LGBTQ+ Pride Month started as a way to commemorate the Stonewall riots, which occurred at the end of June 1969. It also celebrates LGBTQ+ activism through the years, and many pride events are held during this period to recognize the impact that LGBTQ+ people have on the world.



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Last year, most in-person Pride events were canceled because of the pandemic. But parades and other celebrations are returning this month to New York, Paris, and many other cities across the world. Pride events are usually geared toward people who feel like their sexual identity falls outside the mainstream — but of course, straight people can join in, too.

Arguably the biggest symbol of the LGBTQ+ community is the rainbow flag. Its story begins in 1978 when artist and designer Gilbert Baker was commissioned by San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk (one of the first openly gay elected officials in the US) to make a flag for the city's upcoming Pride celebrations.

Baker, a prominent gay rights activist himself, gave a nod to the stripes of the American flag but drew inspiration from nature too. The flag originally comprised eight stripes; Baker assigned specific meaning to each of the colors: hot pink — sex, red — life, orange — healing, yellow — sunlight, green — nature, turquoise magic/art, indigo — serenity, and violet — spirit.


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According to Baker's website, the demand for the rainbow flag greatly increased after the assassination of Milk on November 27, 1978. To meet demand, the Paramount Flag Company began selling a version of the flag using stock rainbow fabric with seven stripes: red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, blue, and violet.

As Baker ramped up production of his version of the flag, he dropped the hot pink stripe because of the unavailability of hot-pink fabric as well.

Fun fact: San Francisco-based Paramount Flag Co. began selling a surplus stock of Rainbow Girls flags from its retail store on the southwest corner of Polk and Post, at which Gilbert Baker was an employee.


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In 1979 the flag was modified one more time. When hung vertically from the lamp posts of San Francisco’s Market Street, the center stripe was obscured by the post itself. It turned out that changing the flag design to one with an even number of stripes was the easiest way to rectify this, so the turquoise stripe was dropped, and the six-stripe version of the flag was born — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.

But it wasn't until 1994 that the rainbow flag was truly established as the symbol for LGBTQ+ pride. That year Baker made a mile-long version for the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

Decades later, the rainbow flag is an international symbol for LGBTQ+ pride and can be seen waving in the air during the promising times and the difficult ones.


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