Rainbow flag

From Academic Kids

A rainbow flag is a multi-colored flag consisting of stripes in the colors of the rainbow.

The use of rainbow flags has a long tradition; they are displayed in many cultures around the world as a sign of diversity, of hope and of yearning. This denotation goes back to the rainbow as a symbol of biblical promise. Already in the German Peasants' War of the 16th century, the rainbow flag together with the peasants' boot ("Bundschuh") was used as the sign of a new era, of hope and of social change. The reformer Thomas Müntzer connected socially revolutionary claims with his preaching of the gospel. He is often portrayed with a rainbow flag in his hand. The Thomas Müntzer statue in the German town of Stolberg also shows him holding a rainbow flag in his hand.

There are several, unrelated rainbow flags in use today. The best known is probably the gay pride one. The peace flag is especially popular in Italy. There are also other, less well known rainbow flags.


Gay pride

Missing image

Current Rainbow Flag
Six-striped (1979–present)

Seven-striped (1978–1979)

Eight-striped (1978)

The rainbow flag, sometimes called the freedom flag, has been used as a symbol of gay and lesbian pride since the 1980s. The colors symbolize gay pride and gay rights. It originated in the United States, but is now used around the world.

The rainbow flag was first used to symbolize gay pride and diversity by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker; as of 2003, it currently consists of six colored stripes of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. It is most commonly flown with the red stripe on top, as the colors appear in a natural rainbow.


There was some use of similar multi-colored flags in the USA in the early 1970s as a symbol of internationalism and unity of all people of earth, but by the end of the 1970s the rainbow flag's connection with gay pride became generally known in the United States.

The original gay-pride flag was hand-dyed by Baker. It first flew in the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25, 1978. The flag consisted of eight stripes; Baker assigned specific meaning to each of the colors as follows:

  • hot pink - sex
  • red - life
  • orange - healing
  • yellow - sunlight
  • green - nature
  • turquoise - magic
  • blue - serenity
  • violet - spirit

After the November 27,1978 assassination of openly gay City Supervisor Harvey Milk, demand for the rainbow flag greatly increased. To meet demand, the Paramount Flag Company began selling a version of the flag using stock rainbow fabric consisting of seven stripes of red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, blue, and violet. As Baker ramped up production of his version of the flag, he too dropped the hot pink stripe due to the unavailability of hot-pink fabric.

In 1979, the flag was modified again. When hung vertically from the lamp posts of San Francisco's Market Street, the center stripe was obscured by the post itself. 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, which resulted in a six stripe version of the flag - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.

Missing image
A stage event at Harrisburg PrideFest 2003, emphasizing the six gay pride rainbow flag colors.

In 1989, the rainbow flag came to nationwide attention in America after John Stout sued his landlords and won when they attempted to prohibit him from displaying the flag from his West Hollywood, California apartment balcony.

The rainbow flag celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2003. During the gay pride celebrations in June of that year, Gilbert Baker restored the rainbow flag back to its original eight-striped version and has since advocated that others do the same. However the eight-striped version has seen little adoption by the wider gay community, which has mostly stuck with the better known six-striped version. (See the Rainbow 25 website (http://www.rainbow25.org/intro.html) for more information).

In autumn 2004 several gay businesses in London were ordered by Westminster City Council to remove the rainbow flag from their premises, because the display of a flag requires planning permission. When one shop applied for planning permission to fly the rainbow flag, the Planning sub-committee refused the application on the chair's casting vote (May 19, 2005), a decision condemned by gay councillors in Westminster and the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone.


Many variations of the rainbow flag have been used. Some of the more common ones include a Greek letter λ (lambda) in white in the middle of the flag and a pink or black triangle in the upper left corner. Other colors have been added, such as a black stripe taken to symbolize the BDSM community. The rainbow colors have also often been used in gay alterations of national and regional flags, replacing for example the red and white stripes of the flag of the United States.

Rainbow colors as symbol of gay pride

The rainbow decorates a metro station in Montreal's
The rainbow decorates a metro station in Montreal's gay village
The basic rainbow flag has spawned innumerable variations. One common item of jewelry is the pride necklace or freedom rings, consisting of six rings, one of each colour, on a chain. Other variants range from key chains to candles.

In Montréal, Beaudry metro station, which serves that city's Village gai, was recently rebuilt with rainbow-coloured elements integrated into its design.

See also

Peace movement

Rainbow peace flag

This rainbow flag originated in Italy. It was first used in a peace march in 1961 and was inspired by similar multi-colored flags used in demonstrations against nuclear weapons. It became popular with the Pace da tutti i balconi ("peace from every balcony") campaign in 2002, started as a protest against the impending war in Iraq. The most common variety has seven colors, purple, blue, azure (the Italian national color), green, yellow, orange and red, and is emblazoned in bold with the Italian word PACE, meaning "peace". Common variations include moving the purple stripe down below the azure one, and adding a white stripe on top (the original flag from the 60s had a white stripe on top). This flag has been adopted internationally as a symbol of the peace movement.

Councillor Patrick (Pat) John Stannard, Lord Mayor of Oxford (2004) standing in front of a peace flag.
Councillor Patrick (Pat) John Stannard, Lord Mayor of Oxford (2004) standing in front of a peace flag.


Cooperative movement

A six-color rainbow flag is also a common symbol of the Cooperative movement.


Missing image

A flag with a seven-striped rainbow design is used in Peru [1] (http://flagspot.net/flags/xi.html) and Ecuador to represent Tahuantinsuyu, or Inca territory. This flag is used by first peoples when protesting the Peruvian and Ecuadorian governments. Some have suggested adopting a new flag to avoid confusion with the gay pride flag. Unlike the gay pride flag, the Tawantinsuyu flag uses light blue instead of turquoise. There is also a version that has a white stripe between the yellow and green stripes, and a light blue stripe is not used.


A rainbow flag is also used by some Druze communities in the Middle-east.

Jewish Autonomous Oblast

Another variation of rainbow flag is used by Jewish Autonomous Oblast, situated in the Far Eastern Federal District of Russia, by the Chinese border.de:Regenbogenfahne eo:Cxielarka flago fr:Drapeau arc-en-ciel nl:Regenboogvlag pt:Bandeira arco-íris zh:彩虹旗


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