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The Pride season is almost upon us and, whether you’re going to be going along to a big-city event or choose to support a smaller, more local celebration, chances are that you’ll come across at least one pride flag that baffles you.

There is, of course, an argument that says that the original rainbow flag already represents everyone, as the whole idea of a rainbow is that in includes all the colours – or identities – on the spectrum. But whatever you think of the ever-expanding range of LGBTQ+ pride flags, we’re going to be coming across more and more of them as each year goes by and, chances are, even those of us who, erm, pride ourselves on being right across the LGBTQ+ universe may find ourselves scratching our heads from time to time.

But don’t despair: we’ve put together this handy guide to the most popular pride flags and added some useful flag-geek info too.

The original pride flag

Created by: Gilbert Baker

Year: 1977

What it represents

Designed for army veteran Gilbert Baker following a challenge by gay politicial Harvey Milk, the colours in the very first rainbow flag, rather than representing individual communities, are rather more poetic:

  • Pink: Sex
  • Red: Life
  • Orange: Healing
  • Yellow: Sunlight
  • Green: Nature
  • Turquoise: Magic/Art
  • Indigo: Serenity
  • Violet: Spirit

However, the flag in this form didn’t last long, and was soon superseded by…

The 1978 pride flag

Created by: Gilbert Baker and the Paramount Flag Company

Year: 1978

What it represents

Pretty similar to the original pride flag but without the pink…and that’s because, following the assassination of Harvey Milk, hot pink fabric was in short supply. Rather than paying over the odds for it, Baker and the manufacturers decided to drop it altogether.

The traditional pride flag

Created by: Gilbert Baker and the Paramount Flag Company

Year: 1979

What it represents

One year on from losing the pink, the torquoise strip suffered the same fate. Nobody is quite sure why: some say that, like the pink fabric a year earlier, torquoise material was in short supply, while others posit that people seemed to prefer an even number of stripes.

Either way, whether by accident or design, this is the birth of the globally recognised flag that has endured for more than 40 years.

The Philadephia pride flag

Created by: Philadephia City Hall

Year: 2017

What it represents

Acknowleding that people of colour had often been excluded from the LGBTQ+ mainstream, bigwigs at Philadephia City Hall asked for a new flag to be designed, with the black and brown stripes symbolising people of colour.

The Progress pride flag

Created by: Daniel Quasar

Year: 2018

What it represents

Taking his cue from the Philadelphia flag, Chicago designer Daniel Quasar noted that, although the inclusion of queer people of colour was a massive step in the right direction, trans people remained excluded. The addition of the light blue, pink and white from the transgender flag didn’t really work horizontally (too many narrow stripes), so the chevron design was born.

The bisexual pride flag

Created by: Michael Page

Year: 1998

What it represents

Florida activist Michale Page wanted to represent bisexuality in a flag, with the pink stripe representing women, the blue representing men and the purple strip in the middle representing attraction to both sexes. These days, we look at bisexuality in a different way as our understanding of gender has matured, with bisexuality referring to attraction to people of more than one gender, rather than the old-fashioned definition of being attracted to both sexes. However, while the definition of bisexuality has changed, the flag endures.

The pansexual pride flag

Created by: unknown

Year: 2010

What it represents

For many people, there’s not a lot of difference between pansexuality and bisexuality, so the easiest way to define pansexuality is as attraction to people regardless of their sex or gender identity. In this flag, the pink represents women, the blue denotes men, with the yellow stripe standing for people with identities outside traditional gender or sexual-orientation norms, such as genderqueer, non-binary, genderfluid or agender.

The asexual pride flag

Created by: The Asexual Visibility and Education Network

Year: 2010

What it represents

There are some people who claim that because – by definition – asexual people do not feel sexual attraction, there is no place for them in the LGBTQ+ movement as they have not historically experienced the sort of discrimination as same-sex attracted people. We say that our community is for everyone who sits outside the heteronormative mainstream, and we rather like this flag. The black represents asexuality itself, the grey denotes greysexuality and demisexuality, with the white representing allies and the purple standing for community.

