The Rainbow Flag

The rainbow flag was designed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in 1978 in response to a request from friend and openly gay San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk. Milk and other local community activists of the time were looking for a new and positive symbol that would connect with the larger 'gay' community as many symbols in use up to then were not seen as being inclusive or were just not very popular. They wanted something that could be used to call the community to action; especially in the context of events like Anita Bryant's anti-gay crusade and other challenges the local gay community was facing in San Francisco at the time.

Baker took on the challenge and he and a few friends dyed the cotton muslin and sewed the first two flags (30 x 60 feet each) for the '78 San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade (what the Pride march was called in San Francisco at the time). His original design had eight stripes: fuchsia (or "hot pink"), red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, blue and purple representing (respectively) sex, life, healing, sunlight, nature, magic, serenity, and spirit. The official story is that Baker took his inspiration from the striped "Flag of Race" but it's not hard to think there might be a reference to 'our friend Dorothy' in there somewhere (the Wizard of Oz movie is loaded with gay subtext and being a “friend of Dorothy” was a long-established euphemism for being gay)! "It fit our ideas about ourselves, in terms of our diversity and the spectrum of colors representing the diversity of gender," says Baker. "I think it was just a perfect fit for us."

After the November 1978 assassination of Harvey Milk, demand for the rainbow flag greatly increased. To meet demand, locally-based Paramount Flag Company began selling a version of the flag using stock rainbow fabric consisting of seven stripes of red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, indigo, and violet. As Baker increased production of his own hand-made version of the flag, he too dropped the hot-pink stripe due to the unavailability of fabric in that colour.

In 1979 Baker's flag went into commercial production and was modified for a final time. When hung vertically from the lamp posts of San Francisco's Market Street, the centre stripe was obscured by the post itself. Changing the flag design to one with an even number of stripes was the easiest way to rectify this, so the turquoise stripe was dropped. At the same time, the indigo stripe of the commercial version was replaced with a blue stripe, which resulted in the current six stripe version of the flag which has gone on to become the most widely popular and widely recognized LGBT symbol in history.

In 1994 Baker created the history making mile-long Rainbow Flag for Stonewall 25 in New York City to mark the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The Guinness Book of World Records recognized the mile-long Stonewall 25 Rainbow Flag as the world's largest flag. In 2003 Baker set out to break that record again by creating a 1.25 mile long flag in the original eight colors to commemorate the flag's 25th birthday. Using more than 14,000 square yards of fabric this flag was unveiled in June 2003 in Key West Florida. The Rainbow25 Sea-to-Sea Flag stretched the entire length of Key West's Duval Street - from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Pieces of that second record-breaking flag were shared with Pride organizations in 100 cities around the world including Halifax.


The Rainbow Flag is one of many SymbolsOfPride.

For info on the Stonewall Riots which Pride memorializes see https://gay.hfxns.org/StonewallRiots or HistoryOfGayPride.

For historical information about Pride festivals in Halifax go to PrideCelebrations.