The historic verdict legalising same-sex relations between consenting adults, passed by the Supreme Court on Thursday, has been welcomed by the LGBTQ community of the country with all enthusiasm. As they celebrate this long-fought victory across the streets and the internet, a common symbol they holds up is the rainbow coloured flag. The rainbow flag is in fact a common sight associated with the LGBTQ community, frequently seen during the pride parades or any other festival celebrating their sexuality and the right to exercise the same. So how did the LGBTQ community come to acquire the rainbow flag as their symbol?
The flag was designed by San Francisco based artiste, army personnel and gay rights activist Gilbert Baker in 1978. In 1974, Baker met American politician Harvey Milk who was another popular gay icon in the United States. Milk asked Baker to design a flag for the San Francisco annual pride parade. In an interview to the Museum of Modern Art in 2015, Baker said that he had been thinking of creating a symbol for the queer community even before he had met Milk and was particularly inspired by the stars and stripes of the American flag.
The multiple colours on display in the LGBTQ flag were meant to symbolise togetherness among the community that comprised of members of all race, gender, age and nationality. Each of the colours had a meaning of its own. Hot pink represented sex, red is for life, orange for healing, yellow symbolises sunlight, green is for nature, turquoise represents art, indigo is to harmony, and finally violet is for spirit. The flag first featured at San Francisco’s Gay Freedom Parade on June 25, 1978.
Over the years, the flag has undergone several changes in terms of the colours added, removed or replaced. Presently, the most common design of the flag consists of red right on the top followed by orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.
The demand for the rainbow flag to symbolise the community grew stronger after the assassination of Milk on November 27, 1978. In the past years it has also been embroiled in controversy like the time in the 1980s when a West Hollywood resident got into a legal battle with his landlord over his right to hang the flag outside his house. But eventually, it has become part and parcel of the queer community’s identity and sense of pride across the world and is uniformly adopted in LGBTQ parades, activism, and celebrations in all countries.