The first time was as a deeply reluctant lesbian in the early ’90s – a foreshadowing of a new kind of “gender reveal” to come as I stepped into the world anew as a trans man 23 years later.
That first time around coming out, I embraced the colors of the beautiful rainbow flag that appeared in San Francisco in 1978. Designer Gilbert Baker decided not to trademark this flag, with the six colors of red (life), orange (healing), yellow (sunlight), green (nature), blue (serenity) and violet (spirit), ensuring it as a widely accessible symbol of the LGBTQI+ community.
I purchased with pride my first set of rainbow rings to wear around my neck from my college town queer bookstore, Common Language, in Ann Arbor, Mich. This bookstore closed in late 2018, alongside countless beloved queer clubs and bars that provided safe spaces across the country.
We have one bar left representing Contra Costa County. Club 1220 has been in Walnut Creek since 1976.
Rainbow has built a beautiful relationship with 1220 since our beginnings in 1995, and original owner Jon Crovo supported the center financially when we struggled early on.
These mainstays in our community literally meant the difference between feeling affirmed or being overtaken by stigma, fear and harm. We are grateful for folx like Holotta Tymes and the many co-owners who scraped together funds to keep 1220 alive for us this last difficult year.
Rainbow has had the distinct pleasure of being raised up by a newer local gathering place, Del Cielo Brewery in Martinez, this Pride month. Owners Cielomar and Luis reached out to us to fundraise for our LGBTQI+ community through a new brew they titled Always Pride.
Rainbow is receiving 20 percent of proceeds from the first brew batch, and they held a Pride event earlier this month so we could celebrate in person and show our rainbow colors. This is what tremendous allyship looks like.
But wait, there were more than six colors on the rainbow flag we saw hung in the brewery? The Progress Pride flag was designed by Daniel Quasar of Portland, Ore., in 2017, the same year Baker died.
Quasar shares that the black and brown colors represent “marginalized People of Color (POC) communities (brown, black), as well as those living with AIDS and the stigma and prejudice surrounding them, and those who have been lost to the disease (black).”
The black and brown stripes also bring awareness to the trans women of color who have been targeted and murdered in increasing numbers.
As for the light blue, light pink and white, Quasar says the half-sized stripes represent trans and non-binary individuals.
This updated flag reminds us of the progress we must still make and the work we must do, all of us, to build safer communities where we truly belong and are protected.
Kiku Johnson is Rainbow Community Center’s executive director. As a man of color and trans experience, Kiku has invested his life engaging and elevating youth and adult voices of marginalized intersectional identities. Send questions and comments to email@example.com.