FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How did the rainbow flag become a gay symbol?
The rainbow flag, or gay pride flag, is a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) pride and LGBT social movements. It originated in California, designed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in 1978 and is is now a worldwide symbol of LGBT pride. The colors reflect the diversity of the LGBT community. The design has undergone several revisions adding and removing colors based on the availablitity of fabrics. Originally there were eight stripes: hot pink: sexuality; red: life; orange: healing; yellow: sunlight; green: nature; turquoise: magic/art; indigo/blue: serenity/harmony; violet: spirit. Hot pink was removed due to fabric unavailability(\(\(1978–79) and indigo and turquoise were changed to royal blue. As of 2008, the most common variant consists of six stripes, with the colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. The flag is commonly flown horizontally, with the red stripe on top, as it would be in a natural rainbow.
The original gay pride flag flew in the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25, 1978. It has been suggested that Baker was inspired by Judy Garland's singing "Over the Rainbow" and the Stonewall riots that happened a few days after Garland's death. The flag also strongly resembles the ribbon colors of the WWI Victory Medal, though no connection is evidenced. Another suggestion for how the rainbow flag originated is that at college campuses during the 1960s, some people demonstrated for world peace by carrying a Flag of the Races (also called the Flag of the Human Race) with five horizontal stripes (from top to bottom they were red, black, brown, yellow, and white). Gilbert Baker is said to have gotten the idea for the rainbow flag from this flag in borrowing it from the Hippie movement of that time largely influenced by pioneering gay activist Allen Ginsberg.
Why is a pink triangle considered a symbol of gay rights?
The pink triangle was derived from Nazi Death camps in WWII. Gay men were forced to wear pink triangles to mark them, as Jews wore the yellow Star of David. The gay power movement adopted the triangle to turn a symbol of degradation into one of pride. Lesbians, who were not singled out in the camps, were sometimes arrested as prostitutes and forced to wear the black triangle worn by those branded as criminals.
What does "lambda" mean?
In the early 1970s, in the wake of the Stonewall Rebellion (in which gays fought back for the first time against police harassment and repression), New York City's Gay Activists Alliance selected the Greek letter lambda as its emblem. Since then the lambda letter has spread throughout the world as a frequent symbol for gay rights organizations, such as the Lambda Legal Defense Fund (a gay rights legal services organization).
What do the letters LGBTQIA mean?
This is an acronym that is often ued to refer to the "Gay Community." Specifically, Lesbian, Gay , Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Queer, Intersex and Allies. Sometimes only the letters LGBT or GLBT are used. Other times additional letters such as GNC, gender non conforming or 2S, for individual who identify as two spirted are added.
What does "transgender" mean?
Although there is much variation in how the word is defined, most people use "transgender" to refer to individuals whose gender identity is not congruent with the sex they were assigned at birth. The word transsexual is an older trem which is no longer used.
Why is lavender often associated with the LGBT movement?
Connections between purple and ancient gay stories and traditions indicate that lavender has considerably more significance than the mixture of "female red" and "male blue" colors. Purple represents, brings about, and is present during radical transformation from one state of being to another.
Isn't the word "queer" an insult? How can using "queer" be a sign of pride?
It used to be an insult, and in some cases it still is used in an offensive way. Today, however the word has been taken back and is used by many individuals to describe their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. "Queer" is a very useful word because it is gender neutral.
Can "conversion therapy" change sexual orientation?
No. The reality is that homosexuality is not an illness. It does not require treatment and is not changeable. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the official manual that lists mental and emotional disorders. Two years later, the American Psychological Association resolved to support the removal. Ever since, both associations have urged all mental health professionals to help dispel the stigma of mental illness associated with homosexual orientation.
Why do some gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals tell people about their sexual orientation?
They tell about it because sharing that aspect of themselves with others is important to their mental health. In fact, the process of identity development for lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals, called coming out, has been found to be strongly related to psychological adjustment—the more positive the gay, lesbian, or bisexual identity, the better one's mental health and the higher one's self-esteem.
Are all gay and bisexual men HIV infected?
No. This is a commonly held myth. In reality, the risk of exposure to HIV is related to a person's behavior, not his or her sexual orientation. What's important to remember about HIV/AIDS is that it can be prevented by using safe sexual practices and by not using drugs.
What is cross dressing?
The desire to wear the clothing of the other sex is independent of one's sexual orientation. Many gay, bisexual, and heterosexual men like to wear women's clothing in private or in public and may even fantasize on occasion about becoming a woman. Most, however, have no desire to actually change their sex. These men are called crossdressers or transvestites, although the latter term has fallen out of favor. Women also crossdress, and in larger numbers than has previously been acknowledged.
What is Gay-Straight Alliance Network?
Gay-Straight Alliance Network is a youth leadership organization that works to empower youth activists to end harassment and discrimination in schools based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Founded in 1998, Gay-Straight Alliance Network (GSA Network) is the only student-led organization that networks Gay-Straight Alliance clubs in California.