The eight-stripe flag, which was introduced last year as a gesture toward racial inclusion, has faced both strong support and fervent opposition.
Marilyn Drew Necci | August 6, 2018
Last week, as part of their campaign push building up to the Congressional midterm elections in November, the Human Rights Campaign posted a window-cling banner on the front of their permanent office building in Washington DC. That window-cling, seen above, incorporates an eight-stripe Pride flag into its design, which adds black and brown stripes to the six-stripe rainbow flag that has become standard.
This eight-stripe design was originally created in 2017 in Philadelphia, in response to racist comments made by the owner of a prominent Philadelphia gay bar, and the unrest that followed within that city’s LGBTQ community. Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs worked with design company Tierney to create the eight-stripe flag. At the time, Office of LGBT Affairs Executive Director Amber Hikes told The Advocate, “It’s a symbol of our city’s commitment to fighting these issues in a substantive way.”
Since then, response to the eight-stripe flag has been sharply divided in the LGBTQ community. A survey of 880 LGBTQ adults conducted by Whitman Insight Strategies and Buzzfeed News and released earlier this year indicated that older white gay men were most resistant to the design, while younger people and non-white people were more likely to support the change.
That divide was expressed in a variety of ways within the community last year. In a 2017 editorial for LGBTQ Nation, trans activist Rebecca Juro wrote, “The rainbow flag is by definition inclusive and always has been. Its brightly colored stripes already have specific meanings, and none of them have anything to do with race.”
Conversely, in a 2017 editorial for the Advocate, Oklahoma comedian and trans activist Amanda Kerri defended the eight-stripe flag, writing in response to those who stood against it, “If it really irks you that people of color wanted to feel represented on a Pride flag, you need to rethink your battle plans, because this is a stupid hill to die on. People of color really have been marginalized and pushed aside in our community, and if you don’t think that’s true, I can probably guess what color skin you have.”
Human Rights Campaign is not the first LGBTQ advocacy group to adopt the eight-stripe version of the Pride flag; in Australia, Melbourne’s Victorian Pride Centre announced last summer that they’d be using the flag in their logo as well. “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTI people have helped, in no small measure and by their personal and political examples, to build the community and the organisations we have today; and long may they continue to do so,” board member Margaret Hansford told LGBTQ Nation at the time. “They face severe and ongoing discrimination and oppression and we want our ‘welcome mat’ to have a specific ‘hello’ for them.”
The original rainbow Pride flag was designed in 1978 by Gilbert Baker, and while the six-stripe version featuring red, orange, green, yellow, blue, and purple stripes has become the standard, it actually differs from Baker’s original design, which included eight total stripes. Those stripes were intended to carry specific meanings: sex, life, healing, sunlight, nature, magic/art, serenity, and spirit. However, due to difficulties of obtaining certain fabric colors, and issues with optimum display of the flag, the hot pink and turquoise stripes were eventually eliminated.
The black-and-brown-striped version of the Pride flag is just the latest of many variations in Baker’s design; previous versions include a “Victory Over AIDS” flag used in the 80s, which added a black stripe; and the Pride Family Flag, originating in Texas, which includes a purple square that contains a red heart surrounding a white house, symbolizing “heart and home.”
In the wake of the controversy around the eight-stripe flag introduced in Philadelphia, artist Daniel Quasar introduced a new “Progress”-themed design earlier this summer that adds a rightward-aiming arrow to the six-stripe Pride flag; that arrow consists of white, black, brown, pink, and baby blue stripes intended to represent all races as well as trans people. “I wanted to see if there could be more emphasis in the design of the flag to give it more meaning,” Quasar wrote on the design’s Kickstarter campaign page. “The 6 stripe LGBTQ flag should be separated from the newer stripes because of their difference in meaning, as well as to shift focus and emphasis to what is important in our current community climate.”
The discussion around the optimum design of the Pride flag will surely continue well beyond this week, but for now, HRC’s decision to use the eight-stripe design definitely makes a statement. Where do you stand on this change? Let us know on our Facebook page.
Photo: Human Rights Campaign/via Facebook