Nothing can lessen the pain of the recent massacre in Orlando. When a gunman entered the popular gay nightclub Pulse and carried out the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, he turned an establishment reveling in Gay Pride Month into a place of unimaginable mourning. But despite the horrendous act, the LGBTQ community continues to march forward with Pride celebrations, now even prouder than before—waving its iconic rainbow flag from central Florida to Northern California.
Perhaps nothing represents the solidarity of the queer community more than the rainbow flag. The colorful banner first became a symbol of gay pride in 1978 when gay rights legend Harvey Milk commissioned it with the hope of creating a design that would broadcast a sense of pride, diversity, and hope. The flag was first stitched and flown by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker that same year in San Francisco's Gay Pride Parade. Baker’s color scheme was meant to reflect Milk's ideals, with a palette of red (life), orange (healing), yellow (sunlight/hope), green (nature), blue (harmony), and purple (spirit).
By now the flag has become immediately recognizable—but did you know there’s a plethora of other queer flags that celebrate pride, from bear banners to polyamory pennants? Earlier this week, blogger Clare Bayley rounded up these flags in an illuminating post. Below, we’ve curated a selection of them for your edification.
In case you didn’t know, a “bear” is a masculine-presenting gay man that’s often hairy, large, and adorable. To celebrate this subculture, designer Craig Byrnes, a bear himself, created the flag in 1995, which was voted into use by the Chesapeake Bay Bears club. The color scheme is based on the fur colors of animal bears throughout the world.
One of the more popular alternative flags, the bisexual pride flag was first conceptualized in 1998 to offer an alternative to the standard gay rainbow. The colors are a play on the “pink triangle” that the Nazis used to identify homosexuals (that was later appropriated by the queer community).
A lipstick lesbian is traditionally a gay woman who presents as femme in her dress and mannerisms—hence the “lipstick” part. Bayler traced the origin of this flag back to a blog called This Lesbian Life, which highlights the frustrations of queer woman who are often told they “look too straight.”
This flag is specifically for straight people who ally themselves with the causes of the gay community, but don’t feel comfortable waving the rainbow flag. It’s rumored to have emerged sometime in the late 2000s, with the "A" symbolizing either "Activism" or "Ally."
"Genderqueer" is a term used to express those who don’t identify with either of the two traditional genders. The flag, created in 2010, is the product of a partnership between artist Marilyn Roxie and the genderqueer internet community. The choice of lavender, a mix of blue and pink, is meant to represent those who are a little of both. The green is meant invoke the “inverse” of lavender and the white represents gender neutrality.
These are just five flags amazing flags, but you can check out the whole range below (h/t Clare Bayley for compiling them!):
These are by no means the end-all—drop a line in the comments if we missed your favorite!
Laura Feinstein is the Head of Social Stories at Fusion. Formerly, she held staff roles as the East Coast Editor of GOOD Magazine and the EIC of The Creators Project at VICE, and has contributed to The Guardian, T/The New York Times, Paper Magazine and many others. She specializes in the niche, the esoteric and the un-boring.