THE STORY OF THE RAINBOW FLAG
Its colours are understood around the world, but who invented it?
If it wasn’t apparent beforehand, the photos of actor Tilda Swinton in Moscow or those of African lesbians and gays holding rainbow flags that blanketed the planet made clear that the rainbow flag is much more than just colourful homo kitsch; rather, it is a sign of resistance against injustice. Its colours are understood around the world. They are code promising a friendly welcome: lesbians, gays and transgender people are accepted here. Regardless of where you are in the world, if you know the local language or are travelling by your lonesome, the rainbow flag has become a slice of home, everywhere. The LGBTI rainbow flag was designed by American artist and activist Gilbert Baker, who waved his own very first, hand-sewn rainbow flag at the gay pride parade in San Francisco on June 25, 1978. Baker may have been inspired by the rainbow banners carried by mourning drag queens at Judy Garland’s funeral in New York City on June 27, 1969. Her version of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” is perhaps the ultimate ballad of longing and yearning. Legend has it that the utopia of a land beyond the rainbow, where even the most spectacular dreams come true became the inspiration for the Stonewall Riots that happened on Christopher Street early in the morning of June 29, 1969. The San Francisco gay pride parade committee named the rainbow flag as the symbol of the gay movement in 1979. In May of the same year, the murderer of gay city supervisor Harvey Milk got off with a very lenient sentence, which sparked the White Night Riots. The police, once again, were brutal in quelling the rioting lesbians, gays and transgendered people. Today, the rainbow flag isn’t just a reminder of the victories of one of the most successful social movements of the twentieth century and symbol of the diversity of the LGBTI community, it also gives hope to many people for a freer, more peaceful life of their own choosing.