Gilbert Baker, creator of iconic Rainbow Flag, has passed away

Gilbert Baker, creator of iconic Rainbow Flag, has passed away

Gilbert Baker, creator of The Rainbow Flag that has become the symbol of the modern LGBTI movement, died on Friday (31 March).

Baker died of natural causes at the age of 65 at his home in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.

His work as a flag maker spans 39 years and includes two world records for flag making.

The first Rainbow Flag made its public debut in 1978 at San Francisco Pride. Each stripe on the original eight-color flag had a meaning starting with hot pink which represented sexuality. Red represented life, orange was healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for magic and art, blue for serenity and harmony and violet for spirit.

‘I am heartbroken,’ activist and author Cleve Jones wrote in a Facebook post. ‘My dearest friend in the world is gone. Gilbert gave the world the Rainbow Flag; he gave me forty years of love and friendship. I can’t stop crying. I love you forever Gilbert Baker.’

Baker served in the US Army from 1970 – 1972 and was stationed in San Francisco just at the start of the gay liberation movement. His story as a soldier is featured in Randy Shilts’s book, Conduct Unbecoming. He was honorably discharged from the military and stayed in San Francisco where he taught himself to sew.

‘I had to look like David Bowie and Mick Jagger every single moment of my life, but I had no money,’ Baker told ABC News earlier this year. ‘I had to learn how to sew and to be able to express myself.’

Baker credits his friend, the late Harvey Milk, for inspiring his work. Milk asked Baker to create something that would take the place of the pink triangle used by the Nazis to identify homosexuals and Baker knew it had to be a flag.

‘Flags are about power,’ he said in the ABC interview. ‘Flags say something. You put a rainbow flag on your windshield and you’re saying something.’

He applied his sewing skills to making banners for gay and anti-war street protest marches whenever asked by Milk, the San Francisco City Supervisor who was murdered with Mayor George Moscone on Nov 27, 1978.

In 1994, Baker created a mile-long rainbow flag carried by 5,000 people when New York City was remembering the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riot.

Then in early in 2008, Baker returned to San Francisco to recreate the 1970s-era banners and flags for the feature film, Milk, starring Sean Penn.

Dustin Lance Black, who won an Oscar for writing Milk, paid tribute to Baker in a Facebook post.

‘Even rainbows weep. Our spectacular Gilbert Baker has left us. In more ways than one, our LGBTQ world is far less colorful without you.

‘But Gilbert created the #RainbowFlag to UNITE us. To make us stronger. In Gilbert’s memory #UNITE again. In Gilbert’s memory find #STRENGTH. Find #BEAUTY. Find #LOVE. And #RiseUp again.

‘I love you, Gilbert. Thank you for everything you taught me, for all of the flags you sewed for me, and for helping all of the us’s become such a big, colorful, proud family.’

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6 Comments

  1. Mandy
    April 03, 08:48 Reply

    Rest in peace, Gilbert Baker. You gave the whole world of LGBT people something really worthwhile.

  2. ambivalentone
    April 03, 09:34 Reply

    Wow!!! I never knew the significance of each color to the gay lifestyle. Turquoise for magic??? Hmmmm

      • ambivalentone
        April 03, 20:59 Reply

        I LOVE MAGIC!!! I practically live HP, Forgotten Realms and DragonLance

  3. Khaleesi
    April 03, 10:29 Reply

    Adieu Gilbert Baker; you shall never be forgotten, thanks to you, Rainbow flags have come to symbolise the visibility and acceptance of gays in many parts of the world …

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