Lesbian Flag: Understanding Its History, Meaning, and Significance

Unravel the vibrant hues of the lesbian flag because each color unravels a compelling story about lesbian identity, history, and the community’s shared experiences.

The lesbian flag, often referred to as the “lipstick lesbian” flag, is a symbol of lesbian and homosexual pride and lesbian communities. It was introduced in the late 20th century and has evolved over the years.

The flag, with its shades of pink and red stripes and a lipstick mark in the top left corner, was initially created to represent feminine lesbians. However, it has faced criticism for not being inclusive enough.

In response, a new version of the lesbian flag, featuring seven stripes in shades from pink to orange, was introduced in 2018. This version is widely accepted due to its inclusivity and representation of diversity within the lesbian community.

Stay with me as we delve into the history, design, and meaning of these flags, and their significance in today’s society.

Key takeaways:

  • Lesbian flag represents diverse lesbian identities and experiences.
  • Initially criticized for lack of inclusivity, a more inclusive version was introduced in 2018.
  • Each color on the flag carries a unique meaning and symbolizes different aspects of lesbian identity.
  • The flag is widely used in Pride parades, digital platforms, and merchandise.
  • Controversies surround the origin and design of the flag, but its primary purpose is unity and pride.

History of the Lesbian Flag

history of the lesbian flag

Initially surfacing in the 1990s, the iconic pink-striped flag was designed by Sean Campbell, a gay man. It often gets conflated with the lipstick lesbian flag, introduced in the early 2010s, which added a shade of lipstick red to the original pink design. This version, however, faced criticism for its perceived focus on femininity.

Embracing a more inclusive representation, in 2018 designer Emily Gwen came up with the modern lesbian flag, displaying a gradient from dark to light orange stripes. The change was welcomed, considering its broader appeal, stepping away from focusing on a prevalent type of femininity, and serving as a collective symbol for lesbians of all shades, ages, and sizes. The orange color palette was chosen to symbolize self-respect, freedom, and the right to love without societal shackles. It’s crucial to remember that these flags are not simply pieces of cloth but symbols of a continuous journey towards inclusivity and acceptance.

Colors in the Lesbian Flag

Originally, the lesbian flag consisted of seven colors inspired by shades of lipstick, symbolizing diversity within the lesbian community. Each color on the flag carries a unique and thoughtful meaning:

  • Dark Pink: This color stands for gender non-conformity, embracing those who identify outside traditional gender norms.
  • Light Pink: Signifies serenity and peace within the community and with oneself.
  • White: Represents unique relationships to womanhood, acknowledging the varying experiences across the spectrum of gender identity.
  • Purple/Pink: Symbolizes ‘butch’ lesbians, appreciating this integral section of the lesbian community.
  • Dark Rose: Embodies love and sex, two vital components of any romantic relationship.
  • Light Rose: Highlights femininity, honoring an important part of many lesbians’ identity.
  • Burgundy: Illustrates autonomy and the shared commitment to independence in the lesbian community.

The flag’s colors are intended to bring unity, embrace diversity, and encourage inclusivity, embodying a sense of community pride and empowerment.

Symbols Associated With the Lesbian Flag

During its evolution, the flag adopted seven horizontal stripes with individual color symbolism. The topmost, dark orange, signifies ‘gender nonconformity’, marking a significant departure from traditional norms.

Light orange, follows next, representing ‘independence’ – the autonomous spirit often symbolizing the community.

A white stripe introduces neutrality or ‘unique relationships with womanhood’. Then comes a light pink stripe, marking ‘serenity and peace’, key elements of unity in diversity.

The dark pink stripe embodies ‘self-love and self-respect’, the cornerstones of identity positivism.

Lastly, the dark rose color stands for ‘love and sex’, which alludes to the sensual aspect intertwined with emotional connections and love.

These varying shades of orange through pink are not mere ornamental hues but convey a layered narrative of the lesbian community as diverse, vibrant, resilient, and most importantly, proud.

Different Designs of the Lesbian Flag

Throughout its evolution, the lesbian flag has seen numerous designs, each representing unique aspects of lesbian identity and community.

