A Rainbow Flag at UUS:E

Pride - Rainbow FlagThe UUS:E Welcoming Congregation Steering Group (WCSG) would like to hang a rainbow flag on the main level of UUS:E. WSCG members feel strongly that hanging a rainbow flag is a powerful way to communicate to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer visitors that they are welcome at UUS:E—and not only welcome, but safe and free to bring their full selves into our community.

We’d like to get your feedback on hanging a flag.  We’ll be holding a congregation-wide conversation on January 5th at 1:00. What do you think? Can you support this gesture? Why or why not? What are your questions? If you can’t make it to the conversation, Rev. Josh is collecting feedback. Please feel free to email him at [email protected] or call 860-646-5151.

In the interest of educating UUS:E members and friends (and anyone visiting this website) about the origins of the rainbow flag as the symbol of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer community, identity and struggle, we offer this brief history: 

It was Harvey Milk – activist, visionary, trailblazer, and the first openly gay person to win a high public office in a major American Harvey Milkcity – as City Supervisor from the Castro District on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors – who challenged fellow activist Gilbert Baker to create a positivesymbol of hope and pride for the gay community. 

Empowered by Milk’s challenge, Baker, an artist and drag queen who sewed his own dresses, used eight colors to create the original Rainbow Flags raised at San Francisco Pride on June 25, 1978. According to Baker, the eight colors reflected the diversity of values in the LGBT community: pink represented sexuality; red, life; orange, healing; yellow, the sun; green, nature; blue, art; indigo, harmony; and violet, human spirit. 

Baker and his band of volunteers hand-dyed and hand-stitched the materials for the first Rainbow Flags, but the commercial unavailability of hot pink led Baker to an act of artistic compromise which resulted in a seven-striped logo suitable for mass production.       

The six-striped version of today’s Rainbow Flag evolved in the wake of Harvey Milk’s November, 1978 assassination, when San Francisco’s LGBT community decided to use Baker’s flag to demonstrate their solidarity and political strength at the 1979 Pride Parade. To enable the equal division of the flag’s colors along the parade route – three colors on one side of the street and three colors on the other, the 1979 Pride Parade Committee eliminated the indigo stripe, leaving the widely available remaining colors of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. 

While tradition dictates flying the Rainbow Flag horizontally, with the red stripe on top, as it would be in a natural rainbow, Gilbert Baker has said: “This flag has no rules. It has no protocol that governs its display. It is the community’s for the taking.”

 However it is displayed, the Rainbow Flag, the most visible icon of LGBTQ pride, inspires hope. It is a symbol of hope for unity in inclusiveness, hope for strength in diversity, hope for an end to relentless threats of violence and hate, hope for love, liberation, and equality. “The flag is an action – it’s more than just the cloth and the stripes. When a person puts the Rainbow Flag on [his] car or [his] house, they’re not just flying a flag. They’re taking action.”  Action which affirms the inherent worth and dignity of all people, through its enduring symbol of pride, in celebration of hope, love, support, personal safety and welcome to the LGBTQ community.

If “a true flag is not something you can really design . . . [but] is torn from the soul of the people,” then the soul of the people can be mended through love and hope. Choosing to prominently display the Rainbow Flag at UUS:E, we put our faith into action by standing on the side of love and healing with hope.