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Photo credit: Sabino Paulicelli Photography

Pride Soaring in the Wind

By Cory David, Mr. Eagle Wilton Manors 2020/2021

This month is focused on the history of Pride and Leather Pride Flags, and beginning our new Progress Pride Flag standard.

The Leather Pride Flag was first presented by DeBlase at the International Mister Leather Competition (IML) in 1989. The flag was quickly embraced by the gay and leather community. DeBlase let his true meaning of the design belong to the individual. Over the years there have been variations depending on the county, along with BDSM/fetish subculture which have their own variations.

“The flag is composed of nine horizontal stripes of equal width. From the top and from the bottom, the stripes alternate black and royal blue. The central stripe is white. In the upper left quadrant of the flag is a large red heart. I will leave it to the viewer to interpret the colors and symbols.” – Creator Tony DeBlase

Reactions to the original leather flag were mixed with the majority being positive reactions. Though, there were concerns, some even offended, by the lack of community involvement in the design. Today, this symbol is embraced by the general leather community. My interpretation is unconditional love, community, and family in leather and Levi. I have been told by many in our community that the heart must touch the white stripe to be a true Leather Pride Flag. Personal interpretation or truth? That’s up to each viewer.

Pride Flag designer Gilbert Baker is challenged by his friend, Harvey Milk, to come up with a symbol in reflection of “the dawn of a new gay consciousness and freedom.” The Pride Flag implied influences by the great Judy Garland and the world peace, Flag of the Races , which both seems inspiring enough!

“I can’t say, it wasn’t influenced by Judy Garland’s, Over the Rainbow or her death days prior to the Stonewall riots, inspiration pulled from the 1960’s world peace demonstrators Flag of the Races, perhaps.” – Designer Gilbert Baker

The goal was to replace the pink triangle, a symbol of oppression created by the Nazis used to identify and stigmatize our community, with something positive, lifting, and inspiring. The first flag had eight stripes, with specific meaning to each color and were hand dyed and stitched by 13 volunteers for the 1978 Pride Parade in San Francisco, CA. Later that year Milk was assassinated and the demand for the rainbow flag greatly increased. Over the years the Pride Flag would be redesigned and different versions would surface worldwide. In 1979 the parade featured the final six stripe flag as we know it today.

The Progress Pride Flag elements the Philadelphia and Trans Pride flags, bringing together awareness for marginalized people of color, trans individuals, those dealing with HIV/AIDS, and those we have lost.

Pride flags are represented in all areas of our community, transgender, lesbian, bear, genderfluid and so on. More than fabric of colors, they soar proud for the roads traveled and progress made.