The “Rainbow Flag”

Gay Pride Colors: History & Meaning

The Rainbow Flag (LGBT+ Pride) celebrates 40 years of flying high as a symbol of LGBT+ equality. The rainbow colors are everywhere at gay pride events and on my desk at home :). However, I had never really known why it was picked as the LGBT+ symbol until long after I came back out the second time. I learned of its history and meaning after watching When We Rise last year.

From Wikipedia LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Pride (1978) (emphasis mine):

Rainbow flag (LGBT movement), the most widely recognized version

The rainbow flag was popularized as a symbol of the gay community by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in 1978. The different colors symbolize diversity in the gay community, and the flag is used predominantly at gay pride events and in gay villages worldwide in various forms including banners, clothing, and jewelry. Since the 1990s, its symbolism has been transferred to represent the extended “LGBT” (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. For the 25th Anniversary of the Stonewall riots, held in 1994 in New York City, a mile-long rainbow flag was created and post-parade cut up in sections that have since been used around the world.

The flag was originally created with eight colors, but pink and turquoise were removed for production purposes, and since 1979 it has consisted of six colored stripes. It is most commonly flown with the red stripe on top, as the colors appear in a natural rainbow. Aside from the obvious symbolism of a mixed LGBT community, the colors were determined to symbolize: life (red), healing (orange), sunlight (yellow), nature (green), harmony/peace (blue), and spirit (purple/violet). The removed colors stood for sexuality (pink) and art/magic (turquoise).

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, a black stripe was sometimes used to represent the AIDS victims.

A few Christians believe that the “rainbow” as an LGBT+ pride symbol is an insult to God and Christians. Back in my conservative experience, I don’t know that I ever believed the gay community was purposefully trying to insult God or Christians. I was out (the first time) in the ’80’s and I never once heard someone say “let’s wave the pride flag around to tick off Jesus and all of Christendom.” However, during my ex-gay days, I did think it was “spiritual warfare” (Satan) attempting to hijack one of God’s symbols and a clever marketing campaign. Back then, there were even a few impotent efforts within our realms to “reclaim the rainbow.” Now I believe that the gay pride symbol was a direct challenge to our denial of who we were. It seems clear now that somewhere deep inside us, we resonated with the true meaning and importance of the Rainbow Flag.

Now that I am out, I see how myopic it was for me to think that the LGBT+ Rainbow Flag has any direct correlation with specific Christian beliefs. It is a symbol as defined above (no scripture quotes.) As a man of faith, I can easily see how the symbol does apply to my spiritual life, but it has nothing to do with spiritual warfare or marketing. Today it is all beauty and no cynicism… or Satan ūüėČ

The rainbow is a ubiquitous naturally occurring phenomenon. Living in Orlando, you could easily see several rainbows a week during the rainy season. The colors of the rainbow are literally the spectrum of light. Wherever light is, those colors are present. It’s a perfect symbol for the LGBT+ community in that we will no longer live in darkness. We will assert ourselves and thrive as the LGBT+ people we are, our families will thrive, and our communities will thrive as acceptance of us as equals grows.

In the past, while I was rolling my eyes, the Rainbow Flag called to a more in-depth place of authenticity in me. Today, when I see my LGBT+ brothers and sisters waving the Rainbow Flag with their bright smiles and/or determined voices, I can appreciate the fantastic gift our LGBT+ history has given us with this symbol.

You are loved,

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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