The polyamory pride flag

Created by: Jim Evans

Year: 1995

What it represents

We quite like this one! The blue stands for openness and honesty in relationships, the red represents passion with the black a symbol of mourning for those who have to hide their poly relationships from the outside world.

The pi symbol is a representation of the infinite number of partners available to polyamorous people.

The intersex pride flag

Created by: Morgan Carpenter

Year: 2013

What it represents

Quite clever: yellow and purple are seen as gender-neutral colours, while the circle represents wholeness and completeness.

The transgender pride flag

Created by: Monica Helms

Year: 1999

What it represents

As we’re becoming more aware of trans rights and the struggles of trans people for recognition and respect, the transgender pride flag is now a common sight at pride events all over the world. The baby pink and blue are there because they’re the traditional colours associated with girls and boys, while the white strip in the centre represents people who are transitioning or who see themselves as gender neutral.

The genderfluid pride flag

Created by: JJ Poole

Year: 2013

What it represents

The flag has five horizontal stripes of different colours representing femininity (pink), lack of gender (white), a combination of both masculinity and femininity (purple), all genders anywhere on the spectrum (black), and masculinity (blue).

The genderqueer pride flag

Created by: Marylin Roxie

Year: 2011

What it represents

While many of the more modern pride flags still use blue to represent men and pink to represent women, the genderqueer flag eschews traditional colours and has gone for lavender to represent androgyny and other queer identities, with white standing for agender identity and green representing those whose identities are defined outside the binary.

The kink pride flag

Created by: Tony DeBlase

Year: 1989

What it represents

Originally designed to represent lovers of leatherwear, this flag has now evolved to include everyone into fetish and kink, irrespective of their preferred fabric. Interestingly, designer Tony DeBlase has not specified what each strip is supposed to mean, saying that he wanted to “leave it to the viewer to interpret the colours and symbols.”

The bear pride flag

Created by: The International Bear Brotherhood

Year: 1995

What it represents

Nothing to do with actual bears, but referring to sturdy, often hairy men, many with splendid beards. Quite simply, the different stripes represent the different colours of fur found on real bears in the wild.

The rubber pride flag

Created by: Peter Tolos and Scott Moats

Year: 1995

What it represents

According to the flag’s designers, the black represents rubber itself, the red represents passion and the yellow is there for fantasies. Who knew?

The aromantic pride flag

Created by: Unknown (to us, anyway)

Year: 2014 (ish)

What it represents

The colour green represents aromanticism, and it appears in two shades on the flag, along with white (for platonic and aesthetic attraction), grey (for gray-aromantic and demiromantic people) and black (for the sexuality spectrum). 

The demisexual pride flag

Created by: Unknown

Year: No idea

What it represents

Representing a section of the asexual community that develops sexual attraction to someone only after forming a deep emotional bond with them. It’s unknown when, exactly, the flag was created, but it includes four colours: black (representing asexuality), grey (asexuality and demisexuality), white (sexuality), and purple (community).

The lesbian pride flag

Created by: Disputed

Year: 2018

What it represents

Although there are multiple versions of the lesbian pride flag, this one – which has been around since 2018 –appears to be the one that’s most widely embraced. The seven different shades of pink, orange, white, and red were used to represent different types of femininity.

The non-binary pride flag

Created by: Unknown

Year: 2014

What it represents

We like this one! Here, the colours symbolise those whose gender falls outside of and without reference to the binary (yellow), people with many or all genders (white), those whose gender identity falls somewhere between male and female or is a mix of them (purple), and people who feel they are without a gender (black).

The Pride of Africa flag

Created by: The Pride of Africa Foundation

Year: 2019

What it represents

A new one on us, in 2019, Pride of Africa, which describes itself as a “diversity and empowerment foundation,” launched a new LGBTQ flag at Johannesburg Pride, the continent’s longest-running LGBTQ Pride event. Considered the first pan-African LGBTQ flag, the Pride of Africa Flag was inspired by the flags of all 54 countries on the continent.

The intersex-inclusive pride flag

Created by: Valentino Vecchietti 

Year: 2021

What it represents

Simply the addition of the intersex symbol to the Progress Pride Flag…something that we wholeheartedly support.

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