It's Time To Start Using The Progress Pride Flag

LGBTQA+ symbology has a history of evolution. Widespread adoption of the Progress Pride flag is the next step.

In the West, many recognise rainbow flags as a symbol of LGBTQA+ liberation. Few however, know the history behind its adoption.

The first version of the rainbow flag was designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978, at the request of his friend, Harvey Milk. This version of the flag had 8 stripes (hot pink, red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, blue and indigo). After Milk’s assassination, demand for the flag outstripped the availability of hot pink dye, leading to a 7-stripe redesign. By 1979, turquoise was dropped to create an even number of stripes, and the pride flag as we recognise it was born.

Nowadays, there are many versions of the pride flag used by various different identities: the pink, purple and blue Bi Pride flag, blue, pink and white Trans Pride flag, and the pink, yellow and blue Pansexual Pride flag, to name just a few. But bar a few tweaks, the rainbow flag, has remained fairly unchanged since its inception in 1979.

This was until Daniel Quasar designed the Progress flag in 2018. Inspired by an earlier design used in Philadelphia, Quasar added a chevron on the left of the rainbow flag, comprising black, brown, blue, pink and white stripes. His intention was to draw attention to the progress yet to be made for queer black and indigenous communities, those living with HIV (and those who have fallen victim to the disease), and trans and gender non-conforming individuals.

When it was launched in 2018, the redesign was divisive, prompting backlash from (largely white) members of the community who felt that the flag promoted division and a focus on gender and identity politics.

However, following the events of 2020, such as the brutal murder at the hands of police of George Floyd, the growing support for the Black Lives Matter movement globally, and the vitriol levelled at trans people by public figures and the media (see J.K Rowling), adoption of the Progress flag has been steadily growing.

As with many things ruined by Covid-19 in 2020, the adoption of the rainbow as a symbol of solidarity with NHS workers by the UK government and others may well contribute to the decline in use of the 1979 Pride Flag, as it is no longer clear whether a rainbow in a store window denotes support for queer liberation, or solidarity with the NHS.

Symbols evolve. Before the Pride flag, pink triangles served a similar function. Before this, green carnations were a popular and subtle method of hinting at homosexuality, popularised by Oscar Wilde. Indeed, the first version of the Lesbian Pride flag featured a black triangle and labrys, both of which were dropped due to their Nazi and neo-Nazi connotations.

To summarise, use of the Progress flag can help LGBTQA+ communities, particularly those who continue to be the most marginalised in society (namely BIPOC and trans people) feel welcome and safe in both queer spaces and those of allies. Post 2020, it will be hard to differentiate a Pride rainbow from an NHS one, and it is therefore vital that allies signal their support overtly. It’s time to make the switch.


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