Dr. Flamingo Jones and the Quest for the Artifact of Many Colours
I’m exceptionally pleased to present today’s Guest Slap. The author, Dr. Flamingo Jones, is a world-renowned archaeologist and researcher at the University of Oxbridgeshire. While I know little about his reclusive past and current whereabouts, he has kindly agreed to share with us, occasionally, his knowledge, discoveries, and insights.
Good day to you, ladies, gentlemen, and those who do not wish to confine yourselves to such limiting terminology. Today, I, Dr. Flamingo Jones, intrepid explorer, researcher extraordinaire, and head of the Department of Queer Archaeology at the University of Oxbridgeshire, am most humbly honoured to be writing a guest post for Slap Upside The Head. You may have heard of me from my previous work, such as my unearthing of the famous trove of phalli found in the great pyramid of Khufu.
Today I am here to discuss a much more recent artifact: The rainbow flag. As a researcher of Queer Archaeology, I am often asked about how the rainbow flag came into being. Some assume that the rainbow flag has always been a symbol for homosexuality, because, really, what could possibly be gayer? However, the truth is that the origins of this important gay pride symbol are much more recent than many folks suspect.
The creation of the rainbow flag is attributed to one Mr. Gilbert Baker (video interview) of San Francisco, who created it in 1978 to serve as a symbol for the gay community there. The original flag was influenced by a striped, multi-coloured—but not rainbow-coloured—flag to promote racial harmony, and has undergone myriad transformations over the years with revisions and vexillological offspring involving stars, hearts, triangles, paws, changes in the colours and number of stripes. In fact, Baker’s original flag had eight colours, as opposed to the current standard of six. These eight colours were pink, red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, indigo, and violet, which, according to Baker, represented respectively: sexuality, life, healing, sun, nature, art, harmony, and spirit. However, the first flags were dyed and sewed by Baker himself along with volunteers, so supply was limited and most of the public had to just go ahead and use whatever rainbow-ish flags they could find, regardless of what those flags actually represented. These flags came from all sorts of different origins, such as the Italian Peace Flag against war and nuclear weapons, India’s Meher Baba spirituality flag, or the Wiphala flag of the ancient Incan civilization.
Later that same year, San Francisco’s mayor, George Moscone, was assassinated along with Harvey Milk, the city’s first openly gay supervisor. In the wake of this tragedy, the gay community made the decision to rally around Baker’s flag as a source of strength and solidarity for the 1979 gay pride parade. However, when Baker went to mass produce his flags, he found that hot pink fabric was not as easily available as he had expected. That colour was removed from the flag. The decision was then made to change the indigo stripe to blue, and eliminate the turquoise stripe altogether, bringing it down to just six stripes, so that the flag could be displayed evenly along the parade route, with three colours on either side of the street’s lamp posts.
A fascinating history for a fascinating piece of our cultural tapestry, don’t you think? I shall be back in the future with more important issues in the field of queer archaeology, but for now I must be off. Those ancient Egyptian phalli won’t unearth themselves!