Rainbow Flag Creator Gilbert Baker Dies At Age 65

Cleve Jones breaks the news on his Facebook page:

“I am heartbroken. My dearest friend in the world is gone. Gilbert gave the world the Rainbow Flag; he gave me forty years of love and friendship. I can’t stop crying. I love you forever Gilbert Baker.”

No cause of death has yet been disclosed. Gilbert suffered a stroke about five years ago, but rebounded wonderfully, telling me at the time that he was back at his sewing machine within days, spinning out the often furious banners he created for many New York City protests and marches. He was a regular JMG reader and often provided emailed tips or commentary on the day’s news items. I will be forever proud to have held a Gilbert Baker creation.

  • Rick Zajac

    May his memory be eternal.

    • TuuxKabin

      I feel we can be assured of that. Thank you for putting it out there.

  • TuuxKabin
    • HZ81

      That made me well up at work. Thanks, Tuux! I don’t like having feelings here.

      • TuuxKabin

        Sure, HZ, it was from a memorial service in Orlando, last year, now I’m welling up, typing this. Hugs.

        • HZ81

          I thought as much. Let’s cry in martinis together.

          • TuuxKabin

            A deal. Two triples = six.

      • That_Looks_Delicious

        I get feelings all the time when I’m on the phone with our CEO. Fortunately he can’t see my facial expressions and I have a mute button on the phone.

    • Gustav2

      Thanks TK!

      • TuuxKabin

        An honor.

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    • Wayne

      I was lucky enough to meet Gilbert several times on many different protest marches over the years, from AIDS activism, to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, to Marriage Equality and countless Gay Pride parades, he was very active. The Rainbow Flag will live forever but he gave a lot more of himself to our community than just the flag. Rest in Peace

      (The photo is one I took of Gilbert in NYC during a protest against the anti-gay military policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. You notice he had created a new flag, it was a play on HRC’s = sign. Gilbert had refashioned it to remind everyone we were still “unequal”) https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/42e95c2fb57b137385be93384a6200fa6c2d7ebdd639f562ce88c7e21e89ff7b.jpg

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    • MB
  • In keeping with a habit I am trying to cultivate, nothing political in these kinds of threads…

    Gilbert Baker gave a huge gift to the LGBTQ movement. He will be missed.

  • hdtex
    • BobSF_94117

      That’s the wrong flag.

      • JoeMyGod

        Gilbert’s original flag did have 8 stripes. He’s carrying one in the top photo for this post.

        • BobSF_94117

          But that’s not the one that was adopted, no? (It’s actually nice to know he started off closer to the actual rainbow sequence.)

          • JoeMyGod

            I believe the story goes that back in the late 70s Gilbert was unable to find the inks to mass produce the original 8-stripe flag.

          • Natty Enquirer

            Original colors and meanings:
            Hot pink-Sexuality
            Red-Life
            Orange-Healing
            Yellow-Sunlight
            Green-Nature
            Turquoise-Magic/art
            Indigo/blue-Serenity/harmony
            Violet-Spirit

          • BearEyes

            the 8 stripe was not adopted but pared back a bit. The top photo has the pink stripe in the very upper right of the picture if you look closely.

          • Mike_in_the_Tundra

            Perhaps I’m losing brain cells, but didn’t some people urge him to add a black stripe during the 80s? I’m glad it didn’t come to fruition. I don’t need to be reminded of the plague. It will always take up an area of my mind.

          • Natty Enquirer

            That would have been completely against Gilbert’s intent. He was about celebrating life, not memorializing death.

          • PickyPecker

            Yeah, I remember that and was against adding the black to our flag. Just didn’t seem to belong with the rainbow and like you…..I have my own history/memories of the dark times.

      • TuuxKabin
        • BobSF_94117

          Ha. OK, well deserved.

          • TuuxKabin

            She’s a icon for throwing shade, with the glass in hand. =;o)

        • Joe in PA

          You be nice, mister. 🙂

          • TuuxKabin

            Oh don’t start. Honay.

          • Joe in PA

            BTW, I LOVE that .gif. It works so well…and I just have to smile at her. 🙂

          • TuuxKabin

            I know, she’s really the kind of companion drinker, hang out with kind of woman I’d like for a neighbor. Ruthless.

          • edrex

            and it’s nearly martini hour. i look forward to making that face with loved ones later tonight.

        • Boreal

          Major upvotes.

      • nocadrummer

        Young’ns.
        “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

      • William

        It’s the original flag.

  • Keiffer

    I will wear a black armband in memorial (leather of course). Makes we wish I had a rainbow accent to attach to it.

