The Stonewall riots began in 1969. It was “a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the LGBT community against a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, Manhattan. This key event triggers the modern LGBT liberation movement in the US and beyond.” (-Stonewall).
Today is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, and we’ve been reflecting on the history of the LGBTQ+ movement, and delving into the history behind the colours on the rainbow flag.
The rainbow flag was created in 1978 by Gilbert Baker, an artist who created the flag in response to the local activist group’s need for a symbol to represent their community.
He added every colour for a purpose.
Every colour has a meaning.
Red stands for Life. It’s the colour of passion and determination. It’s vibrant, it’s fire, its blood, its aggression, its daring. Red represents the beating heart of the LGBTQ+ movement.
Orange stands for Healing. It’s a coming together to overcome hate. Its family, its community and it’s about growing with your scars in a community that accepts you for who you are. And it’s about remembering those who’ve been lost in the fight for acceptance, and celebrating pride in their memory.
Yellow stands for Sun. Sunlight is a symbol of hope, for a brighter world where everyone can accept each other for who they are. It’s about hope for a world of acceptance and tolerance. Every night the sun sets and it brings a new dawn every morning. It’s about weathering through the storms, and fighting for a brighter tomorrow.
Green stands for Nature. Love is love, and that’s the most natural thing in the world.
Indigo is for Harmony. Harmony is the LGBTQ+ community. It is the colour of tranquillity, being with the people who love and accept you as you are. It’s about equality, balance and most importantly, it stands for understanding. Being there for each other no matter what, harmony is family, whether they share your DNA or not.
Violet is for Spirit. It’s the soul, the emotions; it’s the strength of every single member of the LGBTQ+ community. It’s the part that rebels, the part that fights, and the part that finds happiness even when it seems impossible.
The original flag actually had 8 colours, hot pink for sex and turquoise for art.
But pink was lost from the flag in 1979 when paramount informed Baker that the fabric for hot pink was not in mass production. So he dropped it from the flag. The current version only has the six colours, because Baker also asked paramount to produce vertical stripes to sit either side of a lamppost. Seven was an odd number for this so they dropped the turquoise colour too, and blended it with the indigo to create the royal blue stripe we see today.
But it works, because blue is also the colour of harmony and peace, its fierce waves and calm rivers, the good and the bad. Blue is the colour of water, an essential for life, it sustains and its everything the LGBTQ+ community stands for; unity and understanding, holding each other up through the bad and the good. Just like the indigo on the original flag, it’s the colour that represents family and unity.
Together the colours represent the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s strength and the community that has become a home for so many people.
So, when you see a rainbow flag flying this week, think about what each of those colours mean – what the flag stands for, and how hard the fight has been to create it.