The stories behind Pride flag designs

Depending on where you're reading this, Pride parades are probably either already happening or about to take place. Designed to celebrate all aspects of LGBT+ culture, pride events tend to take place in June to commemorate a landmark moment in the community's history, the Stonewall riots.

Pride festivals are conventionally more of a celebratory event, where people take the opportunity to let their flag fly, literally. If you've ever been to a Pride event, chances are you've seen attendees proudly flying flags that represent them, many of which incorporate colour theory and symbols important to their cause.

Perhaps the most well-known Pride flag is the rainbow flag, which recently made the headlines thanks to a prospective Kickstarter redesign, which aimed to make it even more inclusive.

There are dozens of other flags you're likely to spot if you go to a Pride event. To help you identify some of the most commonly seen designs, and maybe spot a flag that best represents you, we've rounded them up in this handy guide.

Quick disclaimer – this list is by no means covers every niche! There are many, many flags catering to everything from rubber to bear brotherhood pride. But we hope this round up acts as a handy jumping-off point.

Rainbow pride flag

Rainbow pride flag

The original rainbow flag had more colours than it often has today

As mentioned above, the rainbow flag is probably the most famous LGBT+ movement flag. Not surprising really, considering that it's designed to be as open and inclusive as possible. In fact it's such a recognisable shorthand for all things Pride that you'll often see the spectrum of colours used by brands in the run-up to festivities, with Skittles temporary rebrand being a notable exception.

Designed by Gilbert Baker, the original gay pride flag first flew at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade celebration on 25 June 1978. Whereas today's rainbow flag often has six colours, the original design had eight thanks to the inclusion of pink and turquoise stripes.

Baker even assigned a meaning to each colour. Pink stood for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for magic/art, indigo for serenity, and violet for spirit. It's these meanings which have lead to artists creating variations that celebrate a specific audience or minority.

If you're going to a Pride parade, you're certain to see the rainbow flag. 

Bisexual pride flag

Bisexual pride flag

The bisexual pride flag is 20 years old

While the rainbow flag serves for the LGBT+ community as a whole, designer Michael Page decided that the bisexual community deserved its own flag to increase its visibility. And so it was that on 5 December 1998, the bisexual pride flag was launched at the BiCafe's first anniversary party.

Taking inspiration from his work with nonprofit bisexual community organisation BiNet USA, Page's flag sees pink and blue bands overlap, with a purple stripe forming in between them. Many people have interpreted these colours in terms of their traditional masculine and feminine associations.

However, when speaking about the history of the bisexual flag, Page revealed his intended meaning. "The pink colour represents sexual attraction to the same sex only (gay and lesbian). The blue represents sexual attraction to the opposite sex only (straight) and the resultant overlap colour purple represents sexual attraction to both sexes (bi)."

Pansexual pride flag

Pansexual pride flag

Pansexuality challenges societal prejudices

Continuing the band of colours approach, the pansexual pride flag has been around since 2010. As well as increasing the visibility and recognition of the pansexual community, the pride flag also helps to distinguish it from bisexuality.

This can be seen in the use of colours on the flag. Instead of a purple band sandwiched between blue and pink stripes, the pansexual pride flag opts for a bright yellow. The choice of colour in this case symbolises that pansexuals have romantic attractions and relationships with people of different genders and sexualities,  including androgynous, agender, bigender, and genderfluid people.

Yellow can be read as more of an ambiguous colour, which makes it perfect for representing non-binary attractions. The pink stripe stands for those who identify within the female spectrum, while blue represents the male spectrum.

Intersex pride flag

Intersex pride flag

No stripes or traditional 'gender colours' here

Not all Pride flags are based around striped designs. This flag represents the intersex community – defined as people who "do not fit the typical definitions for male or female bodies," according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Created in July 2013 by Organisation Intersex International Australia, the Intersex flag cleverly eschews colours with loaded gender meanings. Relying on yellow in a similar way to the pansexual pride flag, this design also uses purple as these colours were seen as appropriately hermaphrodite colours by the creators.

Free for use by any intersex person or organisation who wishes to use it in a human rights affirming context, the flag has been picked up by multiple media outlets and groups.

Asexual pride flag

Asexual pride flag

The asexual flag was fairly chosen by members of the community

Since 2010, the asexual flag has come to represent individuals with a low or absent desire for sexual activity. Since the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) first participated in an American pride parade in 2009, members consulted as many people in the community as possible to create a flag.

The chosen design can trace its roots back to visuals found on online forums outside of AVEN. This flag was also settled upon via a survey, making it one of the truly most democratic flags we've ever heard of.

Lesbian pride flag

Lesbian pride flag

This bold design has ancient origins

There are a variety of flags for lesbian members of the LGBT+ community, but this one jumped out at us thanks to its bold design. Gone are the multicoloured stripes so often associated with Pride flags, they've been replaced instead with a labrys.

The labrys, or double-bladed battle axe, used to be a symbol found in the ancient, fairly matriarchal civilisation of Minoan Crete. It makes sense then that over the years the axe has come to represent lesbian and feminist strength and self-sufficiency, as well as appearing on flags since the 1970s.

Transgender pride flag

Transgender pride flag

There is no wrong way to fly this flag

Individuals with a personal identity and gender that does not correspond with their birth sex have had a flag to call their own since 1999. Designed by transgender woman Monica Helms, the transgender pride flag was first flown as part of a pride parade in Phoenix, Arizona in 2000.

Once again we see pink and blue stripes used to represent females and males. In between these colours is a white stripe that stands for people who are intersex, transitioning, or have a neutral or undefined gender. Thanks to the way the flag is designed, there is no incorrect way to fly it, which Helms says signifies finding correctness in our lives.

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Dom Carter

Dom Carter is a freelance writer who specialises in art and design. Formerly a staff writer for Creative Bloq, his work has also appeared on Creative Boom and in the pages of ImagineFX, Computer Arts, 3D World, and .net. He has been a D&AD New Blood judge, and has a particular interest in picture books.