One of the earliest forms was the “Labrys Lesbian Flag”, represented by a purple field with a black labrys (double-headed axe), a symbol drawn from ancient mythologies.

Then came the “Pink Lesbian Flag”, heavily inspired by lipstick lesbian subculture, showcasing a palette of different shades of reds and pinks.

The “Seven Striped Lesbian Flag”, which gained popularity in 2018, features a gradient of colors from dark orange at the top to white in the middle, and pink at the bottom. Each color symbolizes different aspects – from gender nonconformity to independence and community.

Another interpretation, the “Orange Lesbian Flag” excludes the lipstick pink shade, leaning more into orange and peach hues, aiming for a more inclusive representation.

It’s important to note, these flag designs express the diversity within the lesbian community and each has evolved in response to the community’s need for representation.

Representation and Meaning of the Lesbian Flag

Diving deeper into the colors, each stripe on the lesbian flag holds a distinctive symbolic meaning. The top pink shade stands for gender non-conformity, flowing down to a lighter pink shade representative of independence. The middle white stripe is a nod to unique relationships that only exist within the lesbian community. The shade of light pink beneath it signifies serenity and peace, while the dark pink at the bottom expresses love and strength of women-loving women communities.

Over time, the flag has evolved to include an orange stripe, which signifies community and unifying spirit of lesbian women. Together these colors form a powerful symbol embodying the diverse identities, experiences, and expressions that exist within the lesbian community.

The lesbian flag serves not just as a vibrant visual emblem, but also as a radiant assertion of love, solidarity, and pride. A beacon of the lesbian community, the flag empowers individuals to have the courage to live authentically and freely, highlighting the importance of visibility and representation.

Usage of the Lesbian Flag

Vividly colored and exuberant, the lesbian flag is liberally used in a multitude of ways. It adorns countless Pride parades, accessorizing outfits, floating high in the air as banners, or painted colorfully on faces. Participants proudly display it as a public expression of identity, solidarity, resistance, and pride.

The flag is also a prominent fixture at LGBTIQ+ events beyond Pride, such as film festivals, theatre performances, and panel discussions, serving as a symbol of lesbian visibility. Physical spaces like coffee shops, bookstores, or community centers catering to the LGBTIQ+ community often display the lesbian flag to create an atmosphere of inclusivity and to cue a safe space.

There’s a growing trend of the flag being used in digital platforms too. From profile pictures on social media to symbols in email signatures, it plays a significant role in the virtual world, enabling individuals to express their identity and support.

Notably, artists, designers, and merchandise creators use the flag as a design element. From clothing and accessory designs to wall art, the range of merchandise featuring the flag is vast and continues to expand.

Finally, the flag functions as a tool for activism. It’s seen in protest marches, sit-ins, and political rallies, empowering individuals and groups advocating for equality and rights, making it more than just a decorative item, infusing it with meaning and purpose. It’s truly a powerful emblem of identity, pride, resistance, and unity.

Controversies Around the Lesbian Flag

Despite its widespread use, the lesbian flag has been a subject of contention within certain circles. The most significant concerns pertain to its origins, the reasons for its design change, and the implications of its symbolism.

A key issue revolves around the genesis of the flag. Initially, the ‘lipstick lesbian’ flag was embraced by many, but it was later criticized, as it arguably represented a very specific subset of the lesbian community – namely, those who identify as feminine or ‘lipstick’ lesbians. The claim was that it was not inclusive enough, failing to incorporate diverse lesbian identities.

More controversy surfaced when it was revealed that the creator of the ‘lipstick lesbian’ flag, Natalie McCray, had reportedly made biphobic and transphobic remarks. These revelations led many in the lesbian community to distance themselves from the original flag.

Lastly, the shift from the ‘lipstick lesbian’ flag to the seven striped ‘sunset’ flag was not devoid of debate. Critics argue the new design fails to acknowledge the history and struggles of the lesbian community. The seven-stripe flag is seen as too similar to the general LGBTQ+ rainbow flag, potentially causing confusion.

