January 26, 2020 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Flagging Your Page in History

The history behind the woman who made the rainbow flag.

By Jorge Paniagua

Lynn Segerblom wants to share her story – one that provides a different perspective on the LGBTQ+ rainbow flag’s origin. Not only would Segerblom appreciate credit for her work in designing the now internationally-recognized LGBTQ+ symbol, but she’s ready to create new handmade flags for the queer community.

For years, sole credit for the flag’s creation has been given to Gilbert Baker, one of three flag creators. The New York Times coined Baker the “gay activist who created the rainbow flag.” The Museum of Modern Art credits Baker with having conceived the design. Furthermore, MoMA claims each color on the flag is imbued with meaning, “red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, blue for serenity and violet for spirit.”

Segerblom, however, does not agree with the aforementioned. She and James McNamara were also heavily involved in the flag-making process – as opposed to the widespread notion that Baker was the rainbow flag’s exclusive creator.

“There were three of us who were the flagmakers,” Segerblom said. “But the design – that was not his idea.”

Photo: James McNamara.
“The rainbow, to me, ecompasses everybody — doesn’t matter what your gender, your preference or your color,” Segerblom said.

The original rainbow flag, which was created in 1978 for San Francisco’s first Gay Freedom Day Parade, was hand-sewn and hand-dyed. It took hours of labor and help from an array of volunteers to finish, Segerblom said. The flag was completed through an extensive group effort at San Francisco’s Gay Community Center.

As for the rainbow design, it came from Segerblom herself, who – during the 1970s – was known by her alias: Faerie Argyle Rainbow.

“They [members of the Gay Community Center] asked me to on the decorations committee – so it was Gilbert and I on the decorations committee,” Segerblom said. “But the day that we met with the committee to decide what it [the flag] was going to be, Gilbert was not there. I had already come up with the rainbow idea.”

Segerblom was passionate about rainbows during the time. She said that she thought a rainbow would be a beautiful way to represent the LGBTQ+ community’s colorful members.

“The rainbow – to me – encompasses everybody; doesn’t matter what your gender, your preference or your color,” Segerblom said. “Here we have this whole spectrum, from pink to violet. It encompasses everyone.”

During the ‘70s, Segerblom made a living from hand-dying clothes for designers. The Gay Community Center rented out a room to Segerblom for her hand-dying projects. She said that  she was at the community center at least five to six days a week. Aside from designing, she played a major role in the hand-dying process of the original rainbow flags.

After six weeks of a collective, and challenging, flag-making effort – a process involving 1,000 yards of cotton muslin – an array of flags were produced. Among these flags, the rainbow flag, and another flag – donning rainbow stripes and stars (which Segerblom also takes credit for designing), were made. A test-flight took place, before the Gay Freedom Day Parade, to make sure that the flags would fly as planned the day of the event.

“I was just in awe that it worked,” Segerblom said regarding the flags’ test flight. “I was so relieved, so relieved. Because I thought about them day and night. We were under time pressure, too. For awhile, I thought we’re not going to get this done on time. That would’ve been terrible.”

41 years later, Segerblom plans to recreate the original hand-dyed rainbow flag designs, along with making the first-ever hand-dyed Transgender Flag in honor of its 20th anniversary. She recently announced a “GoFundMe” campaign to aid her in this process.Aside from celebrating the rainbow flag’s anniversary, the new flags would compensate for the original handmade rainbow flags which were stolen at the Gay Community Center shortly after their debut at the Gay Freedom Day Parade, [Segerblom said]

“The flags belonged to the community – not to one person or two people,” Segerblom said. “It had to be more than one person [who stole the flags] because they weighed so much – it takes two or three people to carry one flag.”

Segerblom said that she plans to honor the LGBTQ+ community with her hand-made rainbow designs one more time. The flags she is acquiring funds for would, respectively, go to the LGBT Center of Los Angeles, the City of West Hollywood, Boys & Girls Club of America and Transgender Flag creator Monica Helms “to be carried in the World Pride NYC Parade in June 2019,” according to the project’s GoFundMe page.

Yet, unlike in 1978, where a plethora of volunteers cooperatively brought the rainbow flag to fruition, Segerblom is on her own for this new project. Although she’s passionate about flag-making, and is well-versed in the process, she admits that she could use help – both in making the flags and funding the development.

Lynn Segerblom is set to create the first hand-dyed Trans Pride flag in honor of its 20th anniversary.

