Gay rights activist and creator of the iconic LGBT rainbow flag Gilbert Baker died yesterday. He was found in his apartment in New York City.

Baker once called himself the "gay Betsy Ross." His flag, which he carefully chose the individual colors for, remains a unifying symbol of the LGBTQIA community around the world. Each of the colors in the flag represents an aspirational ideal or a key aspect of the LGBTQIA community:

  • Hot Pink: sex/sexuality
  • Red: life
  • Orange: healing
  • Yellow: sunlight
  • Green: nature
  • Turquoise: magic/art
  • Blue: serenity/harmony
  • Violet: spirit

“A flag translates into everything, from tacky souvenirs to the names of organizations and the way that flags function," Mr. Baker said in a 2008 interview. “I knew instantly when I saw the reaction that it was going to be something. I didn't know what or how or — but I knew."

The flag made its debut in 1978 at the Gay Community Center in San Francisco. Since its first iterations it has lost two colors--pink fabric was too expensive and blue and turquoise were combined into royal blue--but it remains a foundational emblem.

Every time LGBTQIA rights are threatened or progressed, Baker's rainbow flag can be seen taped up in windows or fluttering above the scene. When gay marriage was legalized in 2015, homes and institutions around the country hung up the rainbow flag. It is a constant at every gay pride march and rally.

Rest in power, Gilbert.

Header photo via Instagram

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