Happy LGTBQ+ History Month!

This post was written by Dr Majda Rogers, a Counselling Psychologist who works in the Advice and Counselling Service at Queen Mary. She works using a range of third wave CBT approaches such as Acceptance and Commitment therapy and Compassion Focused therapy, to help students with anxiety, depression and other difficulties.

LGTBQ+ history month is well underway and as we might not be able to celebrate in ways we’d like to this year, I wanted to write a post that can still help mark this important event, and to shine a spotlight on LGBTQ+ history and culture! I’ve chosen to focus on the rainbow flag and its interesting history. Also, at the end of the post, I’ve included links to LGBTQ+ History Month events taking place at QMUL and externally that you might be interested in getting involved in, including a QMUL event about LGBTQ+ Mental Health taking place on Tuesday 23rd March.

The history of the rainbow flag

So, one iconic symbol of LGBTQ+ celebration is the pride rainbow flag. You may have seen many versions of the flag, so I thought I would write a brief history of how the flag has evolved and has become representative of LGBTQ+ rights and freedoms.

[Image from Gilbert Baker Foundation]

Above is the original rainbow flag which was first used at the Gay Freedom Day parade in San Francisco on June 25th 1978 after Harvey Milk (the first openly gay elected representative) challenged Gilbert Baker, the flag’s maker, to create a symbol of pride. The eight colours of the flag each symbolized an attribute.

Later that year, Harvey Milk was murdered and as a result there was great demand for the rainbow flag. Due to a shortage in pink fabric, the flag then became a seven striped rainbow, as below:

The flag saw another transition in 1979 when the San Francisco pride parade wanted to split the flag in two, in order to decorate each side of the parade route. The flag then evolved into the six stripe version that is used most commonly today:

The flag has continued to evolve, but remains a symbol for equal rights and a celebration for LGBTQ+ communities. In 2017 the city of Philadelphia used the flag and added black and brown stripes to draw focus particularly to people of colour within the LGBTQ+ community:

The most recent iteration of the flag is called The Progress Pride Flag which was created in 2018. The chevron on the left includes the black, brown and trans pride flag colours to bring marginalised communities to the foreground, specifically people of colour, Trans people and those lost to HIV/AIDS. The arrow points towards the right which represents moving forward whilst showing that progress needs to continue:

The pride flag continues to represent the diversity and many identities within the LGTBQ+ community and the challenges yet to overcome.

Accessing support

At the Advice and Counselling Service, we are proud to support our LGBTQ+ students. If you need emotional support or welfare advice, do contact our service.

For information about external LGBTQ+ support organisations, visit our Sexuality and Identity resource list.

Marking LGBTQ+ History Month at QMUL

Take a look at Queen Mary’s LGBT+ History Month events programme.

We’d like to highlight this event for staff and students: LGBTQA+ Mental Health: In conversation with ELOP, Advice and Counselling and Queen Mary Students Union Join us at our event from 13:00-14:30 on Tuesday 23rd February with East London Out Project, Queen Mary Advice and Counselling and Queen Mary Students Union. We will hear from speakers Liz Sacre, Jo Gate-Eastley and Jack Juckes exploring the historical mental health support for LGBTQA+ people, how LGBTQA mental health may have been impacted by Covid-19, how LGBTQA+ staff and students can access mental health support internally at Queen Mary, in the local area and more widely.

External organisations

There are also lots of other organisations taking part in conversations on LGTBQ+ history and running events online. Here’s our pick:

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