“I’ll just be really glad that we can make some cotton, hand-dyed rainbow flags – that we can pull it off,” Segerblom said. “There’s no such thing as a free flag – like as it didn’t cost anything to make it. Somebody has got to get all of the pieces, and then we put it together – a group of somebodies. People have to pay for the fabric, and whoever does the sewing has got to be paid, too.”

Segerblom said that her campaign is in need of someone to help her dye the flags – a process that can be time-consuming and laborious. Furthermore, an ironer and someone willing to wash the flags repeatedly – a crucial step in the flag-making process – are needed.

“I can’t do it only by myself,” Segerblom said.

Aside from her latest campaign, Segerblom is excited that her contribution to LGBTQ+ history is finally being shared. The rainbow flag, which is displayed in establishments and places around the world, is used to signal an environment welcoming of LGBTQ+ people. The flag’s significance revolves around diversity, equality and LGBTQ+ pride.

For more information on Segerblom’s campaign, visit the GoFundMe page at: gofundme.com/historic-pride-flags

Related Posts

VIDEO: South Coast Chorale’s Tribute to Gay & Civil Rights Activist

January 24, 2020

January 24, 2020

67 years ago, openly gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin was arrested on a discriminatory, anti-gay “lewd conduct” charge for...

IN PHOTOS: WeHo Dodgeball at Sin City Classic LGBTQ+ Sports Festival

January 23, 2020

January 23, 2020

Hosted annually by The Greater Los Angeles Softball Association (GLASA), Sin City Classic brought together the United State’s finest athletes last weekend for three...

GUEST COLUMN: Queer Mindfulness Meditation

January 22, 2020

January 22, 2020

InsightLA is a non-profit meditation center offering practices of mindfulness and compassion that are both secular and Buddhist in origin. ...

Honoring Gay Rights & Civil Rights Activist Bayard Rustin

January 21, 2020

January 21, 2020

On this day in history 67 years ago, gay civil rights organizer Bayard Rustin was arrested on a discriminatory, anti-gay...

New CA Bill to End the Epidemics of HIV, Hepatitis C and Other STDs in LGBTQ+ Community

January 18, 2020

January 18, 2020

Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) recently introduced a bill that would require state agencies to create and enforce a master...

WeHo Dodgeball at the Sin City Classic LGBTQ+ Sports Festival

January 17, 2020

January 17, 2020

Hosted annually by The Greater Los Angeles Softball Association (GLASA), Sin City Classic brings together the United State’s finest athletes for a...

LONG BEACH PRIDE Unveils New Logo, Drops “Lesbian & Gay” From Name

January 16, 2020

January 16, 2020

Formerly known as  the Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride, the new and improved Long Beach Pride – the organization...

VIDEO: Grand Opening of Los Angeles LGBT Center’s New Campus in South LA

January 15, 2020

January 15, 2020

‘Center South’ will provide HIV testing; access to PrEP and PEP services; housing case management; mental health services; a computer lab; and...

Sin City Classic Sports Festival has Los Angeles Roots

January 14, 2020

January 14, 2020

For those who cannot wait every two years for an iteration of the Olympics, or every four years for Gay...

LA’s Only Known Trans Nightlife Event Just Got A Little More Fierce

January 13, 2020

January 13, 2020

Heavenly Bodies is Los Angeles’ only known monthly transgender nightlife event featuring live performances hosted by trans model and activist, Sasha Colby.  Proceeds...

Craigslist Man Extorts Angelinos, Santa Monicans with Gay Sex, Pleads Guilty

January 10, 2020

January 10, 2020

Tyler Buchanan faces 10 years in federal prison By Sam Catanzaro A man has pleaded guilty to using Craigslist, among...

Honoring Timothy Dean One Year Later

January 8, 2020

January 8, 2020

An intimate gathering was held Tuesday, Jan. 7 at West Hollywood Park to honor the 1-year anniversary of 55-year-old fashion...

LGBTQ+ Ally Taylor Swift to Receive GLAAD’s Vanguard Award

January 7, 2020

January 7, 2020

GLAAD announced Tuesday, Jan. 7 that Taylor Swift with receive the Vanguard Award at the 31st Annual GLAAD Media Awards. ...

Three CA Bills for the LGBTQ+ Community to Keep An Eye On

January 6, 2020

January 6, 2020

Three key pieces of California legislation that were tabled last year for various reasons will see the floor in 2020. ...

LGBT Icon, Talkshow Host Ellen DeGeneres Wins Award at 77th Annual Golden Globes

January 5, 2020

January 5, 2020

The 77th annual Golden Globes is looking a little bit more LGBTQ-inclusive, and talkshow host and LGBTQ+ icon Ellen DeGeneres’...