THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO LGBTQ+ PRIDE FLAGS
The first flew of a universal symbol of hope for LGBTQ people around the world was in San Francisco’s United Nations Plaza for Gay Pride Day, on June 25, 1978. It was designed by Gilbert Baker, an openly gay artist and activist.
His friend Harvey Milk, the first gay elected official in California, asked him to design a symbol for the LGBTQ community. Gilbert Baker’s rainbow Gay Pride Flag is one of many created over the years to represent LGBTQ people and liberation.
Individual communities within the LGBTQ spectrum (lesbian, bisexual, transgender and others) have created their own flags and in recent years, variations on Baker’s rainbow have also become more prominent.
“We invest in flags the role of being the single most important icon to represent our countries, our states and our cities, our organizations and our groups. There’s something about the fabric waving in the air that stirs people.”
Ted Kaye, the secretary of North American Vexillological Association.
In light of ongoing conversations about Baker’s flag and whom it represents, here is a guide to flags to know in the LGBTQ community.
Gilbert Baker Pride Flag
In 1977, gay politician Harvey Milk tasked veteran Gilbert Baker to come up with a Pride flag. Milk said he felt that queer people “needed something that was positive, that celebrated our love.” Inspired by Judy Garland’s “Over the Rainbow,” each color has symbolism: Hot pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for magic/art, indigo for serenity, and violet for spirit.
1978-1999 Pride Flag
Milk was assassinated in 1978, and demand for the flag increased as people wanted to show their support. Apparently Baker had trouble getting the pink color, so the flag began selling with seven colors instead.
Pride Flag Color Meaning
Traditional Gay Pride Flag
This is probably the flag you’ll see most often: Six colors, apparently easier to produce than the odd-numbered seven (although other reports say it was more about making the flag easier for parades and to hang on posts). The rainbow flag can operate as a general flag for the LGBTQ+ community, but it’s not necessarily all-inclusive. Many of the following flags (intersex, asexual, non-binary, etc.) embody different identities that exist within Q (queer) and/or outside this acronym.
Philadelphia People of Color-Inclusive Flag
Philadelphia added brown and black at the top of their flag in 2017 to spotlight the importance of including queer people of color in the LGBTQ+ community.
Philadelphia People of Color-inclusive Flag Color Meaning
Black & Brown: Queer People of Color
As a representation of Queer People of Color, it’s not known who the original creator of the flag was but represents solidarity with the BLM movement as well as the intersection of the queer and Black communities (including the importance of figures like Marsha P. Johnson, the Black drag queen who may have thrown the first brick at the Stonewall Inn riots) to the movements. No surprise, the flag has become more popular in 2020 and beyond. The raised fist is a sign of unity and support as well as defiance and resistance, and the various colors on the fist represent diversity.
Progress Pride Flag
This flag takes inclusion even further, thanks to queer, nonbinary artist Daniel Quasar (xe/they). Their 2019 Kickstarter explained that xe aimed to put more emphasis on the design to deepen its meaning. Brown and black stripes represent people of color and people who have died from AIDS, while the white, pink, and blue (as you’ll see later) are colors from the transgender flag. The flag was seen flying over the Massachusetts State House in Boston in honor of the cancelled in-person 2020 Pride Parade.
Progress Pride Flag Color Meaning
Black & Brown: Black & Lantinx Queer Communities
Transgender Flag: Transgender Communities
In 1998, Michael Page wanted to spotlight bisexual people within the LGBTQ+ community. Overlapping over the stereotypical colors for boys (blue) and girls (pink) is lavender—attraction to both sexes. Bisexuality doesn’t necessarily JUST mean an attraction to two sexes, and there are other flags to represent attraction to more than one gender.
Bisexual Flag Color Meaning
Pink: Representing attraction to those of the same gender identity.
Purple: Representing attraction to two genders.
Blue: Representing attraction to those who identify as a different gender.
This flag, for example, represents pansexuality’s interest in all genders: Pink for women, blue for men, yellow for “nonbinary and gender-nonconforming people.” It was created in 2010 to distinguish pansexuality from bisexuality.
Pansexual Flag Color Meaning
Pink: Representing attraction to those who identify as female.
