Pride Month, the Flag, and Gilbert Baker | Queer History

Video: Sorry about the delay in the blog post!

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Hello, I’m Rogan and welcome back! Okay, maybe it wasn’t a week’s break like I said, but I’m sure you’re all happy I’m back sooner! I’ve been really wanting to increase the number of queer posts/videos I have, and what better time to do that than Pride month? To kick off this month, I’m going to talk about the Pride flag and the creator, Gilbert Baker. Baker was born on June 2, 1951, and recently passed away on March 31, 2017. He helped define the modern queer movement, and he created the pride flag we all know and use today. The flag was first created by Baker and 30 others in 1978 by hand-dying the fabric and using more than 1,000 yards of cotton. Google made a Doodle to honor this, which is at the beginning of this post. You may have noticed that the flag actually has eight colors, not the six we have today. The original flag had eight and they each represented part of the community. The colors and the representations are: hot pink-sex, red-life, orange-healing, yellow-sunlight, green-nature, turquoise-art, indigo-harmony, violet-spirit. Today, the flag has six colors – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet. Apparently, the pink was taken out when it started to be made commercially because that color of fabric was too expensive. And in 1979, the indigo stripe was taken out because they needed equal sides to be able to fly halves on Market Street in San Francisco for the Gay Freedom Day Parade. In 2012, Baker said this about the flag: “It fits us. We’re all the colors, all the sexes, all the genders. Infinite people. Infinite colors.

Image result for gilbert bakerNow, I’m going to tell you more about Baker himself. He was born in a conservative town in Kansas, and was interested in clothes, fabric, and sewing from a very young age. Baker got drafted into the Army in 1970, and worked as a medic stationed in San Francisco. This was lucky for Baker, since he was there at the beginning of the queer rights movement. He was honorably discharged in 1972, and stayed in the city, joined the movement, became friends with Harvey Milk, Cleve Jones, and many other leaders. When he was 19, he came out as gay and didn’t speak to his parents for 10 years. But Baker said that this allowed him to get past his suicidal urges, become the artist he knew he was, and really come into his own. After leaving the Army, he taught himself how to sew and that helped him put together affordable costumes when he began performing as a drag queen. At a later time, he used Busty Ross for his drag name as a nod to his flag-making and also sometimes called himself the gay Betsy Ross. He also started making banners for various causes mostly anti-war protests and gay rights. That’s how he became involved with the movement, that was his role in it. The reason why he decided to create the flag was because he wanted to make a symbol that replaced the pink triangle (used in Nazi Germany to label gay people). He said, “We needed something beautiful, something from us. The rainbow is so perfect because it really fits our diversity in terms of race, gender, ages, all of those things. Plus, it’s a natural flag – it’s from the sky!” In 1994, to honor the 25th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, he made the world’s largest flag at the time.

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Gulf of Mexico to Atlantic Ocean

Also, in 2003 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his creation, he made a rainbow flag that stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. After that, he sent sections of the flag to more than 100 cities around the world. Going back to 1979, he started working at Paramount Flag Company after his success with the rainbow flag, designing flags for different things – one of them being flags for the 1984 Democratic National Convention. Later, he left the company to focus on his career as an artist. His art celebrated the rainbow flag and, of course, the queer community.

There’s a beta font named after him created by NewFest and NYC Pride in partnership with a design team. There’s also a 2003 documentary called Rainbow Pride, about Baker and his Key West project. And to close, I want to let you know about a miniseries on ABC called When We Rise. I’ve just started watching it and I might make a video about it, but I’ve only just started the second part so we’ll see. That’s it for today! Hope you enjoyed, and let me know if there’s anything related to Pride or the queer community that you want to know about. Thanks for reading, see you next time.

Published by Rogan Shannon

Hello there! I'm Rogan, a queer deaf guy who has a passion for leadership and advocacy. I create YouTube videos about a lot of different topics - being deaf, queer, reading, language, and whatever else interests me!

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