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Andi smiling at the camera, holding a mug in both hands. Andi has red and black hair, two visible facial piercings and they are wearing a black sleeveless top and jeans. They are seated in a white chair against a black background. Andi's visible tattoo is of a vampire angel and is on their left upper arm
March 18, 2022
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The first flag

In 1994 Gilbert Baker made a 1-mile-long rainbow Pride flag for the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.  The spark which ignited the modern Pride movement. The flag was carried through the streets by participants in New York Pride.

This incredible visual creation of the importance of Pride firmly established the six-stripe rainbow as the symbol of LGBT culture and community.

The rainbow as a symbol of safety

Across the world the rainbow flag has become a celebration of authenticity. A statement of LGBT identity. Seeing a rainbow flag showed you a venue was LGBT friendly, that ‘gays are welcome here’.

Yet LGBT+ culture, communities and understanding are not static. They grow and flow in relation to mainstream culture.

Changing the rainbow

Adding the Q

The Q for Queer was adopted initially inside LGBT+ spaces and officially added to the acronym by GLAAD in 2016.  As allies became aware of the importance of the new letter LGBTQ became widely recognised as the appropriate acronym. Yet even now I notice a generational difference in response.  Some people are uncomfortable with even hearing a word used to cause so much pain over the years. Others recognise the importance of reclamation and ownership of a word which has such a glorious meaning.

It is not only the reclamation of a pejorative as a word of pride. Q also means Questioning. Q says, “it’s OK to be fluid”, “it’s OK to not know”, “it’s OK to change”. Gender identity and sexuality can fluid and change over time. This is especially true when cultural conditions allow for more authentic exploration and understanding.

The addition of the letter Q tells everyone it is OK to look within yourself and ask, “who am I, really?”

Countering racism within LGBTQ+ culture

Even in 2017 mainstream LGBT ‘culture’ was racist, the rainbow did not include everyone.  Emmanuel Agu cites example after example of racism in their blog for the Runnymede Trust. And this 13 years after Black Pride was established in the UK!

LGBT+ communities had to act, white LGBT+ people needed to show they were allies. It was not sufficient to say that one was inclusive a visual symbol was needed. In 2018 black and brown stripes were added to the top of the rainbow. Making a statement that racism was not welcome within LGBT+ spaces and would be challenged.

Countering transphobia within LGBTQ+ culture

At the same time people were recognising and challenging racism within LGBTQ+ communities transphobia was on the rise. Fear and misinformation was spread by groups with an agenda to deny trans+ people their rights as individuals of all sexualities made even Pride unsafe.

Again, it became necessary to make a visual statement of allyship. Another change to the flag was required and the Inclusive Pride flag was created.

Allies everywhere began using this flag to show that their space was truly safe. A statement that no discrimination or bigotry would be tolerated.

The final update

There are other letters concealed within the + at the end of the LGBTQ+ acronym. Each letter is important as part of the whole and as a recognition of the needs of everyone for representation.

To expand on LGBTQ is to include I and A. I for intersex and A for asexual and agender (ace).

A person with intersexualities is someone who smashes the binary. An individual whose anatomy or physiology differs from contemporary cultural stereotypes of what constitute typical male and female. Check out the UKIA Intersex Association for more information.

Ace people are included within rainbow and the trans flag but not everyone who is intersex is trans. In recognition of this the flag has been updated one last time to include the Intersex purple circle on yellow.

A healthy culture changes and grows

Wow! What a lot of change! Conceptually all LGBTQIA+ people of all ethnicities have existed under that original rainbow but a truly authentic, accepting and developing society needs to learn and adapt.

The Progress Pride flag shows that growth, acceptance, inclusion, and visibility are truly at the centre of Pride.

What do you think?

I would love to hear your thoughts on the Progress Pride flag and the changes to our rainbow in the comments.

Transgender Day of Visibility

The inclusion of the trans flag on the Pride flag is a visual reminder that it is OK to be trans+.

Beyond Reflections is celebrating Trans Day of Visibility on March 31st with a series of talks running throughout the day. You can get involved by supporting our fundraiser and logging in to watch our live stream on Facebook and Twitter from 10am UK time.

Still thirsty for knowledge?

If you want to delve further into the history of the Pride flag, and my own association with it, check out my blog from 2021.

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