represents femininity. In the 7-stiped version of the flag, the two additional colors represent independence (in-between orange) and love and sex (in-between pink).
Gay Men – A male-identifying person who is romantically and sexually attracted to other men
While the rainbow flag design is iconic in its historic representation of the gay male community, it has also become the overarching symbol of representation for all LGBTQIA+ identities. With that, some gay men felt there needed to be a flag specifically for gay men, similar to the lesbian flag, and in 2019 this design was introduced to the community by the Tumblr blog @gayflagblog. And, also like the lesbian flag, there are two variations, one with seven stripes and one with five, although you’ll tend to see the 7-striped version of the gay men’s flag more than the 5-stripe version.
On both flags, the design and colors of the stripes share the same meaning: turquoise to green represents community, healing, and joy; the white stripe represents nonbinary, gender nonconforming, and transgender men; and blue to purple represents pure love, fortitude, and diversity.
Aromantic – A person who does not, or rarely, experience romantic attraction
The aromantic pride flag was designed in 2014 by Cameron Whimsey on Tumblr. It saw extensive use online when it was first introduced, and the earliest known physical aromantic flag was seen flying at the 2017 San Francisco Pride Parade.
The flag has five colors: dark green represents aromanticism (the opposite of red, a color heavily associated with romance); light green represents the aromantic spectrum; white represents platonic relationships and aesthetic attractions; grey represents grey-aromantic and demiromantic people; and black represents the spectrum of aromantic sexuality.
Genderfluid – A person who experiences fluctuations and flexibility in their gender identity
The genderfluid pride flag was created in 2012 by JJ Poole. Initially identifying as genderqueer, Poole found the term genderfluid to be a better fit for their identity but was disappointed with the lack of symbolic representation of genderfluid people at the time. The flag was designed specifically to paint a picture of the experience of genderfluidity.
The flag has five colors: pink and blue represent femininity and masculinity, respectively; white represents all genders; black represents lack of gender; and purple represents a blend of masculinity and femininity.
Genderqueer – A person who identifies with neither, both, or a combination of both male and female gender identities
The genderqueer pride flag was created in 2011 by writer and genderqueer advocate Marylin Roxie, who had created two previous iterations of the genderqueer flag before this version was adopted.
The flag has three colors: lavender, a color that already had a history of LGBT association within the community, represents androgynes and androgyny (lavender is also a mix of pink and blue, another example of blending traditional gender colors together); white represents gender-neutral and agender identities; and dark chartreuse green, the true inverse of the color lavender, represents gender identities outside of the binary.
Roxie said of the colors, “[they] are not meant to indicate that any of these identities are entirely separate or opposites of one another conceptually; they are all interrelated as well as key concepts in their own right, and there are more concepts and variation of gender and sexuality present that tie into genderqueer identities than can be listed here.”
Agender – A person who does not identify with any gender or feels the concept of gender to be irrelevant to their identity
The agender pride flag was created in 2014 by New York-based artist Salem X, who also created the main three demigender flags. After seeing an influx of new gender identity expressions show up online, Salem wanted to reclaim their own identity and increase the validation of everyone with agender identities apart from the “online fads” that internet trolls were pushing out.
The 7-stripe design has four colors: both black and white represent the absence or lack of gender; grey represents people who identify as demigender or semi-agender; and green, deliberately chosen to be the inverse of purple, represents nonbinary agender people.
While these may seem like a lot of flags already, this list doesn’t even come close to the total number of pride flags that you could potentially see this month and beyond. For some, it can seem a little silly to want to have a flag representing every single aspect and difference of human sexuality and gender identity. But for a lot of people who are LGBTQIA+ this kind of representation really matters. Having a flag that can describe your own particular lived experience helps to solidify a sense of belonging, personal identity, and validation. What was something that may not have been visible or understood before can now fly proud for the world to see and celebrate.
Written by Grant Dunderman.
At Clarity Clinic, we have highly trained staff who specialize in therapy and psychiatry services. To learn more about how we can support your mental health, call Clarity Clinic at (312) 815-9660 or schedule an appointment today.