Gilbert Baker – Creator of the Rainbow Flag

Remembering our Heroes, our ancestors, our pioneers, we are also honoring the Flag they celebrated. For forty years, (1938 – 1978) the only symbol we had was the demonic tragedy of the pink triangle.  The Rainbow Flag, created by Gilbert Baker, debuted at San Franciso Pride, June 25, 1978.

It flew over San Francisco City Hall when Harvey Milk worked there. Cleve Jones danced under that flag.  It flew over Mauds and draped from the balcony at Stonewall Inn.  Today it is at Michael’s craft store, Dodger stadium and the White House.  It is on onesies, designer shoes and Budweiser beer cans.  It is the universal symbol for You are Welcome here.

Gilbert Baker - Creator of the Rainbow Flag

“That light shines all the colors of the rainbow-
 take your own color and be just that.”  GB

Knowing who designed it, sewed it, lived it; makes it all the more glorious.  Their drag name was Butsy Ross.  For a short time, he was a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence.  A lucky Vet who served the U.S. Army tour in San Francisco during the Vietnam War. He was out and honorably discharged long before DADT.  His all-star vocation was vexillography.  He was our  vexillohogist.

There is so much to be proud of when you see a Rainbow Flag.  As you visit the sites of The Arts Council for Long Beach’s Rainbow Heroes murals, celebrating the Elder Queers of Long Beach, know that Gilbert Baker loved being gay, he was a brave public activist through the AIDS crisis, he gave all of us this cloak of unity, instant recognition and joy.

Originally, the flag was 8 colors.  Shortly after it’s debut, hot pink and turquoise were discarded due to fabric supply and display issues.

1979, the standard Gay Flag, steadied at 6 colors.  The meaning of each, Life, Healing, Sunlight, Nature, Serenity, and Spirit.

“We were all in a swirl of color and light. It was like a rainbow.”   GB

  • New York Times
  • Los Angeles Times
  • Daily Oklahoman
  • Star Tribune

Photo courtesy of the Gilbert Baker Foundation