Regardless of these disputes, many understand that the aim of the flag is to represent lesbians in their diversity and strength. As such, its primary purpose remains unchanged – to provide an emblematic symbol of unity and pride.

Making a DIY Lesbian Flag

Crafting your lesbian flag at home isn’t as daunting as it may sound! You’ll need fabric swatches in the colors associated with the flag – typically shades of pink, orange, white, and sometimes red. While a sewing machine can be helpful for this project, hand-stitching ultimately works just as well. If you’re artistically inclined, you can even paint the stripes on canvas for some distinctive flair.

Here’s a step-by-step process to get started:

  • 1. Gather your materials – pink, orange, white, and sometimes red fabric or paint depending on your preference, and a canvas if you choose to paint.
  • 2. Measure and cut your fabric into equal sections, or mark equal sections on your canvas for painting.
  • 3. Sew together the strips of fabric, ensuring the edges are even. If you’re painting, start at the top and work your way down, allowing each stripe to dry before starting the next.
  • 4. Iron the sewn flag or seal the painted flag with a clear coat to secure the colours.
  • 5. Attach your flag to a pole, or frame and hang your painted flag.

Remember, the most important part of this DIY project is to have fun and make it your own. This is about expressing your identity and pride, so don’t shy away from adding your personal twist! Happy crafting!

Evolution of the Lesbian Flag

Tracing the lineage of the Lesbian Flag brings us back to 1999, when social activist Sean Campbell designed a pink flag to symbolize lesbianism. This version consisted of six shades of red and pink colors with a white bar in the center.

However, many felt the flag was too associated with lipstick lesbians, a subset of the lesbian community. Therefore, in 2008, the blog ‘This Lesbian Life’ proposed a new version, colored seven horizontal stripes ranging from pink to white to purple.

Despite this attempt to promote inclusivity, the flag still wasn’t widely accepted due to the lack of representation of all lesbians.

A more inclusive design materialized in 2018, also known as ‘the Sunset’ flag. It’s a seven-striped flag with shades of orange and pink inspired by Natalie McCray’s lipstick lesbian flag. To avoid any association with the controversial lipstick flag, the lipstick mark was dropped from this version.

This flag gained immense popularity and is now one of the most recognized symbols of the lesbian community worldwide, shining in vibrant hues throughout parades, protests, and pride celebrations. The evolution of the Lesbian Flag reflects the continually changing, and diversifying facets of the lesbian community and their relentless pursuit for representation and acceptance.

The Lesbian Flag in Art and Culture

Throughout various artistic mediums, the lesbian flag has consistently been a depiction of pride, struggle, and identity. It has filled canvases in the form of modern art and adorned walls within a myriad of urban settings as street art. Cinema and theater have also not lagged in utilizing this symbol. LGBTQ+ film festivals and plays often display the lesbian flag prominently, alluding to both the genre and the intended audience.

The flag finds home in popular culture too. In television, it frequently pops up, signaling the character or plot’s alignment with lesbian issues. Additionally, literature, particularly within LGBTQ+ genres, often uses reference or images of the flag on cover designs or within the text.

As a fundamental symbol of identification and rallying, the creative spaces are extensive. Music videos, particularly of pop artists who identify as lesbian or support the community, showcase the colors of the flag both subtly and openly as a means of conveying their alliance.

Musicians, actors, writers, and artists aligned with the community have also incorporated the flag’s elements into their personal brand logos, album covers, or promotional material. In essence, the ever-evolving cultural landscape has dramatically amplified the exposure and representation of the lesbian flag.

The Lesbian Flag in LGBTIQ+ Activism

Distinct from the gay pride flag, the lesbian flag has been emblematic in furthering lesbian visibility within the broader LGBTIQ+ movement. Its earliest adoption can be traced to protests and rallies, helping set lesbian concerns apart and emphasizing their unique issues within the gay rights movement.

The flag saw increased importance during the ‘Lavender Menace’ protest in 1970, where lesbians fought against their erasure in the feminist movement, making their presence known by utilizing elements of what would later be incorporated into the lipstick lesbian flag.

