The History of the Pride Flag and What Its Colors Represent

rainbow flag
June 2, 2023 Xperi Pride @ Xperi
Employee Resource Group

You’ve likely seen the pride flag waving in pictures or the emoji, but did you know each of the colors represents something specific to the community?  

Prior to the creation of the rainbow pride flag, the LGBTQ+ community used an inverted pink triangle to represent the community. The pink triangle, originating from the Holocaust as a way to identify homosexuals, served as a badge of shame and was a dark time for the queer community. The gay community reclaimed the symbol of the pink triangle to represent self-identity and a love of queerness. This symbol was also widely used by the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), a gay civil rights group that sought to bring action, treatment and visibility to those dying from AIDS. Approximately 47,000 persons died in the U.S. before the federal government even acknowledged the AIDS crisis or began to offer treatment.  

In 1978, openly gay San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk commissioned the designer Gilbert Baker to design a symbol based on a concept to organize and align around a common internal experience, to honor gay essence, to make meaning based on internal experiences and to cultivate a homosexual equality. The rainbow flag didn’t have the dark history of the pink triangle and instead embraced queer spirit and vitality. The first design had eight colors, including hot pink and turquoise, but those colors were later discarded due to the lack of fabric to reproduce the hot pink color and for symmetry when hanging the flags in the streets for the first Gay Freedom Day Parade. 

Pride originated as a protest and was considered a community march against inequality. Each color of the rainbow pride flag represents a different state of being gay or queer and tells a story of queer development.  

What the deepening progression of the colors in the rainbow flag symbolizes: 

  • Hot pink: Sexuality. One comes into being through desire, there is no denying it. 
  • Red: Life. Existential concept. What does it mean to be in one’s life as homosexual/gay/queer? 
  • Orange: Healing. There is a lot of healing that takes place in just coming out of the closet. To face darkness with an open heart. 
  • Yellow: Sun. As one grows, there is another intelligence inside the self. 
  • Green: Nature. There is a connection between two selves that is natural and earthly. 
  • Turquoise/blue: Magic/art. There is a magical aspect of working with the one’s shadow that supports being gay/queer. 
  • Indigo: Peace/harmony. A kind of serenity that comes through an ongoing relationship with the dark aspect of one’s shadow. 
  • Violet: Spirit. A connection to a higher power, divine (no, not that Divine!) 

You may also notice that the colors, if inverted, are coincidentally similar to the chakra system. Learn more about all the flags associated with the LGBTQ+ community here