Rainbow week And the history of the rainbow flag

25th June 2018

Back in 1978, when Grease was the word and Argentina were actually good at World Cups, something that may have slipped under your historical radar is the adoption of the rainbow flag by the LGBT+ community.

40 years ago this week, in a flat in San Francisco and with the help of 30 members of a collective, Gilbert Baker carefully hand-stitched and dyed the first rainbow flag to be used for LGBT purposes, and it was flown in the San Francisco gay pride parade that year.

Lesbian Angels
Lesbian angels wear rainbow wings 📸 Diricia De Wet

In a 2008 interview, Baker said that he already knew that he had made something special. “A flag translates into everything, from tacky souvenirs to the names of organizations and the way that flags function. I knew instantly when I saw the reaction that it was going to be something. I didn’t know what or how or — but I knew.”

And it’s become something huge. Go to any pride parade across the world and rainbow flags will be everywhere. And not only flags, there’ll be rainbow glitter, rainbow clothes, rainbow hair, rainbow everything, and LGBT+ people the world over come together to celebrate themselves and protest against their oppressors, united under the banner of the rainbow flag.

Rainbow flags have always been a symbol of revolution and rebellion, from the first recorded use of one in the Rebellion of Túpac Amaru II, when the Peruvian rebel led indigenous peasants against the colonial Spanish rule, to the anti-nuclear Peace movement in Italy in the sixties. Of course, these flags all differed slightly from one another, but today the rainbow flag is only ever associated with one thing.

As it’s the 40th anniversary of the first “gay” rainbow flag this week, we’ll be publishing loads of content about identity, sexual orientation and rainbows. Earlier today we looked into homophobia in football, but later in the week we’ll find out why lesbians take longer to find out they’re gay and look at the origins of gay slang.

Keep up to date with all this week’s content on our social:


25th June 2018