There’s a lot of divisions in the Gender, Sexual, & Romantic Minorities (GSRM) community (also known as the LGBTQIA+ community). Many of these have been here from the start, some more recent. These dividing lines mirror those in the wider society, mimicking the very arguments which seek to dehumanize us. Lines like racism, transphobia, ignorance of intersex people, dismissal of ace/aro people, have started splitting the community further.
Some folks have used flags to call out these divisions to begin addressing them. The idea here is to create a flag that appears familiar, which is clearly a pride flag, but which has a modification that calls out divisions, so that folks think about this, and also so that it’s clear that those flying this flag are calling to unify rather than divide.
Let’s talk about some of these flags!
A Brief History of GSRM Pride Flags
The Original “Retro 8” Gay Pride Flag
For context, we need to understand the original rainbow flag. It was created by Gilbert Baker as a challenge from Harvey Milk in 1974, and first flew at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Parade on June 25 1978, 9 years after the Stonewall Riots and just 5 months before Harvey Milk was assassinated. That assassination helped stir demand for the flag as a unifying symbol of the gay community.
It has 8 stripes, each with symbology that’s very much of 70s culture:
- Hot Pink for Sex
- Red for Life
- Orange for Healing
- Yellow for Sunlight
- Green for Nature
- Turquoise for Magic andor Art
- Indigo for Serenity
- Violet for Spirit
As demand increased, folks started creating and buying the flag. It soon became evident that the hot pink, and later turquoise, weren’t as abundant to manufacture. So, they were omitted and we got the familiar 6-stripe flag we see today.
The Philadelphia Pride Flag was commissioned by the city of Philadelphia in June 2017 for their pride events. It was designed by the marketing firm Tierney. Visually, it is the standard 6-color pride flag with brown and black stripes added to the top, to draw attention to the issues which people of color such as myself face within the GSRM community.
One issue with this flag is that it was commissioned by a city, for public relations during Pride 2017. That origin tells a story of capitalizing on oppression issues, trying to monetize peoples’ desire to be seen and to unify, rather than being created by those people to protest their oppression.
In February 2018, Estêvão Romane unveiled this variant of the original Retro 8 flag at a São Paulo festival called Love Fest. This variant simply adds a white stripe to the center to represent diversity in general, calling for peace and union.
The Progress Pride Flag was created by Daniel Quasar and unveiled in June 2018, one year after the Philadelphia Pride Flag. It reincorporates the racial lines from the Philadelphia flag as chevrons, and adds blue and pink chevrons to their left to represent the transgender community, and a white chevron as the leftmost one to represent those lost to HIV/AIDS.
Obviously, it’s important to commemorate those we’ve lost, and flying a flag for them is a very common way to do so. Adding this to a pride flag helps us give them representation after we’ve lost them, and to not forget their struggles and contributions.
Representing the transgender community in this flag further calls out the trans erasure and division within the GSRM community, from transphobic people calling to rename “LGBT” to “LGB”, to outright harassment and violence.
In May 2021, intersex rights activist Valentino Vecchietti unveiled their addition to this series, adding the intersex flag as a new chevron on the left of the chevrons of the Progress Pride Flag, and increasing the saturation & contrast of the rest of the flag too.
My Personal Feelings
I really love these! They all show a desire by the community to unify under one banner, recognizable and empowering. All of them evoke the familiar rainbow flag, and add something that can be noticed, understood, and talked about. That kind of enthusiasm and creativity makes me happy; it’s what has grown and centered this community for so many years.
While there is something delightful and powerful about the idea of continuing to add stripes and chevrons to the rainbow flag, I personally feel like that isn’t the best direction to head with this.
I’m also concerned about the omissions. None of these represent various oppressed minorities within the GSRM community, such as Asian-American & Native-American people, various GSRM peoples worldwide whose governments oppress them for being GSRM, people on the Autism Spectrum, bisexual people, polyamorous people, asexual & aromantic people, multigender & genderfluid people, non-binary people, plural systems, et cetera.
To add all these to a progress pride flag, each with one or more specific stripes highlighting that oppressed subgroup, will only continue to make any subgroup not on the flag feel even more oppressed and unrepresented, and might end up making the flag difficult to understand and reproduce. For that reason, I don’t think that adding subgroup-specific flag elements is the best direction.
Another problem is that, while in theory the rainbow flag alone can represent all members of the GSRM community, in practice it mainly appears to represent solely homosexual men; whether intentionally or not, many folks in our community don’t identify with the rainbow flag. For that reason, it might be necessary to use a different flag, perhaps an all-new one, to represent the whole community.
What we need is a flag that:
- Intentionally represents & symbolizes the modern GSRM community in a familiar way
- Stands on its own as a specific symbol, rather than adding to an existing one
- Evokes progress and inclusivity in its design
- Doesn’t single-out nor omit any specific minorities within the GSRM community
After I identified these related but distinct needs, inspiration struck me and I tried my hand at one, myself.
Here is my proposal. It uses the original Retro 8 colors in 8 rightward-pointing chevrons, then a silver chevron, and the rest grey. The symbology here is intertwined and represents what I see as deeply-ingrained pieces of the GSRM community and its members. Let’s dive into why I landed on this design:
Like the Progress Pride Flag and its Intersex Variant, this design uses chevrons to signify that it’s important for us to move forward, to continually push for progress, despite any forces which would otherwise push us back and divide us.
Pink for Sexuality & Red for Gender
The first two chevrons and the only ones to touch the leading edge of the flag are the pink & red chevrons, which respectively signify sexuality & gender. These are core parts of us within our societies and the GSRM community. We use gender to express ourselves, to build our relationships, to describe our sexualities.
Even when a person’s sexuality andor gender is weak or nonexistent, that also helps define our identities and relationships with each other and society at large.
