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The History and Meaning Behind the LGBTQ+ Flag Colors

Ever wanted to know how to wear your particular brand of pride? Here’s everything you need to know about LGBT colors and what they represent.
Grindr
&
Editorial team
December 18, 2023
June 20, 2024
5
min. read
Table of Contents

The LGBTQ spectrum is only getting more colorful. These days, we're representing everyone and their mother (or daddy?).

Every day, more people are welcomed into our loving circle of sex and gender positivity. People who are agender, non-binary, genderqueer, and intersex are garnering increasing representation, including colors on Pride flags and flags of their very own. More people are recognizing the colors of the bisexual flag and trans pride flag. 

But did you know there's a long, storied history behind many of these colors? That's right: The Pride flag isn't just the way it is because “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is gay canon. A lot of thought, care, and struggle went into these celebratory colors of pride and openness.

The origin of LGBTQ colors

The development of the Pride flag started in California, the mecca of the gay rights movement. Artists and activists, including Gilbert Baker, Lynn Segerblom, and James McNamara, collaboratively designed the flag for its 1978 debut.

Since then, the OG Pride flag has inspired many variations to further increase visibility for people across (and outside) the sexual and gender spectrum, including intersex and pansexual individuals. It has become the definitive symbol of the fight for LGBTQ rights and a mainstay at Pride parades everywhere.

1978 was also the year San Francisco City Supervisor and gay activist Harvey Milk was assassinated. Demand for the flag skyrocketed as queer people and their allies ramped up their efforts for greater acceptance.

The fight continues today, and the rainbow flag is regularly updated to include everyone in the struggle. The Progress Pride Flag, a newer variant, features the transgender flag colors as well as black and brown to represent queer people of color. The added colors intersect the original stripes in a right-facing triangle — an arrow evoking the forward march of progress.

But the changes didn't stop with the Progress Pride Flag. The most recent update includes a purple circle over a yellow triangle to represent the intersex community.

The more inclusive our symbolism can be, the better. That's the point of pride, after all — being your most authentic self without shame, knowing you're beautiful just as you are.

The rainbow flag: Multicolored emblem of unity

Everyone knows what a rainbow looks like, but how many know the meaning behind LGBT colors? There's a meaning behind each color on the pride flag, all coming together to demonstrate the true values of the LGBTQ community. As an added bonus, rainbows match with everything. Très chic!

The original flag had eight colors, but it got pared down to six over time. Despite differences between those rainbow colors and the LGBT flag we know today, the remaining colors retain Baker’s original intention.

  • Red: The red on the Pride flag signifies life and passion. It’s no surprise that such a bold color is at the helm of the LGBTQ flag.
  • Orange: With its feeling of fun and vibrance, the orange on the Pride flag represents healing.
  • Yellow: Yellow on the Pride flag symbolizes sunlight. It's the perfect color for opening up to fresh ideas and keeping yourself out in the light where you belong!
  • Green: Green portrays nature and growth. It reminds us to keep growing into the most genuine, unapologetic versions of ourselves.
  • Blue: Blue highlights calm and serenity. It reaffirms the importance of peace and harmony to the cause and individual happiness.
  • Purple: Purple represents spirit. It's the end cap that reminds us we're in this together and should never give up on each other.

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Beyond the rainbow: Expanding the palette

Anyone paying attention has probably noticed that various flag iterations have expanded well beyond the original palette of LGBT colors. That’s because the definition of queer is always evolving. Whether you’re a bisexual babe, non-binary knockout, or asexual adventurer, greater representation and solidarity are beautiful things!

But since these LGBT flag color meanings aren’t as well known, here's a crash course behind the color theory of some other pride flag variants:

Pink

Pink was included in the original Pride flag to represent sex. Since then, it has been incorporated into the lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, genderfluid, and transgender flags, often representing aspects of femininity or same-sex attraction.

Turquoise

This is another color from the original Pride flag that didn’t make it into the modern, simplified design. For Baker, it represented magic and art. Everyone knows the creativity of the queer community is nothing short of mystifying, whether we’re designing jaw-dropping clothes, tearing up the dance floor to iconic tunes, or uttering all-time banger quotes that will go down in gay history.

Black

Black was introduced in some versions as a way to honor and remember those we've lost to HIV/AIDS. It's an oft-forgotten time in queer history, especially now that we have revolutionary treatments and medications for the condition. 

Brown

The Progress Pride Flag incorporates brown to increase visibility for queer people of color. It’s just another way these colors remind us that we can rely on our community to stand in solidarity while celebrating our differences.

Light blue, white, and pink

Like black and brown, this color combo has made its way onto many modern flags, including the Progress Pride Flag. The colors represent transgender pride and visibility, a crucial aspect of the queer movement.

Lavender

Shortly before he died in 2017, Baker updated his original eight-stripe rainbow flag, adding a ninth lavender stripe to represent diversity. It’s a reminder to let your freak flag fly, no matter what colors you resonate with!

Find the hue that speaks to you

It doesn't matter if you're a summer or a winter; the Pride flag is so your color. With the many beautiful variations of both people and palettes, there will always be a place for you at the table. And the flag store. And probably an Old Navy if it's Pride Month.

Want to connect with your community? Meet fellow LGBTQ people of all shades on Grindr. Download the app, or browse hands-free using Grindr Web — the same Grindr you know and love, now available on your laptop or PC with no download required.

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