Yellow: Representing attraction to those who identify as genderqueer, non-binary, agender, androgynous, or anyone who doesn’t identify on the male-female binary.
Blue: Representing attraction to those who identify as male.
In 2010, the Asexual Visibility and Education Network stated that they wanted to “have a symbol that belongs to all of us.” The flag is inspired by their logo; Black represents asexuality, gray for graysexuals (between sexual and asexual) and demisexual (sexual attraction following emotional connection). Purple represents community.
Asexual Flag Color Meaning
Grey: Grey-asexuality and demi-sexuality
White: Non-asexual partners and allies
The demisexual flag exists on the asexual spectrum (hence the similar colors in a different configuration), but also has its own separate flag. The term was coined in 2006 on The Asexual Visibility & Education Network (AVEN) by user “sonofzeal” but it’s not known who designed the original flag.
Demisexual Flag Color Meaning
Grey: Asexuality and Demi-sexuality
Lesbian Labrys Flag
This flag isn’t widely used—and part of the reason may be that the flag was designed in 1999 by a gay man, Sean Campbell. The Labrys is a double-sided axe apparently used by the Amazonians, and the black triangle was used by the Nazis to identify “antisocial” individuals.
Lesbian Labrys Flag Color Meaning
Purple: represents women, feminism, and all people who identify as a woman attracted to other women.
Black Triangle: represents lesbians.
Labrys: represents women empowerment.
Just as the symbol pi goes on indefinitely after the decimal, there are infinite partners available to those who identify as polyamorous. Gold represents emotional connection, not just sexual love. A modified version was created in 2017 with infinity hearts instead of the pi symbol.
Polyamory Flag Color Meaning
Blue: Represents the openness and honesty of all parties involved in the relationships.
Red: Represents love and passion.
Black: Represents solidarity with those who must hide their polyamorous relationships from the outside world.
Yellow: The value placed on emotional attachment to others.
Intersex International Australia designed this flag in 2013 with non-gendered colors “that celebrate living outside the binary.” Intersex (variation in sex characteristics) is also represented in the transgender flag (see next slide).
Intersex Flag Color Meaning
Purple: Used because it’s seen as a gender neutral color.
Yellow: Used because it’s seen as a gender neutral color.
Circle: Represents wholeness, completeness and the intersex people’s potentiality.
Transgender Pride Flag
Those who are transitioning or have neutral/no gender are also included in the white. Trans woman Monica Helms designed this in 1999. The blue and pink represent boys and girls, and no matter which way you hold it, the flag is always right-side up.
Transgender Pride Flag Color Meaning
Light Blue: Represents the traditional color for boys.
Light Pink: Represents the traditional color for girls.
White: Represents those who are intersex, transitioning, or see themselves as having a neutral or undefined gender.
Transgender Pride Flag
Another variation on the flag is to include a symbol to represent transgender people (female (♀), male (♂) and Genderqueer (⚨) in a single circle) transposed on top of the five stripes.
Genderfluid/ Genderflexible Flag
This flag was designed to embody all that genderfluidity can contain (since their gender can vary over time): Pink for femininity, blue for masculinity, white for no gender, black for all genders, and purple for the combination between masculine and feminine. JJ Poole created the flag in 2012.
Genderfluid / Gender-flexible Flag Color Meaning
Pink: Represents femininity.
White: Represents lack of gender.
Purple: Represents a combination of both masculinity and femininity.
Black: Represents all genders, including genders that do not align with femininity or masculinity.
Blue: Represents masculinity.
Marilyn Roxie designed the genderqueer flag to represent those identifying outside the gender binary: lavender is androgeny, white is agender, and green is nonbinary. This is also known as the “nonbinary” flag.
Genderqueer Flag Color Meaning
Lavender: Mixture of “blue” and “pink”. Represents androgyny, and people who identify as a mixture of female and male.
White: Represents agender people.
Dark Chartreuse Green: The inverse of lavender. Represents people who identify outside of and without reference to the gender binary.
Lipstick Lesbian Flag
Interestingly, this flag is controversial—and now considered outdated in favor of a newer version (next slide). This one was designed by Natalie McCray in 2010 to celebrate lesbian femmes but isn’t necessarily loved for its lack of inclusivity.
