Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Lynn Segerblom Shares Untold Story of the Creation of the Rainbow Flag

Lynn Segerblom, now 66, who chose, and hand-dyed the white cotton muslin for one of the first rainbow flags, speaks on Zoom with August Bernadicou of the LGBTQ History Project, on Sunday September 10 – celebrating the 45
th anniversary of the making of the flags.
Register to hear the remaining creator give her side of the story, so often erroneously described by others in the interim. To register, visit 
She has participated in history panels and rode in Gay Pride parades in both San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Palm Springs in 2018 as part of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the iconic international symbol that the flag, symbolizing the LGBTQ+ community, has become since its creation.
Originally called “Faerie Argyle Rainbow” at that time and a member of the Angels of Light Free Theatre company, Segerblom, with Gilbert Baker, headed up the decoration committee for the 1978 Pride Parade in San Francisco. Another friend, James McNamara who was a fashion designer and photographer, joined them to help organize decorations for the day of the parade. They decided on a pair of flags to fly for one day that Sunday, June 25, 1978.
With several years of experience tie-dyeing garments and preparing fabric for designers, the 21-year-old spent weeks preparing the heavy cotton muslin and dyeing it in large trash cans at the Top Floor Gallery and on the roof at the Gay and Lesbian Center, 330 Grove, where she was living temporarily at the time, and washing and drying the panels carefully before and after dyeing them, prior to them being sewn together.
The group of three friends, at times living with one another, gathered others to help them out with the effort. The late Lee Mently, another volunteer, was at the time one of two directors in charge of the Top Floor Gallery. They used the washers and dryers at a nearby laundromat for finishing the panels, which meant carrying the wet fabric up and down stairs in large trash bags from the roof to the street.
With eight stripes each (pink, red, orange, yellow, green, aqua, blue and purple), one large flag was designed with pink at the top and purple at the bottom, and the other was pink at the bottom and purple at the top. One of the flags sported a square of light blue background with white stars in circular patterns in the upper left (similar to their location on the US flag).
The rainbow was chosen as a motif since it represents all colors coming together and was an outgrowth of the still powerful hippie movement of a decade before, which all three had been aware of, or a part of. Historically many flags have been based on the colors of the rainbow both before and after the design for the gay and lesbian version.
The designs were a group effort with all providing input. Afterwards, flag manufacturers simplified the design, with the pink and aqua stripes dropped, making the flags of the six colored stripes that are so familiar worldwide today. The flag design was eventually honored with inclusion in the Modern Museum of Arts (MoMa) permanent design collection.
It was a group effort with about 20-30 volunteers helping out on the two larger 20’ x 40’ flags, as both Baker and McNamara, both artists and fashion designers at the time, oversaw the sewing of the panels with only three Singer sewing machines that Segerblom, Baker and McNamara owned.
The two larger flags were flown on the Civic Center’s U.N. Plaza on Sunday June 25, 1978, a beautiful day just months before Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone were killed. Dozens of local artists had also decorated 28 smaller individual flags that were raised around a nearby reflecting pool and from nearby buildings in the area.  James McNamara and others photographed the raising of the flags that day. Sadly, the original flags were not preserved, presumed lost over time and their location today, if any, is not known.