What Do All the Colors in the Pride Flag Stand For?

Every color in the Pride Flag stands for something—and here's what it all means.
Every color in the Pride Flag stands for something—and here's what it all means. / piccaya / iStock / Getty Images

Whenever June rolls around, it’s common to see rainbows everywhere in celebration of Pride Month. You’re bound to come across rainbow-themed paraphernalia one way or another, whether you’re walking in a quiet neighborhood or along a busy, crowded street.

The rainbow has become an easily recognizable symbol for the LGBTQ+ community in large part due to the Pride Flag (also known as the Rainbow Flag). It all began in 1978, when Gilbert Baker created a custom-made, eight-striped rainbow banner as a symbol of liberation and hope for queer people around the world. Moreover, each of the colored stripes in the original flag carried meaning, too.

For instance, hot pink stands for sexuality while red represents life and vitality. The warm orange hue represents healing, and the radiance and brightness of the sun are conveyed in yellow. Green—the unmistakable color of nature—comes right before turquoise, which stands for magic and art. Serenity and calmness are represented by the cool tone of indigo, while the last color, violet, stands for spirit.

The flag became a hit, but the increase in demand made it harder to keep the supply up. Shortly after its creation, the hot pink stripe was dropped because of how difficult it was to find fabric in that specific color. The turquoise stripe was eventually removed as well, to make the flag appear more symmetrical. The resulting six-stripe version became the Pride Flag that people know and recognize today.

However, the story doesn’t end there. From Baker’s original design, the flag continued to evolve to become more inclusive. In 2018, Daniel Quasar created the Progress Pride Flag by adding five new colored stripes in the shape of an arrow pointing to the right, illustrating forward movement.

On top of the classic rainbow design, the Progress Pride Flag incorporated black and brown stripes to represent queer people of color; the black stripe is also meant to honor individuals living with HIV/AIDS, and those who have lost their lives to the disease. Meanwhile, the light blue, pink, and white shades are meant to celebrate transgender and nonbinary communities, which is an ode to the transgender flag created by Monica Helms in 1999.

Although the Progress Pride Flag hasn’t completely replaced the six-striped Pride Flag, it did draw attention to the importance of diversity and the need to bring folks from marginalized and often discriminated communities to the forefront. The next time you come across something rainbow-colored as a sign of solidarity for Pride Month, look beyond the rainbow itself and see the colors that reflect the inclusive nature of the LGBTQ+ community.

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