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The Evolution of the Pride Flag


By Capt Krystle Sloan, 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron 


There are very few people who don’t recognize the rainbow flag as a symbol of the queer community; the original design was the work of several artists and activists collaborating after Harvey Milk, an American influential gay leader, challenged Gilbert Baker to devise a symbol of pride for the gay community. The result was the rainbow flag, which was first debuted at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade on 25 June 1978.

Originally designed with eight stripes, each stripe had a specific meaning: Hot pink – sex; red – life; orange – healing; yellow – sunlight; green – nature; turquoise – magic; indigo – serenity; violet – spirit. After the assassination of Harvey Milk in 1978, the demand for the flag greatly increased, and the Paramount Flag Company began selling a “stock” version with seven stripes, omitting the hot pink and replacing indigo with blue.

In 1979, the turquoise was also dropped for aesthetic reasons, and we found ourselves with the familiar six-stripe version of the flag, having red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. The flag remained this style for decades, although Gilbert Baker did unveil what he called his “final version” of the rainbow flag in 2017, adding all eight original colors back in and a ninth of lavender, to represent diversity, in response to the election of the president of the Unites States.

As our understanding of gender and sexuality expand, it seems fitting to revise our symbols to fully represent the diversity of the 2SLGBTQI+ community; to this end, in June of 2018, Daniel Quasar created a new design for the Pride flag that emphasized inclusion and progress within the community. The six colored rainbow stripes remained but had the addition of a five colored chevron. The new addition represented the following: the black and brown chevrons have a twofold purpose, representing both marginalized people of color as well as those who are living with, or have died from, AIDS; the white, pink, and light blue chevrons incorporated the colors of the Transgender Pride flag (designed by Monica Helms in 1999). Even the placements of the new chevrons have a purpose, with Quasar saying, “the arrow points to the right to show forward movement, while being along the left edge shows that progress still needs to be made”.

In 2021, the “intersex-inclusive” redesign of the Progress Pride flag by Valentino Vecchietti expanded on the Progress Pride flag by adding elements of the intersex flag by embedding the addition of a yellow triangle with a purple circle to the aforementioned chevrons, those in the queer community who have genitals, chromosomes or reproductive organs that don’t fit into a male/ female sex binary were acknowledged within the Pride flag.

As we grow as a society and people, so should the symbols that we use to recognize the different communities within our country; the Progress Pride flag of 2018 was the official flag flown at all of Government of Canada buildings in 2022, representative of our government’s dedication to acknowledging and celebrating the diversity of 2SLGBTQI+ Canadians.

2SLGBTQI+ terminology is continuously evolving and 2SLGBTQI+ is the acronym used by the Government of Canada.

2S: Two-Spirit; L: Lesbian; G: Gay; B: Bisexual; T: Transgender; Q: Queer; I: Intersex, considers sex characteristics beyond sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression; +: is inclusive of people who identify as part of sexual and gender diverse communities.

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