WorldPride 2014: Creator of the rainbow flag talks in Toronto

The creator of the rainbow flag — an image that has come to be one of the most recognizable social justice symbols around the world on behalf of the LGBT community, sat down with CBC News to talk about how the flag came to be.
To kick off World Pride CBC News speaks with the artist who created the iconic rainbow flag in 1978 6:14

As WorldPride is well underway, much of Toronto is covered in rainbow themes based on the rainbow flag — an image that has come to be one of the most recognizable social justice symbols around the world on behalf of the LGBTQ community everywhere.

Gay pride parades were conceived in the fall of 1969 in New York City, after the famous Stonewall Inn riots earlier that year. In 1981, a series of raids on Toronto bathhouses also inspired this city's pride week — now one of the largest such festivals in the world. 

The flag that decorates all LGBTQ events, however notable and commonly used, is only 36 years old and was created by American Gilbert Baker.

"They love it and they cherish it and they use it and that's what makes it so phenomenal... is the way people have embraced it around the world," Baker said. 

Baker, in Toronto for WorldPride, spoke with CBC News about his creation.

In 1978 Baker was asked by famous gay activist Harvey Milk to create a sort of logo for the LGBT rights movement. He created an eight-colour flag, but due to printer costs changed it to six each with a special meaning.

Red stands for life, orange for healing, yellow for the sun, green for nature, blue for peace and purple for inner spirit, according to Baker.

The two extra colours upon creation were pink for sexuality and turquoise for magic and art. 

So, why the rainbow?

“It’s natural, it fits our diversity," Baker said. "We are all the colours, all the ages, all the races.

"It’s a magical, wonderful part of nature to symbolize our lives that way and it expresses our sexuality in a very beautiful, empowered way as a human right."

Although much has changed for LGBTQ rights, many around the world still face harsh oppression.

"At the same time our global tribe, if you will, is facing those same challenges we’ve always faced. Violence and oppression and that’s what we’re here in Toronto to talk about," he said. 

Watch Baker's full interview above.