Orange for Love
Love is extremely important in the GSRM community. Love takes many forms, from romance to camaraderie to fandom to common kindness. Through all these and more, we see and interact with each other, support each other, and create our community. Whatever form it takes, it defines our relationships, it gives us passion & enthusiasm for our lives & chosen families, and it can bring us a better world.
Different forms of love also manifest within us as romantic minorities, such as homoromantic, biromantic, and aromantic people. These are as broad and diverse a spectrum as sexual minorities, and bring to our community an important mix of new diversities and perspectives.
Our love for our community also manifests as enthusiasm, which is equally important. It drives our creativity, our expression & presentation, our desire to push for a better world. Without enthusiasm, we would fade into the background; it liberates us and brings us into the public consciousness!
Yellow for Body
Our bodies are a major focus, in our own perspectives, within our relationships, and within and outside our community. We use our bodies to present ourselves and our identities. Our bodies reflect the lives we’ve led, which brought us to this point. Some of us look to change their body, or escape it entirely, some look to embrace their body, placing it on display, and some do both at the same time!
Green for Presentation
How we present ourselves plays a key role in our identities. Each individual presents themself differently, showing off things that individual chooses, and some things they can’t choose. Many of us meticulously craft our presentation, thinking about it every day and what others might take away from it. Many of us simply present as normally as possible, trying to blend into a crowd or its shadows to avoid perception. Many of us use our moment to present ourselves as a big and brash opportunity to tell the world that we exist.
Cyan for Identity
Within each of us is a sense of one’s own identity. Whether powerful and strong and specific, or subtle and weak and nebulous, or something else entirely, our sense of identity is what drives us to join the GSRM community in the first place. For many, this comes to the point that one’s membership in the GSRM community becomes a piece of their identity, itself.
Indigo for Birth
The circumstances of one’s birth cannot be chosen by that individual, and often shape their body and their sense of identity. For many of us, one might feel strongly as being born one way, and that might drive that person’s presentation and enthusiasm. For others, one’s birth might have little to do with how that person feels, and they might waver around and away from it. One might be born into a time or place or class that defines their perspective on life and the world, shaping their identity and enthusiasm simply by being born into a different environment than others.
Purple for Mind
One’s mind is a crucial part of them, where all these concepts collide, and from which comes their sense of identity and justice, their choices in things like their presentation, and their reflections on their lack of choices in things like their birth. Philosophy is a major component of the GSRM community; as we are attacked by laws and words, we are forced to look inward upon ourselves, thinking about who we are, and returning with our discoveries. At both a macro scale, where we push for social change, and a micro scale, where we discover our own identities, our minds are a core part of our experiences as gender & sexual minorities.
Silver for Solidarity & Grey for Justice
Together, we create and enact change. Together, we are stronger. As we fight divisions and reduce biases, we become more accepting and understanding of each other in all the various and beautiful ways that make us different. By sticking together in solidarity, we can do more than we ever could divided.
Only through solidarity can we win these fights for justice.
All these point toward the reason we are a shared community: we demand justice. We demand to never be treated as lesser, simply because our sexuality, or our gender, or our romantic attractions, or our bodies, or any other part of us isn’t of the majority. We demand to no longer fight simply for what we need to live happily. Justice for each of us and our sub-communities is about feeling like we have a place in this world, rather than feeling like a downtrodden, cast-aside, andor forgotten minority.
We also demand justice for those we’ve lost. Many of our GSRM siblings have fallen to violence, hate crimes, actions taken by governments, and disease, most notably our lost elders who fell to the AIDS pandemic of the 80s. We fight for them, and this grey represents them as well.
To The Community
With this, I release this flag to the community. I claim no ownership over its design; I just want folks to feel like they have something that represents them. If you’re a legal nerd, then consider this flag released under the CC-0 license. Below is the legal notice making this official:
Now that you have full rights over this flag, you should know how to reproduce it if you want to!
Ratios & Composition
I used a 2:1 ratio when designing this flag, but that’s not strictly necessary to reproduce it. In fact, designers and vexillologists might notice that the above example is slightly shorter, at a ratio of 11:6.
Whatever is used, the angle of the vertex of each chevron should remain at 90º, and the line formed by the red and orange chevrons should touch the leading corners. This ensures that the Sexuality & Gender chevrons touch the leading edge of the flag, visually signifying their special importance.
With the exceptions of the pink and grey, all chevrons should be the same thickness.
I used these colors when designing the flag, but you might need or want to use different ones, especially when transferring the flag to a medium such as print, paint, or fabric. If you’re a color nerd and find CMYK/PMS colors which reproduce this well, let me know and I’ll list them here too!
Because the chevrons represent progress, when flying this flag in the wind, the chevrons should point in the direction of the wind (away from a flagpole).
When worn as a jacket patch, the chevrons should point in the direction of movement (towards the front of a person wearing it).
When displaying the flag vertically, the chevrons should point upwards, to symbolize upward progress. However, since flags flown vertically are traditionally flown with the same hoist at the top as horizontal flags have towards the flagpole, that is also okay, even though the chevrons will be pointing downward.
When displaying this as an image, I encourage folks who use right-to-left languages to present this flag with the chevrons pointing right-to-left, so that the feeling of forward progress is preserved.
Presskit, Renders, Social Images, & Source File
Since this is public domain, I’m also publishing my renders of the flag, some social images (banners, profile image templates, etc.), and the original project file with which I designed this flag in the first place.
Have fun & be proud!
Whatever flag you choose to use, and however you choose to use it, the most important thing is for you to enjoy it! Fly it to show your pride about yourself, and to signal that you are there and cannot be silenced. These are all symbols of freedom, so you should use whichever makes you feel the most free!