Philadelphia Pride made the decision to redesign the iconic rainbow flag to include two new colors, brown and black, signifying active inclusion for people of color. It was a symbolic gesture, meant to include people who may have felt excluded. But some people in the LGBTQ+ were offended that such an important symbol of equality had been altered.
Their argument stems from the fact that the original rainbow flag, designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978, already included colors meant to unite and represent everyone regardless of race. And that the new stripes made race an issue where it shouldn’t be, causing further division within the community.
I understand that some LGBTQ+ people may have a strong connection to the original design. But it’s not like the rainbow flag hasn’t seen alterations before. There are many variations, and they’re all beautiful and necessary. If altering the rainbow flag one more time will make thousands of people feel more included and more a part of Pride (at least this year and in one city), then adding two stripes seems like a small price to pay for that.
Unfortunately, Gilbert Baker passed away earlier this year, but his opinion and guidance on this issue would have been vital. When I posted about this on Facebook, people suggested I should ask Cleve Jones what he thought. So I did. Cleve is a gay rights pioneer who worked with Harvey Milk and was friends with Gilbert Blaker. This is what he told me:
“I like that one better (below). I think there would be less of a controversy about the Philly flag if it had been designed better. It’s kind of clunky. Gilbert himself made many versions, including rainbow flags for all 50 states.”
I sure doesn’t get any gayer than arguing over color patterns… or that while the intentions were noble, the result could have been prettier. Happy Pride!
This version of the rainbow flag for people of color was designed by Saint Yoshi, a self-proclaimed “Black, genderfluid queen of color.” It’s actually a year old. On Tumblr, she wrote:
“The mainstream LGBTQIA+ media know that we are Queer People of Color and we demand visibility. we demand the right to control our own narratives we aren’t just here to fulfill your racial quota so that you can feel good about your selves. we are sick of being marginalized and trivialized. We are sick of your rampant racism. we are sick of your constant white washing. we are sick of being silenced.. we are more than just some kinky thing that you can try once. we are more than “thugs” your “latin papis” your “spicy latinas” or any of the other shit you want us to be. we are sick of being oversexualized we are more than your “exotic little play things”. the QPOC design show cases all the skin tones of Queer people of color from the lightest (north Asians and biracial people not white people) to the darkest it also show cases the power fist used in both the Black Power and Chicano Power movements this is symbolic of the unity we all have as Queer people of Color throughout the LGBTQIA+ community.”