• Cara Cilento

The Progress Pride Flag and E Pluribus Unum: Aren’t They The Same?

Gilbert Baker's six-stripe rainbow flag has been the worldwide recognized emblem of the LGBT community for 42 years. For those readers who do not know what the LGBTQ meaning is or what it stands for, it is an acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer or Questioning. These terms are used to describe a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, but the LGBTQ flag is more than that. The conceptual LGBTQ meaning of the flag is to represent a community. It has given a marginalized group a sense of belonging and a camaraderie. Some even say that the acronym LGBTQ was widely accepted to refer to the community because of the flag. But was that true? And if it was, does it still hold true today?

Opening The Discussion about LGBTQ Meaning

There has always been a lot of discussion about the LGBTQ meaning and who it includes. There have been additions to the acronym, like LGBTQIA and LGBTQIA2s+, in an effort to include everyone however, this is the first year there has been a widely accepted change to Baker’s flag. People all around the world have adopted ‘The Progress Flag' as their communal symbol instead of the rainbow striped flag most people have grown accustomed to seeing. But what brought about this change and why? The flag has historically been representational of the marginalized LGBTQ community. Further, one would assume that, by definition, the LGBTQ community has embraced inclusiveness and acceptance, but the flag, on the other hand, was not so reflective.

The original flag, designed by Gilbert Baker, was designed to empower his "tribe" and a "rainbow of humanity". His goal was to reflect the LGBTQ community's variety. His idea, based on the concept of color as a meaning-creating agent, had eight colored stripes. Each had symbolic significance. He chose eight colors for the stripes, each of which had a different significance to him: hot pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony, and violet for spirit. However, due to production problems, the pink and turquoise stripes were removed, and indigo was substituted with basic blue, resulting in the current six-striped flag we see today. All of the many hues came to represent both the enormous variety and the unifying nature of the LGBT community, but that was just it. It represented only the LGBTQ community as it was perceived in 1978, not the LGBTQ+ community today nor was it representative of any other marginalized group. Enter 2018, with political and societal changes afoot, a new flag was created.

The New Pride Flag

The new flag, called “The Progress Pride Flag, was designed by Daniel Quasar in 2018. He used black and brown stripes to represent people of color and baby blue, pink, and white to represent the trans community. Reportedly, it was based on the Philadelphia Pride flag, which included black and brown stripes. Quasar’s flag gained traction on Kickstarter. A statement posted to the Quasar’s Kickstarter page stated that the goal of the campaign was to emphasize "what is important in our current community climate," which Quasar defined as the inclusion of Black, Brown, and trans people who have been historically marginalized by the mainstream LGBTQ+ community. Given the history of Baker’s flag, Quasar wasn’t entirely wrong. But colors were not the only addition to Quasar’s Progress Pride Flag. There was a design change added as well.

The new form changes from the original design, which consisted solely of horizontal stripes. Quasar stacked the old six-color rainbow next to the new Progress Pride Flag. This created a triangular shape with the white, pink, baby blue, black, and brown stripes forming a triangle. With this design, Quasar communicated a clear distinction between the LGBTQ meaning, the LGBTQ community and the significant concerns of POC (People of Color) and trans rights. He used the triangle to represent an arrow to emphasize that further progress is needed to move forward.

How The New Flag Represents more inclusion

The new flag is meant to pay respect to the people who launched the movement while also calling attention to the fact that people of color and trans people continue to be neglected and discriminated against when contrasted to White, cis queer people of privilege. Sound great? Many people think so, but this is not to say the new inclusive design is not without controversy within the LGBTQ community and outside it.

Some people feel that all flags have a purpose from political purpose to a functional one. For example, flags must wave. They must be able to be seen from far away and conceptually, they must be about unification. Under these conditions, only straightforward designs are useful for making functional flags. Many argue Quasar’s design is not functional rather it is too complex. Since complex flags are more expensive to produce, The Progress Pride Flag may have limited availability for widespread usage. Further, many critics believed that in Quasar’s attempt to unify and include everyone, he fell prey to the temptation of including a symbol for everyone and in so doing nullified his original intent.

Gilbert Baker was a generous man. In fact, he intentionally did not copywrite the flag he had created so it could be used and interpreted freely. That in itself was an intriguing point to consider when analyzing Quasar’s Pride Progress Flag and a point for intellectual debate. In May of 2021, intersex columnist and media personality Valentino Vecchietti designed another rendition of the rainbow Pride flag based on Quasar’s reboot of Baker’s original flag. This one includes a purple circle in the yellow triangle to include the intersex community. But again, were all these additions and changes necessary? Many people think so and that it all stays within the wishes of Gilbert Baker.

Baker stated that he had made the flag for everyone and intended it to stay freely available for public use. He felt so strongly about the free use of his flag that he retained the services of LGBTQ+ civil rights attorney to represent him in the event that an advocacy organization attempted to copyright it. It has been said that Baker felt that the flag was his gift to the world and his life’s work. It was meant to become a universal symbol for inclusion, peace and love. So, the question remains. Do Quasar’s and Vecchietti’s follow the inclusive legacy Baker fought to leave behind or does it promote the individualism of a community? Only time will tell.

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