In recent years, the flag has sustained efforts in highlighting lesbian issues within diverse LGBTIQ+ initiatives. This includes recent global struggles against anti-lesbian legislations and stigmas, where the flag garners recognition and solidarity.

Moreover, the flag’s internet presence has also played a key role. Online communities have utilized it in calling out and addressing lesbophobia and creating safe digital spaces for lesbians worldwide. The flag’s digital representation is ever-growing, with its usage in avatars, banners, and posts acting as a powerful tool for online lesbian activism.

Though it’s just a symbol, the lesbian flag has transcended its visual representation, continually acting as a rallying point in lesbian activism, aiding in asserting their unique identity within the broader LGBTIQ+ movement.

Famous Icons Associated With the Lesbian Flag

Key personalities have lent their voices and status to champion the visibility and acceptance of the lesbian community, often being openly represented with the lesbian flag. These figures span across diverse fields, from entertainment to politics.

Firstly, comedienne and TV host Ellen DeGeneres, whose coming out in 1997 on her sitcom, Ellen, was a game-changing moment in television history. Her visibility and advocacy landed her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.

Secondly, musician and artist LP (Laura Pergolizzi), often seen adorning t-shirts with the lesbian flag, has been a pillar of representation. Her chart-topping tracks have resonated deeply within the community and have made her a notable icon.

Another important name is Tammy Baldwin, a United States senator who broke the glass ceiling as the first openly lesbian person elected to the U.S Congress. Baldwin’s resilient advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights extends far beyond the political sphere.

Lastly, actors like Portia de Rossi and Sarah Paulson have also played a part. Both have been candid about their sexuality and relationships, becoming quintessential advocates seen often alongside the symbol of the lesbian flag.

These figures, with their influence and openness, have tremendously contributed to the recognition and understanding of the flag and the community it represents.

The Lesbian Flag in Digital Media

In the era of social media and virtual meetings, the visibility of the lesbian flag has skyrocketed. These digital platforms amplify its symbolic power and influence, granting differential public spaces for the lesbian community to express their identity, solidarity, and pride.

1. Profile Pictures: Social media users often change their profile pictures during Pride month or in support of equal rights campaigns, frequently incorporating the lesbian flag.

2. Emojis and Stickers: Both big tech firms and indie developers have created emojis and stickers featuring the lesbian flag.

3. Virtual Backgrounds: Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other video conferencing platforms now allow users to personalize backgrounds, often including the option to use the lesbian flag.

4. Drawing Attention to Causes: The presence of the lesbian flag in social media posts or campaigns can attract more visibility to LGBTQ+ issues, fostering a broader discourse.

5. Hashtags: The flag can also feature in digital campaigns related to LGBTQ+ causes, sometimes attached to trending hashtags.

6. Digital Art: Artists often incorporate the lesbian flag into different forms of digital art, such as graphic designs, indie games, or animations, expressing appreciation and standing together with the community.

7. Online Communities: In forums, chatrooms, and other virtual spaces, the lesbian flag often serves as an identifier, helping to create a sense of community and belonging.

Political Influence of the Lesbian Flag

Building on its role as a symbol of identity and pride, the lesbian flag has emerged as an influential political tool. Its colors serve as an unequivocal statement of solidarity, resistance, and visibility. It is often hoisted during political campaigns championing rights and equality for the LGBTIQ+ community, acting as a beacon of lesbian visibility.

In legislations around sexual orientation discrimination, the flag has been used as a visual reminder of the group that advocates are fighting for. Moreover, it is featured prominently in protests and rallies aimed at challenging prejudiced laws and societal norms, serving as a symbol of lesbian cohesion.

Beyond domestic politics, the lesbian flag has impacted international relations. For instance, in countries where LGBTIQ+ rights are under threat, the presence of the flag outside embassies can provoke diplomatic discussions. It can also steer the discourse on human rights, influencing the direction of global policies.

Emerging from a digital space to tangible political activism, interactions with the lesbian flag, such as waving, wearing, or posting it online, have become acts of political expression. With every display, it communicates the community’s demands for recognition, respect, and equal rights, demonstrating the substantial political weight the flag holds.

