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How The Rainbow Flag Lost Its Pride
And might be getting it back
The debate around the rainbow pride flag and its ever-increasing colors, stripes, and symbols seems to re-erupt on social media every few months. What used to be a simple, six-striped pattern is now an eyesore and a shadow of its original meaning.
The most recent debate was sparked by a tweet from Transgender Europe (TGEU), a “trans rights” advocacy organization. In the tweet, the organization presented a new progress pride flag that cluttered the flag with more elements than ever: black and brown stripes for LGBT “people of color,” the blue, white, and pink stripes of the trans flag, the intersex flag, and, the newest addition, a red umbrella to include “sex workers.”
The flag was rightfully mocked, with many commentators pointing out that the pride flag now seemed to prioritize everyone but same-sex attracted people. Ironically, the rainbow colors of the original flag were originally meant to reflect the diversity of the gay community, already making it as inclusive as possible and necessary.
How did we get here? Let’s take a little detour into history.
The first rainbow flag was designed by gay rights activist Gilbert Baker in 1978, at the behest of Harvey Milk. It featured eight stripes and was meant to replace the pink triangle, which had previously been used as a symbol of the gay community.
The flag grew in popularity but quickly dropped its pink stripe due to the unavailability of fabric in that color. The turquoise stripe was also dropped to maintain symmetry. The six-striped version everyone knows today was finalized by 1979.
Over the next four decades, this rainbow flag served as a widely recognized symbol of gay pride and same-sex love. Variations existed as well, to be sure. For example, during the AIDS epidemic, a black stripe was added across the bottom. In 2002, a version with a blue canton and white stars to mimic the American flag was created to support the fight for same-sex marriage.
However, these variations did not seek or intend to replace the main design.
This began to change in 2017 when black and brown stripes were added to the top of the flag by the marketing firm Tierney for Philadelphia's Office of LGBT Affairs. In 2018, artist Daniel Quasar (whose Wikipedia page says is “non-binary and uses xe/xem or they/them pronouns”) created the so-called “Progress Flag,” which also incorporated the trans pride flag colors.
Note that the separate trans pride flag had already been in use since 1999 (and was created by a man who forced his wife to participate in his cross-dressing fetish). The trans pride flag also remains widely in use today in its unaltered form but, after it was added to the rainbow pride flag, it became increasingly rarer to see a rainbow flag without the trans intrusion.
The progress flag has become a symbol of the abusive relationship between same-sex attracted people and the “queer community” as a whole. We are no longer allowed to define ourselves on the basis of our sexuality but must instead walk in lockstep with the politics of social justice activists. Being gay is no longer about who you love but about whether your politics are pure enough.
Taking the original rainbow back at this point seems like an uphill battle—it has so effectively been tarred as a symbol of the entire queer movement. However, a modified version is beginning to make the rounds in circles that reject queer and trans ideology.
At the Brighton Standing for Women rally in September of this past year, lesbian activist Jo Campbell decided to cut the intrusive triangle out of the pride flag. She and Helen Joyce then held the flag together and posed for a lovely photo.
This new version of the flag has since started to catch on, functioning as a handy symbol of gay pride liberated from the creeping social justice elements that had tried to suffocate it.
Gay rights pioneer Fred Sargeant even custom-ordered a hat with the updated design to wear at future demonstrations.
Maybe, one day, it will be possible again to wave the original rainbow flag without assumptions that supporting same-sex love also means supporting gender self-ID, supporting the transition (i.e., sterilization) of children, and denying human sexual dimorphism.
Until then, the liberated pride flag will come in handy as a way to differentiate ourselves and stop the forced-teaming of same-sex attracted people with the totalizing queer movement that threatens to be the downfall of us all.
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