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Green Carnation, Red Tie, Colored Handkerchiefs

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a green carnation and a red tie or neck scarf signaled the same-sex interests of the wearers. The green carnation was particularly associated with the Wilde circle and provided Robert Hichens with the title of his 1894 satire, The Green Carnation, published just a year before Wilde's catastrophic fall. The red tie, as a symbol of homosexuality, is seen in the paintings of Paul Cadmus.

In the early 1970s, an elaborate back-pocket handkerchief code was developed, with various colors signaling specific sexual preferences.

Equality Symbol

The equality symbol developed by the Human Rights Campaign, a cube in which an equal sign can be discerned in blue and yellow, is a familiar symbol on bumper stickers, magnets, caps, and other pieces of clothing, as well as on decals in the windows of places of business. It signifies commitment to equal rights for glbtq people.


Flags make a very public statement of membership in a group. As such, pride flags are a frequent feature of gay pride parades and are also flown at businesses that wish to identify themselves as gay-owned or gay-friendly and at the homes of people who wish to proclaim their pride.

Rainbow Flag

The best known of the flags representing the glbtq community, the rainbow flag was designed in 1978 by Gilbert Baker for the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade.

The two flags flown in the 1978 parade were produced by Baker and volunteers at the San Francisco Gay Center who dyed the fabrics for the eight stripes, each of which represented a concept.

The colors of the original flags were hot pink for sexuality, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for the sun, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony, and violet for spirit.

After the appearance of the rainbow flags in the parade, there was a public demand for them, and they went into commercial production but in a modified form. Since hot pink, turquoise, and indigo material was costly and difficult to obtain, the first two colors were eliminated and the third changed to blue.

Baker plans to restore the two deleted colors in a monumental flag that will be a centerpiece of the June 2003 PrideFest in Key West, Florida. The 1.25-mile-long flag will stretch across the island from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.

Another huge rainbow flag was part of the 1994 New York pride parade, which marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of Stonewall. The marchers who carried the flag had contributed money for AIDS charities. At the end of the parade each flag-bearer received a piece of the giant banner.

AIDS activist Leonard Matlovich suggested that a black stripe be added to the bottom of the flag to commemorate the suffering of people with AIDS. Once a cure was found, the stripes would be removed and burned. This version of the flag has not been widely used.

Two of the more common variations of the rainbow flag add either a white lambda or a pink triangle near the upper left corner. Another rendition called "New Glory" is based on the flag of the United States. It retains the fifty stars on a blue field but replaces the thirteen red and white stripes with the six stripes of the rainbow flag.

The rainbow motif of the flag has become a symbol in its own right. The six colored stripes are the basis of the design for a variety of products, including clothing, jewelry, bumper stickers, key chains, and stuffed toys.

The logo of the Rainbow Sash Movement, an organization of gay and lesbian Catholics, incorporates the cross, the pink triangle, and the stripes of the rainbow flag.

Bisexual Pride Flag

The bisexual pride flag was designed by Michael Page, who felt the need for a colorful and easily recognizable emblem specifically for bisexual people. He chose a simple pattern of a pink stripe and a blue one overlapping to form purple. According to Page, the uppermost pink stripe, which covers two-fifths of the flag, represent same-sex attraction; the blue, which covers an equal portion at the base of the flag, symbolizes heterosexual attraction; and the purple stripe making up the central one fifth stands for bisexuality.

Page made the decision not to trademark or patent the flag in order to encourage people to use it freely.

The flag was first presented on December 5, 1998 and has subsequently been displayed at glbtq events around the world.

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