    • CatCope

      GOOD IDEA! I’ll make my own!

    • KCMC

      have some ribbon for you, get that leather arm on over here.

  • Natty Enquirer

    I had the pleasure of meeting Gilbert a few years ago. He was one of the original hippie-queers of San Francisco.

  • Sam_Handwich
    • TuuxKabin

      That you Sam?

      • Sam_Handwich

        nope. this guy would show up at the supreme court with his flag every day they released opinions in June 2015

  • JustDucky

    Sixty-five is too young.

    Fuck 2017.

    • Oh’behr

      Couldn’t take Donnie or Bannon, could it. Dang it.

  • jaydee5000
  • That_Looks_Delicious

    Well done, Mr. Baker. Your work will live on for generations.

    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2428/3939110700_d05bf3cb0c.jpg

  • Boreal

    The good die young because they buffer the hate and injustice in society they are subjected to and turn it into a force for positive change.
    The evil live long because they take for themselves and care about no one else and have no stress.
    Thank you Gilbert for your enduring legacy.

    https://aos.iacpublishinglabs.com/question/aq/700px-394px/many-colors-rainbow_95ac9f0a06552732-01.jpg?domain=cx.aos.ask.com

    • Six Pins Delores

      Yes, and the likes of Pat Robertson continue to live

  • HZ81

    RIP, GIlbert. And thank you.

  • BearEyes

    RIP, Sir!
    Thank you for your service.

  • PickyPecker

    A man who created an iconic image to which our entire community can relate, stand tall and be togher under one symbol. We fly our flags and stick our stickers, wear our scarves and T-shirts…and see all others who do as one of us.

    Thank you, Gilbert. You will always be remembered.
    http://www.pridestitch.com/image/cache/data/Stickers/R-heart-600×600.jpg

    • TuuxKabin

      You’re all heart PP, all heart. Thanks for that.

  • Mrs. Councillor Nugent
  • CatCope

    FUCK, Dammit!! AGAIN!! ANOTHER GOOD one goes & we’re still left with the GARBAGE around us to smell!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Thank You, Gilbert Baker!

  • PickyPecker
  • Phil2u

    I’m so sorry. Strokes can do insidious damage with unpredictable consequences. We have memories to cherish nonetheless.

  • barrixines

    This was the theme tune to a children’s tv programme we grew up with in the UK in the ’70s.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9fhOPHtOtw

    • TuuxKabin

      Que dulce es eso.

      • barrixines

        Indeed – the sentiment seemed to fit.

  • That_Looks_Delicious

    I just found out now that the version we know today was not Gilbert’s original version. I never knew that before.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0424c4cd5784ea9109728f67d4571f06494934a64ec7c011617470f4a9f3414d.png

    • Skokieguy [Larry]

      Thank you, for posting this, I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know this.

      • TuuxKabin

        ^ for the thank you, why would you be embarrassed?

        • Skokieguy [Larry]

          This is my history and my culture and I’m bothered that there was more meaning behind the flag than I knew.

          • TuuxKabin

            Sure. A lot of us are, I’m sure, including myself. So we continue to learn from it and grow. =;-)

          • Tor

            I think it had something to do with pink and turquoise fabric not being available at the time of production. Truthfully, I think the simpler version packs more power.

          • Ray Taylor

            I agree, its much smarter looking.

          • DonnaLee

            I was just talking to someone about how little I knew of LGBT history until the 21st century. By then, enough websites and general information were readily available.

      • Rambie

        You can’t know it all Skokieguy. It’s not something to be embarrassed, together we all learn.

    • Slim Compersion

      Indeed. Take a close look at the flag Gilbert Baker is carrying in the photo at the top of this post. His original design!

      • NancyP

        I think that the number of colors in the flag was reduced for practical reasons – sourcing hot pink and turquoise material was difficult because these colors weren’t “standard” stock, thus availability was intermittent. ROYGBV were always available in flag material.

        • Yes. His very first flags were hand-dyed. When he reached the point where hehad to get already-dyed flag material, he had to make some changes.

    • Rambie

      IIRC, he dropped the color because he couldn’t get enough of the material to make all the flags.

    • Slim Compersion

      Here’s a short Time magazine article (from a few years ago) that tells more of the history:

      http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/06/26/meet-gilbert-baker-the-man-who-invented-the-gay-pride-rainbow-flag/

    • Oh’behr

      I found an eight rainbowed flag at a street side garage sale in San Francisco in the middish 1990s. A then friend was letting me stay with him for a week, so I gave it to him as he collected stuff. I wonder how much he sold the flag for later.