Global Perception of the Lesbian Flag

Internationally, there’s a mixed yet evolutionary understanding of the lesbian flag. In countries with legalized same-sex marriages and established LGBTQ+ rights, the flag serves as a recognizable emblem of lesbian identity and community. Annual pride parades prominently feature the flag in some of the progressive countries, signifying the acceptance and celebration of diversity, akin to other well-recognized symbols in the LGBTQ+ arena.

However, societies with less public focus on LGBTQ+ rights might be unaware of the flag’s specific symbolism, occasionally mistaking it for the more general rainbow pride flag. This underscores the necessity of education and awareness about the distinct identities within the LGBTQ+ community worldwide.

In regions with restrictive laws against homosexuality, the lesbian flag, much like other LGBTQ+ symbols, can be perceived as a challenge, even a threat. Yet, it’s also used as a secret token and a symbol of unity, a beacon for those battling societal prejudice.

The increased visibility of the lesbian flag on international digital platforms, be it social media, streaming services, or video games, has fostered a global understanding, albeit gradual, about the diverse love it represents. Over time, it’s a cultural shift that continues to gain momentum toward general recognition and acceptance.

Role of the Lesbian Flag in Pride Parades

In Pride parades globally, the Lesbian flag serves as a significant emblem. It contributes to the overall visibility of the lesbian community, asserting the unique identity and space within the broader LGBTQ+ spectrum.

Here are a few ways this happens:

  • It’s often carried or worn by participants, making a vibrant display of belonging and solidarity. This visual expression aids in building community pride and unity.
  • The flag decorates floats or stalls contributing to the aesthetic dimension of the parades, also further underscoring the presence of the lesbian community.
  • When spectators view the flag, they may be prompted to learn more about its symbolism, leading to a broader understanding and appreciation of the lesbian community.
  • The flag’s presence in parades can inspire conversations about lesbian history and rights, fostering a more inclusive and knowledgeable environment.

Each Pride parade where the Lesbian flag is raised acknowledges the struggles and achievements of the lesbian community, while celebrating and highlighting its importance within the LGBTQ+ collective narrative.

Gender and the Lesbian Flag

Traditionally, the lesbian community has been associated with the female gender. Still, as various understandings of gender have evolved, so too has the perception of what it means to identify as a lesbian. The representation of gender diversity in the community is captured in the various colors of the lesbian flag, indicating its openness and inclusivity.

Firstly, the flag’s design refutes the notion that being a lesbian is confined to cisgender women. It includes shades that symbolize non-binary and genderqueer lesbians, embracing the wider spectrum of gender identities.

Secondly, the inclusive nature of the flag demonstrates recognition of gender as a fluid concept. It encourages individuals to identify as they feel most comfortable, disregarding antiquated standards or societal norms.

Finally, the flag highlights the diversity within the lesbian community. It subliminally communicates the idea that no two experiences are necessarily the same, proving there’s not a singular ‘right’ way to be a lesbian. This concept emphasizes acceptance of varied identities, promoting unity while respecting individuality.

Thus, the lesbian flag serves as a wide-ranging beacon, communicating acknowledgment and validation of lesbians across the full spectrum of gender identities.

Intersectionality and the Lesbian Flag

Intersectionality, being a complex principle of overlapping identities and experiences, plays a crucial role within the lesbian community. The lesbian flag stands as a symbol of unity, however, it’s important to acknowledge the diversity among lesbian individuals. Different flags have been created to represent various intersections within the community such as race, ethnicity, disability status, socioeconomic status etc.

For example, consider the black and brown stripes added to some variations of the flag. These additions aim to represent lesbians of color, acknowledging the compounded discrimination they may face because of both their sexuality and racial identity.

Flags of similar note incorporate elements to represent disabled lesbians, neurodivergent lesbians, and those of various socioeconomic backgrounds. This highlights the principle of intersectionality – comprehending that a person’s social and political identities might intersect, creating unique experiences of discrimination or privilege.

