The History of The Bisexual Flag and What It Represents
Bisexuality is the B in the acronym LGBTQ+, and is an important part of the community.
Bisexuals have long seen themselves as a subgroup within the larger community due to their unique experiences. Unfortunately, they have faced similar levels of prejudice as other members of the LGBTQ+ community, and have even seen some of that prejudice within the community.
Even so, bisexuals fly their flag with pride, so here’s a little history behind where the flag came from and what it represents.
Though the Kinsey Scale has existed since the 1940s and first floated the idea that human sexuality is a spectrum and not binary, bisexuality was not part of mainstream thinking or lobbying for their rights until much more recently.
In the 1960s, a bisexual named Stephen Donaldson founded the Student Homophile League at Columbia University, the first student group for gay people approved by the university. Later that decade, the infamous Stonewall Riots occurred, and many people involved were bisexual. That time in history is considered by many to be a pivotal moment for the push for LGBTQ+ rights in America.
Brenda Howard, another bisexual activist, organized marches and protests, including a protest on the anniversary of Stonewall, which is when the annual Pride Parade is still held today. She also founded the New York Area Bisexual Network to gather resources for bisexuals in that area who needed help and support from the community.
A few years later, in 1975, the San Francisco Bisexual Center opened, and still serves bisexual members of the community to this day, nearly 50 years later.
The oldest newsletter aimed at bisexual women, known as Bi Women, was initially published in 1983 by the Boston Bisexual Women's Network, as they have pushed to create safe spaces for bisexual women.
That same year, BiPOL, a bisexual political organization, was founded and began sponsoring rallies to lobby the Democratic party to take bisexual rights seriously. Their work paid off in 1993 when the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation attracted over one thousand people to the bisexual section alone.
Bisexual rights were finally being recognized as intrinsic to gay and lesbian rights.
Although the rainbow has often been used to signify the gay and lesbian community as a whole, many people felt that individual identities within the queer community were overlooked and underrepresented. Thus, the need for identifying symbols outside of the rainbow emerged.
Part of the reason why it is so important for bisexuals to identify themselves personally and to fly a separate flag is that, otherwise, they have no way of conveying their unique pride to others.
After all, you can't look at someone and know if they are bisexual. Even having committed relationships do not show that you are bisexual since many relationships are monogamous. There is a danger in having people assume that you are gay or straight, depending on who you are currently dating. Having a symbol unique to their experience is a way to show off their pride to the world around them.
The Bisexual Flag
Before the bisexual flag was invented, bisexuals identified through bisexuality triangles, affectionately called biangles. An opaque upside-down pink triangle overlapped with an upside-down blue triangle demonstrated that bisexuals were attracted to both people who are the same gender and a different gender.
Many people associate pink and blue with girls and boys and mistake the pink and blue of the bisexual flag to show that bisexuals are attracted to men and women only. Still, the definition of bisexuality does not exclude transgender or non-binary individuals.
Created in 1988 by Michael Page, the bisexual flag features three colors. As he noted in an interview, "In designing the Bi Pride Flag, I selected the colors and overlap pattern of the 'bi angles' symbol."
Those biangles mentioned in the section above were used as inspiration for the flag. However, some people in the bisexual community disliked the triangle representation because it came uncomfortably close to the pink triangles used during World War II to mark and dehumanize people deemed homosexual.
Other bisexuals used the same color scheme in depicting two crescent moons facing away from each other to avoid using triangles. Still, a flag with simple colors seemed like the best way to skirt the issue.
Page wanted to create something that felt familiar from the traditional symbols already in use but simplified so that the color scheme could be applied more broadly. He went on to comment that, "The pink color represents sexual attraction to the same sex only (gay and lesbian). The blue represents sexual attraction to the opposite sex only (straight), and the resultant overlap color purple represents sexual attraction to both sexes (bi)." He wanted bisexuals to be able to proudly show off their identities.
The purpose of a flag is to give a marginalized group of people with common experiences a way to be visible and celebrate the aspects about them that they take pride in.
As Page himself put it, "The key to understanding the symbolism of the Bisexual pride flag is to know that the purple pixels of color blend unnoticeable into both the pink and blue, just as in the 'real world' where bi people blend unnoticeably into both the gay/lesbian and straight communities."
What Does It Mean to Be Bisexual?
At Pride Palace, we believe that everyone deserves acceptance and support for who they are, no matter who they love.
How you identify is a personal decision that should be based on how you relate to other people and how you want to describe yourself. Choosing a label can be tricky since all humans exist along various spectrums of gender and sexuality.
Still, bisexuality is a great choice of label for people who find that:
- They are equally attracted to people of their own gender and other genders.
- They are more attracted to their own gender but still can experience sexual attraction to people of another gender.
- They are more attracted to a different gender but still can experience sexual attraction to people of their own gender.
It is also important to remember that bisexuality is not an either-or option. If a bisexual person enters into a romantic relationship with someone of a different gender, that does not make them straight. Similarly, if they enter into a romantic relationship with someone who is the same gender, that doesn't make them gay or lesbian.
Who you are capable of being attracted to does not suddenly change just because you have entered a committed romantic relationship, so you should never feel like you don't belong in the queer community anymore if you have decided to partner with someone of a particular gender.
You are still bisexual, and you still belong in this amazing community.
The bisexual flag is a powerful symbol that provides a way to show off your identity, so don’t be afraid to be proud of who you are and fly your own bisexual pride flag to let the world know that you take pride in your sexuality.