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At United Nations Plaza in San Francisco, Gilbert Baker (far left), Lynn Segerblom next to him, Robert Guttman next to her and unknown individual on the far right. There were two versions of the original flag, including this one and the stripes only version.  (James McNamara)

 

Lynn Sergerblom is credited as being the woman behind the design of the rainbow flag that we attribute to representing the LGBTQ+ community and identity… Kind of.

 

“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.”

 

Sergerblom stepped forward about being the designer of the rainbow flag in 2018, but there have been many questions about the validity of Sergerblom’s claims. Sergerblom and fellow artists James McNamara and Gilbert Baker (who is alternatively and more widely credited as the creator, or at least co-creator of the original flag) were members of the same decorations committee for San Francisco’s first Gay Pride Freedom Day Parade.

 

That’s where everything gets murky.

 

The claims of the original design of that first rainbow flag are a grey area. Despite the story of both Sergerblom and Baker being on the decorations committee, Sergerblom maintains it is her original design, but only publicized this claim after Baker’s death in 2017.

 

Back in 1978, Sergerblom (who at the time went by the name Faerie Argyle Rainbow), helped create the flag for the Gay Freedom Day Parade. Hand dying and hand sewing the fabric strips on the roof of San Francisco’s gay community center, volunteers spent hours of labor assembling the two 40’ x 60’ flags, sewing on only three machines.

 

Segerblom coordinated the dying of the fabrics, McNamara coordinated the sewing of the fabric scripts and Baker coordinated the whole event.

 

But Sergerblom has claimed that Baker was not even present when the design was established.

 

“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’s claims were quickly shot down by Baker's estate.

 

“In 1977, the legendary San Francisco politician Harvey Milk asked Gilbert Baker to create a new symbol for the LGBTQ community. Until then, the community used the pink triangle, used during the Holocaust as a symbol of Nazi oppression,” the statement from Charley Beal, Manager of Creative Projects of The Gilbert Baker Estate says.

 

In late February, Sergerblom launched a GoFundMe campaign to recreate the original hand dyed rainbow flag, on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, as well as creating the first hand-dyed trans* flag, celebrating its 20th anniversary.

 

Sergerblom hopes for the flags to be created for and presented to: Los Angeles LGBT Center, honoring the 50th anniversary and for permanent display in the new campus; City of West Hollywood, California, for permanent display in one of the City buildings; Boys & Girls Clubs of America, honoring their new LGBTQ Initiative; and Monica Helms, creator of the trans* flag, to be carried in the World Pride NYC Parade in June 2019.

 

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

 

The statement by Bakers estate also establishes, “Gilbert Baker always credited Lynn Segerblom as a cherished collaborator in the making of the flag. He fully honors her contribution in his memoir, "Rainbow Warrior", to be published in June 2019. But we at the Gilbert Baker Estate object to her misleading statements. We have voluminous archival records from 1978 that refute her allegations.

 

Gilbert Baker’s legacy as an artist and activist is - and will always be - a gift given freely to people struggling for visibility and liberation. The Rainbow Flag he created is - and will always remain - a powerful symbol for LGBTQ people everywhere. The Gilbert Baker Estate remains committed to these principles.”

 

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