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History of Pride and the Flag

Category: IOPC, Independent Office for Police Conduct, Pride Season, Pride Month, Pride Event, LGBTQ+, Pride Network, LGBTQ+ Ally, LGBTQ+ Inclusion, Celebrating Pride, LGBTQ+ Equality, LGBTQ+ Champion, LGBTQ+ Community, LGBTQ+ employee network, LGBTQ+ employee network group, Pride events, LGBTQ+ Rights, IOPC Pride, Pride Flag, LGBTQ+ History


Liberation Day

Early on the morning of Saturday, 28 June 1969, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons rioted following a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar at 43 Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York City. This riot and further protests and the following nights were the watershed moment in the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement and the impetus for organizing pride marches on a much larger scale.

On the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots the first Gay Pride march in history took place in New York covering 51 blocks to Central Park. The march took less than half the scheduled time due to excitement, but also due to wariness about walking through the city with gay banners and signs. Although the parade permit was delivered only two hours before the start of the march, the marchers encountered little resistance from onlookers and created some positive media coverage for the cause.

The first Pride in the UK took place in London in July 1972 where around 2000 LGBTQ+ people marched through the streets to mark the anniversary of Stonewall.

Pride History

History and Evolution of the Rainbow Flag

In 1978, artist Gilbert Baker, an openly gay man and drag queen, designed the first rainbow flag. Baker revealed he was urged by Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in the U.S., to create a symbol of pride for the gay community. Baker explained the philosophy was to come out, to be visible, to get out of the lie and live in truth, and felt that the rainbow flag symbolised visibility. Each of the eight colour stripes had a meaning. Baker and a team of volunteers had made the flags by hand but wanted to produce the flag for mass consumption. Due to production issues, the pink and turquoise stripes were removed, and indigo was replaced by blue, resulting in the six-striped flag we see today.

Gilbert Baker, left and former President Obama, right                             Gilbert Baker, left and former President Obama, right - Original flag colours and meanings


Beyond the Rainbow Flag

Did you Know?

Throughout history, different variations of the rainbow flag have been used as a symbol for many causes separate to LGBTQ+ issues. This includes Buddhism, The International Co-operative Alliance, The Peace Movement and recently, the UK National Health Service.

Timeline of Significant events in the UK

1967 - Sex between two men over the age of 21 and "in private" is decriminalised. The police still sought to criminalise public displays of consensual homosexual activity through the offence of "gross indecency”. This covered sex involving more than two men. Hotels were counted as public and so men could be prosecuted for having group sex in private.

1972- The first UK Pride festival takes place in London.

1988 - A law called Section 28 was introduced which meant that teachers were not allowed to 'promote' gay relationships in schools. This was overturned in 2003.

1994 - The age of consent for two male partners is lowered to 18.

2000 - The ban on gay and bisexual people serving in the armed forces is lifted; the age of consent is equalised for same- and opposite-sex partners at 16.

2002 - Same-sex couples are given equal rights for adoption.

2003 - Gross indecency is removed as an offence.

2004 - A law allowing civil partnerships is passed.

2007 - Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is banned.

2010 - Gender reassignment is added as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act.

2014 - Gay marriage becomes legal in England, Wales, and Scotland.


LGBTQ+ People Who Changed the World

Can you identify these famous individuals who are part of LGBTQ+ history and culture?

LGBTQ+ People Who Changed the World

  1. Born Alexander III of Macedon. After inheriting an already significant kingdom from his father, Philip II, Alexander conquered Persia and numerous other lands.
  2. Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt may not have been referred to as "transgender;" but she inscribed titles on granite monuments referring to herself as, "her majesty, the king." She further asserted her "kingship" by wearing the garb of a male monarch and a false beard.
  3. Leonardo Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa and the most celebrated rendition of the Last Supper. Evidence from his own letters indicate that he was homosexual.
  4. Alan Turing was the founder of computer science, a mathematician, philosopher, codebreaker, strange visionary, and a gay man.
  5. Whilst there is no clear evidence of his homosexuality, the physical beauty of many of Michelangelo’s monumental male nudes, such as the David, the Creation of Adam, and the decorative (Ignudi) on the Sistine ceiling, give an indication towards his erotic interests.
  6. Before Stonewall, out lesbian Barbara Gittings fought public battles to secure rights for queer people and helped revoke the status of homosexuality as a mental pathology in America in 1973.
  7. Bayard Rustin was chief organiser of the 1963 March on Washington, at which Martin Luther King delivered his groundbreaking "I Have a Dream" speech. His long-term partner, Walter Naegle, accepted his posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom on his behalf.
  8. Christine Jorgensen is known as the first American to have sex reassignment surgery. It would take decades for the erroneous term, "transsexual" to be replaced by "transgender."
  9. Presidential Medal of Freedom honouree, Sally Ride was America's first female astronaut aboard the Challenger shuttle in 1983, which later exploded after take-off in 1986. Ride was named as a lesbian, posthumously, by her long-term female partner Tam O'Shaughnessy.
  10. Harvey Milk was the first openly gay elected politician in California. Milk's personality and his assassination have inspired a documentary, a feature film, an opera, and more, and given him a special place in the collective LGBTQ+ memory.
  11. James Baldwin was a gay man and writer of seminal books such a Notes of a Native Son, Go Tell It on the Mountain, and Another Country. Baldwin's insights on race, masculinity, sexuality, and class have been widely quoted within the Black Lives Matter movement.
  12. Born to English nobility as Laura Maud Dillon, Laurence Michael Dillon is known for being the world's first person to undergo female-to-male gender-affirmation surgery. Doing so cost him his family, his claim to peerage, and a career in medicine. Nevertheless, he became a Buddhist monk and author of two books about spirituality.

Recommended media




Disclosure (Netflix)

Circus of Books (Netflix)

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (Netflix)

Milk (Amazon Prime)

Pride (Amazon Prime)

The Little Book of Pride: The History, The People, the Parades – Lewis Laney

This Book is Gay – Juno Dawson

Pride: The Story of the LGBT Equality Movement – Matthew Todd

Me: Elton John Official Autobiography – Elton John

Straight Jacket: Overcoming Society’s Legacy of gay Shame – Matthew Todd

Making Gay History (Spotify)

Nancy (Spotify)

Beyond the Rainbow – True Crimes of the LGBT (Spotify)


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