Acknowledging these different experiences under the umbrella of lesbian identity can foster greater inclusivity and solidarity within the community. The intersectional lens therefore is not just a concept but a tool for social justice advocacy. The lesbian flag as a symbol stands as a representation of these multiple layers of identity, experiences and struggle.

This recognition of intersectionality doesn’t downplay the notion of community. Rather, it enriches it, inviting dialogues and mutual respect among diverse groups within the community. The ultimate goal being meaningful representation and unity amidst beautiful diversity.

Differences Between the Lesbian Flag and Other LGBTIQ+ Flags

While all flags under the LGBTIQ+ banner aim to represent specific identities within the community, the designs, colors, and meanings differ significantly.

The most prominent flag of the LGBTIQ+ community, the Rainbow Flag, famous for its six-color stripes, represents diversity within the community. Each color signifies a different aspect of life, such as life (red), healing (orange), sunlight (yellow), nature (green), harmony (blue), and spirit (purple).

On the other hand, the lesbian flag, specifically the “Pink” lesbian flag, consists of seven different shades of pink, white, and orange, each carrying distinct meanings. Ranging from dark pink to white, they represent gender non-conformity, independence, community, unique relationships to womanhood, serenity and peace respectively. It’s worth noting that this is not the only lesbian flag, but currently the most widely accepted one.

The Bisexual Flag and Transgender Flag, like the Lesbian Flag, have their unique color combinations and corresponding meanings. The Bisexual Flag has pink, purple, and blue representing attraction towards same, different, or any gender. The Transgender Flag uses light blue, pink, and white to highlight the traditional colors for boys and girls, and a transition or inconsistencies in gender.

It’s essential to remember that each flag serves an individual identity, stands for different experiences, journeys, and challenges, and no one flag can envelope the entirety of the lesbian experience or any other identity. As colorful as they are, they are not interchangeable but woven deeply into respective identities.

Lesbian Flag Merchandise and Fashion

Expressions of identity and support for the lesbian community have made their way into the fashion world, exemplified in merchandise bearing the colors and symbols of the lesbian flag. Apparel ranges from T-shirts, hoodies, and socks to accessories like bracelets, pins, and necklaces, letting anyone showcase their pride or allyship.

Additionally, jewelry designers often incorporate elements of the lesbian flag into their pieces, enabling subtle but potent displays of community affiliation. On a larger scale, fashion designers have begun integrating the colors and symbols into their collections, nudging the lesbian identity further into mainstream consciousness.

Taking the flag beyond fabric, the symbolism has found its way into diverse merchandise like mugs, phone cases, backpacks, and stickers. This trend not only heightens visibility for the lesbian community but also normalizes discourse around it.

Notably, many businesses that produce these items are queer-owned or allies, indicating the supportive infrastructure within the community. Proceeds often support organizations promoting LGBTQ+ rights, creating a powerful feedback loop that uplifts the community. In a world where fashion makes strong statements, the trend of lesbian flag merchandise sends a message of inclusivity and pride.


What are the two lesbian flags?

The two lesbian flags are the traditional pink flag, derived from the lipstick lesbian flag without the kiss mark, and the more recent orange-pink flag introduced in 2018 by blogger Emily Gwen on Tumblr.

Which is the best lesbian flag?

The most commonly used and accepted lesbian flag in the 2020s is the inclusive lesbian flag created by Emily Gwen in 2018.

What is the moon lesbian flag?

The moon lesbian flag is a symbol used within the lesbian community with varying interpretations including representing closeted or femme lesbians or those who attribute themselves with lunar energy.

How did the labrys symbol become associated with the lesbian community?

The labrys symbol, a double-headed axe, became associated with the lesbian community due to its connection to the amazons and the Minoan civilization, which were considered to be matriarchal societies embodying female strength and self-sufficiency.

What significance do the colors hold in the lipstick lesbian flag?

The colors in the lipstick lesbian flag symbolize femininity (pink), independence (white), and community (orange).

What is the controversy involving the pink lesbian flag?

The controversy involving the pink lesbian flag revolves around its original creator’s discriminatory practices, causing discord within the LGBTQ+ community.