Gilbert Baker Is The Gay Betsy Ross

The rainbow flag is universally recognized as a symbol for the LGBT movement, but it wasn't always that way. It wasn't until Gilbert Baker stitched together the eight—yes, eight!—colors for a 1978 parade banner that it became the icon it is today.

Gilbert Baker at the 27th Annual Night Of A Thousand Gowns.

From A Dark Past To A Colorful Future

In the mid 1970s, gay activists took the pink triangle that was used to identify gay prisoners in Nazi concentration camps and resurrected it as a symbol of pride and triumph over oppression. Even so, the triangle had depressing origins, so when activists needed a banner for the 1978 Gay Freedom Day Parade in San Francisco, they called on San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker to create a new one.

In the documentary "The Gay Betsy Ross," Baker recounted, "I didn't even think twice about what the flag would be. The rainbow fit us. It was from nature, it connects us to all the colors: all the colors of sexuality, all the diversity." Gilbert and 30 volunteers hand-dyed and hand-stitched two giant rainbow flags for the 1978 parade. Though the flag of today bears six colors, the original design had eight: pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sun, green for nature, turquoise for magic, blue for serenity, and purple for the spirit. A shortage of fabric dye led Gilbert to eventually nix the pink stripe, and the turquoise stripe was removed soon after, creating the six-colored flag that we know today.

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Written by Curiosity Staff June 27, 2016

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