New York’s Stonewall Inn celebrates the family of LGBTQ Pride Flags

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The pride flag exhibition at New York's Stonewall Inn
The pride flag exhibition at New York’s Stonewall Inn (Photo: Gilbert Baker Foundation/Facebook)

New York’s Stonewall Inn has just unveiled an exhibition of Pride flags to run throughout Pride Month. Entitled ‘In Their Own Voices’, it’s been organized by the Gilbert Baker Foundation.

Baker was the artist who came up with the idea for the original LGBTQ rainbow flag that has since conquered the world. He died in 2017 at the age of 65.

Gilbert Baker in 2012
Gilbert Baker in 2012 (Photo: Gareth Watkins/(CC BY 3.0)

“It’s Pride Month. What better time than to offer a much-needed history lesson about the Rainbow Flag and its descendants,” said Charley Beal, president of the Gilbert Baker Foundation, in a statement.

“No matter which powerful community flag you fly proudly, it’s crucial to know the history of all the banners created since Baker’s iconic original debuted in 1978 in San Francisco.”

The exhibition presents a selection of different Pride flags, along with information on who created them and what inspired them.

Gilbert Baker was born in 1951 in Kansas. He spent time as a Medic in the United States Army between 1970-72, and was stationed in San Francisco. He fell in love with the city and being able to live life as an openly gay man.

He began to sew, creating banners for gay rights protests and other demonstrations, and joined the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. He also befriended the activist Harvey Milk.

Baker created his original rainbow flag following a request from Milk in 1977 to come up with a symbol for the growing strength of the LGBTQ community.

Gilbert Baker in 1979 (Photo: Mark Rennie/Gilbert Baker Foundation)

“What I liked about the symbolism of the rainbow is that it fits us. It’s all the colors. It represents all the genders. It represents all the races. It’s the rainbow of humanity,” Baker said.

His original flag had eight colors, with each having its own meaning (red for life, orange for healing, green for nature, etc). It was later simplified to just the six colors used widely today.

(Photo: Gilbert Baker Foundation/Facebook)

Other flags to feature in the show include the Bisexual Flag (above), and Transexual Pride Flag, with its pale blue, pink and white stripes.

The latter was created by Monica Helms in 1999.

The blue and pink stripes are colors traditionally assigned to boys and girls. The white represents those who are non-binary. The position of the stripes is such that there is no incorrect way to fly it, signifying trans people finding correctness in their own lives.

(Photo: Gilbert Baker Foundation/Facebook)

An adaptation of Baker’s original rainbow flag is the one that also includes black and brown stripes, which originated in Philadelphia in 2017 courtesy of Amber Hikes and Teri Gerbec. The ‘More Color, More Pride’ flag also features in the show.

“For too long Black and brown people have been erased in queer history, movements and community,” explains Hikes of the design. “The symbols we use, the representation we highlight –– matters. It matters to people who have not always seen themselves in the LGBTQ community and it matters that we stand up to the people who would prefer to keep it that way.”

(Photo: Gilbert Baker Foundation/Facebook)

Any talk of the different rainbow flags often provokes a strong reaction, with some arguing that Baker’s original design was created for all.

“As president of the Gilbert Baker Foundation I am often asked ‘Which pride flag should I fly?’,” Beal told Gay Cities. “My response is ‘Fly the flag that speaks to your soul. There is room in the sky for all of them.’

“At the Gilbert Baker Foundation, we are proud that all of these new LGBTQ community pride flags were born of the Rainbow Flag. It is the mother of them all.”

Related: Gay New York

The exhibition, which is co-organized with The GLBT Historical Society Museum and Archive, will continue until June 29.

The Stonewall Inn, at 53 Christopher Street, is credited with kick-starting the modern Pride movement. A police raid on the original bar premises on the night of Saturday, June 28, 1969, led to a revolt from patrons who had enough of being harassed by cops.


Related: Stonewall Inn: Historic landmark and the perfect place to begin your post-Covid pilgrimage

Within minutes, what the police thought would be a routine raid turned into an uprising, with hundreds of LGBTQ people gathering outside and protesting the police action. Demonstrations continued for several nights.

A year later, a march to commemorate the Stonewall Uprising is now regarded as New York’s first Pride march. Its history made the Stonewall Inn one of the most beloved and famous gay bars around the world.

 

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Like many other venues, the coronavirus pandemic and forced closure had a huge financial impact on the bar. However, a crowdfunder for the venue raised more than $320,000, which should help secure its future.

(Photo: Courtesy of @tomhallersatyou/Instagram)

Stonewall is kicking off Pride Month today (June 1) by streaming a Safe Spaces Concert, streaming live at 8pm ET on YouTube.LogoTV and Facebook.com/LogoTV. Performers will include Matt Bomer, Margaret Cho, Randy Rainbow, Julianne Moore, Billy Eichner, Desmond Is Amazing, Debra Messing, and many, many more. Proceeds will benefit the Stonewall Gives Back initiative.

 

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While nightlife venues have served as a safe haven for LGBTQ people for decades, their existence has been threatened by COVID-19, and they need our help to survive. Make a tax-deductible donation to the GayCities #SaveOurSpaces fund, and we’ll distribute it to LGBTQ bars and clubs struggling across the U.S.