In 2018, this new version added more colors to celebrate (from top to bottom) gender non-conformity, independence, community, unique relationships to womanhood, serenity and peace, love and sex, and femininity. The debate about representation goes on.
Lesbian Flag Color Meaning: The colors of red, purple, and pink represent traditionally feminine colors.
Leather, Latex, & BDSM Flag
There’s also debate over this flag, centered around whether kinks exist within or outside of the LGBTQ+ community. But the “leather flag,” created by Tony DeBlase in 1989, is a symbol of that community (which includes many gay men)—black may symbolize leather, white is purity, blue is devotion, and the heart is love.
Bear Brotherhood Flag
Craig Byrnes and Paul Witzkoske in 1995 made the “bear flag” for “a subculture of masculine-presenting gay, bisexual and trans men who embrace facial and body hair and may have larger bodies.” Each stripe represents the different colors of bears. Thus far, it looks to be the only subculture with its own flag, although there’s apparently a “twink flag” used online.
Rubber Pride Flag
Members of the rubber/latex fetish community have a flag to express their preferences and passion. Peter Tolos and Scott Moats created it in 1995 and say that black represents “our lust for the look and feel for shiny black rubber,” red “our blood passion for rubber and rubbermen,” and yellow “our drive for intense rubber play and fantasies.” Also, there’s a kink in it—which totally makes sense, actually.
Polysexual (attracted to multiple but not all genders, unlike pansexual) is still similar to the pansexual flag, with green representing nonconforming genders and pink and blue female and male, respectively. Polysexuality can sometimes be expressed as attraction to masculinity/femininity, not gender. The flag was created on Tumblr in 2012.
Polysexual Flag Color Meaning
Pink: Represents attraction to female-identified people.
Green: Represents attraction to people who identify outside the traditional male-female binary.
Blue: Represents attraction to male-identified people.
Designer Salem X or “Ska” created a reversible flag—much like the transgender flag—to represent rejection of gender. Green is nonbinary, and black and white are absence of gender.
Agender Flag Color Meaning
Black: Represents the absence of gender
White: Represents the absence of gender
Grey: Represents semi-genderless
Green: Represents non-binary genders
In a similar color scheme, the green in the aromantic flag represents those living without romantic attraction or different romantic attraction. Gray and black are meant to represent all aromantic sexualities.
Aromantic Flag Color Meaning
Dark Green: Represents aromanticism.
Light Green: Represents the aromantic spectrum.
White: Represents platonic and aesthetic attraction, as well as queer/quasi platonic relationships.
Grey: Represents grey-aromantic and demiromantic people.
Black: Represents the sexuality spectrum.
To add to the genderqueer flag’s representation, 17-year-old Kye Rowan created the nonbinary flag in 2014 for gender existing outside the binary (symbolized by the yellow). White is all genders, black is no gender, and purple is a mix of genders.
Nonbinary Flag Color Meaning
Yellow: Represents those whose gender falls outside of and without reference to the binary.
White: Represents people with many or all genders.
Purple: Represents those whose gender identity falls somewhere between male/female or is a mix of them.
Black: Represents people who feel they are without a gender
Another fetish flag, the pony play flag was designed in 2007 by Carrie P., and includes black to express unity with the larger leather community.
Straight Ally Flag
This is a combination of different symbols—the straight flag is black and white stripes, the traditional pride flag is a rainbow—and the combination is meant to show allyship for the LGBTQ+ community.
Straight Ally Flag Color Meaning
“A”: Represents allies, as “a” is the first letter of the word.
Rainbow Colors: Represents the LGBTQA+ community.
Black and White Bars: Represents heterosexual and/or cisgender people.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many pride flags are there?
As you can see as of September 2021 there are 28 pride flags. Due to the active and vibrant nature of the community the number of flag is likely to grow. So stay tuned for the updates.
Where to buy pride flags?
There are plenty of places you can buy pride flags. The three that stood out for us was RainbowDepot.com, Pride.FlagShop.com and PrideIsLove.com. As of September 12, 2021 Pride Is Love is giving away pride flags for free.
What do the colors of the pride flag mean?
The original Gilbert Baker pride flag consists of eight colors. Hot pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for magic/art, indigo for serenity, and violet for spirit.