The headline photograph is the current Progress version of the GLBTQ+ pride flag that represents our community and our culture. Despite our novelty among the numerous movements in the civil rights world, we do have a history of different banners and what they symbolize waving above us. This “first Friday” of the 2022 GLBTQ+ History Month will examine and share images of these and briefly offer a story of the respective flag.
The Pink Triangle Flag:
The downward-pointing pink triangle was used by Nazi Germany as a badge of shame. It was sewn onto the shirts of homosexual (gay) men in concentration camps to identify and dehumanize them.
Homosexuality was made illegal in Germany in 1871, but it was rarely enforced. When the Nazi Party assumed control in 1933, it was made a priority in order to culturally and racially “purify” Germany. The Nazis arrested tens of thousands of GLBTQ+ individuals, the majority whom were homosexual men, whom they viewed as degenerate.
The early 1970s was when the gay rights movement began to emerge worldwide (after the 1969 Stonewall Inn riots) and various organizations reclaimed the pink triangle as an empowering symbol. It also serves as a reminder to remember the past – and to recognize the persecution GLBTQ+ people continue to suffer around the world.
The Lambda Flag:
The Greek letter, lambda, was first chosen as a gay symbol when, in 1970, for the first anniversary of the Stonewall Inn Riots (SIR), it was adopted by New York City’s local chapter of Gay Activist Alliance as the emblem of their growing movement of gay liberation. Some identified the Greek letter with the representation of the word “liberation.”
In 1974, lambda was subsequently adopted by the International Gay Rights Congress meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, as their official symbol designating gay, bisexual and lesbian civil rights. Following this selection, lambda became internationally popular and recognized as representing the growing movement for civil rights for all people, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.
Lambda was first designated in December, 1969, as representative of the new gay liberation movement by the graphic artist and one of the Gay Activist Alliance’s founding members, Tom Doerr. Doerr chose the letter because in chemistry it was a sign for catalyst. Others argue that lambda denoted the synergy of the growing gay movement: the idea of the whole being greater than the sum of all its parts.
Some view the lambda as being synonymous with males exclusively.
The Rainbow Flag:
First publicly raised on June 25, 1978, in San Francisco, California, USA, the flag flew over the United Nations Plaza in honour of then-gay pride at the 1978 San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade. The original flag consisted of eight coloured stripes and was designed by Gilbert Baker and hand-stitched and dyed with the help of friends and volunteers Lynn Segerblom, James McNamara, Glenne McElhinney, Joe Duran, and Paul Langlotz.
The eight-stripe original rainbow flag was soon revised to six stripes with pink (symbolizing “sex”) and turquoise (symbolizing “art and magic”) eliminated as the colours and dyes were unavailable in flag fabric. Baker conceived the flag would empower his “tribe” and a “rainbow of humanity” motif would represent the movement’s diversity.
The six stripes and what the colours represent:
The six stripes on the revised rainbow flag symbolize values held dear and not the various people comprising the community and culture.
The Progress Pride Flag:
The Progress Pride flag was developed by non-binary artist and designer Daniel Quasar in 2018. Based on Gilbert Baker’s 1978 Rainbow flag, Quasar’s redesign celebrates the diversity of the GLBTQ+ community and culture worldwide and encourages a more inclusive general society. The redesigned banner has increased the representation of discriminated minority identities covered by the GLBTQ+ umbrella.
Quasar’s creation placed black and brown stripes (emblems representing peoples of colour) and light blue, pink and white stripes (representing transgender, non-binary and intersex persons) in the shape of an arrow on the left of the Progress Pride flag. In Daniel Quasar’s words “…the arrow points to the right to show forward movement and illustrates that progress towards inclusivity still needs to be made.”
The black stripe has a double meaning as it is also intended for “those living with HIV/AIDS and the stigma and prejudice surrounding them and those who have died from the disease.”
The Progress Pride flag has been immediately an international success. On the evening of June 6, 2018, Quasar posted the design on social media and woke up the next morning to find that it had gone viral. It has been enthusiastically received by the GLBTQ+ community and culture all around the globe!
Roger Poladopoulos/ReNude Pride
Author’s Note: The next post entry here is planned for Monday, October 10, 2022, and the proposed topic is: “Coming Out Day!”