      I don’t remember now what I paid for it; yet it was something under $15.00 for it. Wish I would have kept it. I’d have a collector’s item now.

      PS … I’m sure it was a mass produced item. Not one of the original flags. Unless I was naive about its value.

    • JCF

      I trust that the the HIV/AIDS Red Loop comes from the “Red:Life” listed here?

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    The rainbow flag has given us great beauty, and it has pissed off a lot of right wingers. I rather imagine that Gilbert enjoyed that.

  • That_Looks_Delicious
  • Boreal
  • Slim Compersion

    Gilbert Baker’s most famous work will live on, as long as there’s lesbian and gay pride to be expressed. Well done, Mr. Baker!

    I just so happen to have been flying mine on the flagpole in my front yard for the last few days. How even more apt, now.

    There’s another reason I’d been opting to fly it particularly nowadays – if you need a feel-good story about the rainbow flag and support for LGBT people, check out this news article about a neighborhood in my town (and the town adjacent). I made it a point to drive through there a few weeks ago to see the flags for myself, and it was very heartening:

    http://starlocalmedia.com/carrolltonleader/rainbow-flags-pop-up-around-home-where-banner-was-burned/article_16d088b4-0b29-11e7-bd7c-aba4da0de596.html

  • The Milkman

    He added to the measure of good in this world. Would that we could all say the same. RIP.

  • Cuberly
  • Puckfair52
    • Bad Tom

      That’s beautiful.

  • edrex

    the xtians can keep their blood and torture devices. We will always have the Rainbow.

  • witch

    Sad news, may the rainbow be forever

    • TuuxKabin

      May your wish be granted, and I think it will be.

  • Do Something Nice

    Sad news. I remember having a few conversations with him in the flag shop on Polk Street in San Francisco. He left his mark, make that his colors, upon us all.

    RIP sweet man.

  • Elsewhere1010
    • That_Looks_Delicious

      You live in the Castro?

      • pch1013

        Looks like Corona Heights, but close enough.

    • Rebecca Gardner

      I had breakfast at Cove on Castro and dinner at Orphan Andy’s today.

  • I like the fact that he used the nickname “Busty Ross”. R.I.P. to a powerful activist.

  • Christopher
  • Johnny Wyeknot

    The most important kind of artist. Beauty and strength. And courage. Thank you for that.

  • Slim Compersion

    Here’s a really comprehensive article about the Rainbow Flag, fascinating reading for flag geeks like me:

    http://www.sftravel.com/article/brief-history-rainbow-flag

  • From another comment section:

    AJ Garcia • Sorry for the loss but I just wanted to be known that a rainbow flag doesn’t represent me as a gay person it stereotypes me and I don’t like it
    Stryka Pose Will someone find a flag with an asshole on it so AJ can be respectfully represented?

    • Claude Jacques Bonhomme

      * Sigh *

    • Oh’behr

      Hmm, he could get Make America Great Again tattooed around his asshole with the American Flag on both of his butt cheeks.

  • Claude Jacques Bonhomme
    • DaddyRay

      Eva Cassidy – Over The Rainbow
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rd8VktT8xY

      • zhera

        Oh god, that version is heartbreaking. ♥

        • TampaDink

          To make matters worse, her music wasn’t widely known outside of the D.C. area until after she died from melanoma at the tender age of 33.

  • KCMC
  • MB

    Rest now in peace, Gilbert. We will forever and proudly honor your legacy.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bafc70e4b6a40593bea314b33149a79932c756385895c423763aef4fa9061f9d.jpg

  • DaddyRay

    Way too young

    Thank Gilbert for perfectly visualizing in my mind the diversity of the LGBT community

    Rest in Peace

  • greenmanTN

    I am not usually sentimental, but the rainbow flag has always seemed like a perfect symbol to me. We come from all countries, genders, classes, nationalities, and races but are united by one thing.

    (As a dedicated cynic I will deny I ever said this in a court of law. 😉)

  • Bad Tom

    Rest in sweet peace, Gilbert Baker.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FlGKDTlVko

  • Claude Jacques Bonhomme

    We saw Gilbert Baker at the candlelight vigil at the Russian Consulate during the 2013 Montreal Pride. Russia’s hate laws had just been passed and the Sochi Olympics were in preparation. He gave an eloquent speech.

    During the subsequent Pride parade, he was the Grand Marshal, and the parade was a celebration of the 35th anniversary of the rainbow flag.

    Thank you, Mr. Baker.

