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Rainbow Flag History



Gilbert Baker was born in Kansas on 2 June 1951 and served in the U.S. Army from 1970 until 1972.
After an honorable discharge he taught himself to sew.

He began making banners and ultimately the Gay Pride Rainbow Flag for his friend Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to any substantial political office of San Francisco City Supervisor in 1978 and who was later assassinated on 27 November 1978.

The Rainbow Flag was designed in response to a local activist’s call for the need of a community symbol for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) pride, liberation and diversity.

A flag that could be easily recognised and could be used year after year.

It was about breaking free of an existence limited by fear and conformity, the right to express sexuality without shame or retaliation.

The Rainbow Flag first appeared on 25 June 1978 at the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade. Gilbert Baker and thirty volunteers hand-stitched and hand-dyed two huge prototype flags for the parade.

In 1979, Gilbert Baker went to work at Paramount Flag Company in San Francisco (which closed in 1987).

Gilbert Baker has designed flags for many dignitaries and political figures, including then San Fransisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein. He also designed the flags for the 1984 Democratic National Convention.

The Rainbow Flag theme has since been used around the world as a symbol of Gay Pride unity in many variations, including rainbow merchandise available from Rainbow Store such as rainbow stickers, jewellary, belts, pet products and of course the many styles of the rainbow flag. You can find a selection of these products at www.rainbowstore.com.au

The Rainbow Flag is also recognized by the International Congress of Flag Makers.

The Rainbow Flag resides in the public domain.


The Rainbow Flag originally had eight stripes symbolising the diversity of the gay community:
Pink Sex
Red Life
Orange Healing
Yellow Sunlight
Green Nature
Turquoise Magic
Blue Serenity
Purple Spirit







After the November 1978 assassination of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and openly gay Supervisor Harvey Milk the Rainbow Flag began to be used in San Francisco as a general symbol of the gay community. To meet demand, the Paramount Flag Company began selling a version of the flag using stock rainbow fabric consisting of seven stripes of red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, blue, and purple.


Gilbert Baker increased production of his version of the flag, and he also dropped the pink stripe due to the unavailability of the pink fabric.

In 1979, the flag was modified again after it was hung vertically from a lamp post; the center stripe was obscured by the post itself. Changing the flag design to one with an even number of stripes was the easiest way to rectify this, so the turquoise stripe was dropped, which resulted in a six stripe version of the flag - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.

In 1989 the rainbow flag came to nationwide attention in the USA after John Stout sued his landlords and won when they attempted to stop him displaying the rainbow flag from his West Hollywood apartment.

In 2003 a 2km (1 1/4 mile) long, 8 colour nylon Rainbow Flag was produced for the 25th anniversary of the Rainbow Flag. It was used in the Key West Parade and later Gilbert Baker had it cut up and distributed with a limited worldwide release of 1100. Rainbow Store purchased, and still has in it's possession today 5 of these unique and very rare Rainbow Flags. Each flag is personally signed by Gilbert Baker, numbered 1028, 1036, 1037, 1038, 1042 and each comes with it's own Certificate of Authenticity.

However, the eight-striped version has seen little adoption by the wider gay community, which has mostly stuck with the better known six-striped version which now has international recognition.

It is most commonly flown with the red stripe on top or on the left side, as the colours appear in a natural rainbow.


Many variations of the flag have been created. For instance, a black stripe is added to some symbolizing those lost to AIDS. There are also variations to represent bisexual, bears and others.

Rainbow Store respects the identity of any individual past and present in this article and we greatly appreciate the courage of all those people who were involved in this momentous occasion in history.

Rainbow Store appreciates the copyright owners of all copy and pictures in this article.

To the best of our knowledge the information mentioned here is correct as of 1 July 2018.

More Rainbow Flag information is available from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_flag_%28LGBT_movement%29