  • DaddyRay
  • Jean-Marc in Canada
  • Roabe
  • Oh’behr

    I remember in the early 1980s, having a rainbow windsock on our house. I always loved rainbow stuff and I’m glad Gilbert Baker took the rainbow for LGBT before some hate group did (I shudder when Christianists talk about taking the rainbow back, as if they’ve ever lost it).

    Now if I could see an Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights as I live in the Northern Hemisphere) with all eight colors, it would be amazing.

  • houstonray
  • houstonray
  • Hue-Man

    Libby Davies and Svend Robinson (first lesbian and gay MPs) and the permanent Davie Street crosswalk in Vancouver
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/09ba05dad6c876ba3d07972015be33405dfa3ae3304da5b3ee74b3bf55e07ed5.jpg

  • houstonray

    I’m sorry that I didn’t realize he posted here! I probably read his posts but maybe never realized it was him. What an incredible gift that he left us, one that will outlast us for generations to come.

    I love looking through this thread and seeing the beautiful rainbow images in all their forms (I added a few of my faves too). RIP!

  • GayOldLady

    What a beautiful iconic symbol of love he gave us. RIP gentle man.

    • CatCope

      Exactly! A representation of A Wonder of Nature (rainbow). Many colors touching each other.

  • jimbo65

    He’s leaving behind a great legacy. Thank you Mr. Baker. You’ll live on and shine forever.

  • easygoingmister

    Peace be with him, and bon secour to those close to him.

  • Chris H.
    • canoebum

      Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. -Maraget Mead

  • Lars Littlefield

    I received three new flags today from the Utah Pride Community Center. They are big ones; two for the front porch and one for the back porch. Thank you Mr. Gilbert. Your iconic work will always fly and hang from my home. RIP, dude.

    • DonnaLee

      I think it’s wonderful that you have a Utah Pride Community Center. How far things have come and how great it is that he was able to be honored while he was still among us.

  • Dot Beech

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-H-Tla39N0&list=PL7FA7C1C20253C0A5

    Gilbert was a wonderful man. I knew him in San Francisco, back in the early 1990’s. The video below records a very large demo held in SF on Halloween, protesting a large event held by a televangelist who came to SF for publicity and to collect a lot of money. You’ll see Gilbert’s San Francisco work shop early in the video. Later on, you’ll see him at the demo as Pink Jesus.

    He will be missed. There aren’t a lot of others like him.

  • Mark

    A long time ago (late 70’s)…and on a island far, far away, I served in the US Navy – and on weekends did a little mobile DJ thing that I called Rainbow Nites.My poster for the dances was black with a silver glitter sliver of a moon and crinkled aluminum foil stars – and a multicolored rainbow arched in the center. For me, a young white boy from Kansas…land of Oz…..way off on some foreign island – it was all about Some Where Over the Rainbow. I even closed every show with Meco’s Wizard of Oz (side 2 of the LP). FWIW, the ‘Nites” portion was from another tune: Boogie Nights.

    Then, upon my return to the States, I find the rainbow was being brought to such significant prominence – and it just kind of made those previous years mean a bit more. I didn’t know anything about a “gay flag” beforehand. Hell there wasn’t any gay news of any sort on a military base back then.

    He did us proud, and loud. He made a difference that really did change a lot for all of us. Thank you, Mr. Baker!

  • fuzzybits
  • McSwagg
  • JCF

    Memory eternal.

    Here’s a clip re the creation of the Rainbow Flag, from the recent “When We Rise” (I think the young man saying “something from nature” is portraying young Gilbert?)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pj-uSdfLjgU

  • shrpblnd
  • Jim Gallagher-Barker

    My dad worked for the City of San Francisco as an electrician. The 50th anniversary of the United Nations fell in 1998, and was celebrated in San Francisco the week after Pride. Monday morning after Pride, my father was sent out to take down the pride flags in UN Plaza, so that they could be replaced with flags from nations around the world.

    One of those flags never made it back to storage. Later that summer , I went up to the Bay Area for a family party. Dad gave me that flag. I still have it. It’s one of my most treasured possessions.

    RIP Gilbert Baker.

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  • Superman

    I lived with roommates at the top of Castro Street in a big old Victorian house in 1982 and 1983. And I think it would be lovely if everyone would lower their Rainbow flag to half staff for Gilbert Baker. None of us were perfect. But almost all of us fought to be free, against great odds, even when they spit on us in disgust, held a Bible to our faces, punched us, threw us in jail, fired us and refused to find us medicine. Maybe Gilbert Baker was a great big queer. And maybe Gilbert Baker was a hero and a world class activist. I like to think we can be both.

  • Thank you Gilbert for all your life’s work on behalf of our many and diverse communities…. A hero, A friend of justice and conscience…you will be sorely missed.