I remember when I first became aware of the Pride flag in the early 90s. I didn’t claim it immediately even though I was transgender, or transsexual as we called ourselves at the time. Because it was, and still largely is, a binary culture, the psychiatrists of the time encouraged me to think about myself as a woman, and to break away from thinking of myself as gay…even though I’d called myself gay since I was in high school. Further, I was told that once I had surgery, I would no longer be trans. I’d be a woman like every other woman out there. It was black and white, one or the other: male or female. Gay or straight. This was the world of trans mental healthcare at the time.
When I finally woke up to the beauty of queerness—mine, yours, the many other ways that it exists—was when I finally felt free.
It was several years before I realized the great folly of trying to fit into a gender box of someone else’s making. Shallowness and empty spaces in our lives can serve as wake-up calls, after all. Why would I follow someone else’s prescription of how to name and live my gender, my sexuality. Wasn’t this mine, and mine alone? Why wouldn’t I want to celebrate being queer? Being trans? Being connected to my sisters and brothers, my people from across the spectra of gender and sexuality? When I finally woke up to the beauty of queerness—mine, yours, the many other ways that it exists—was when I finally felt free.
Once I was able to claim the Pride flag, I put together some musings on what the rainbow colors stand for. I took a little creative license because I’m cheeky. In addition to the recognizable rainbow colors of purple (spirit), blue (serenity), green (nature), yellow (sunlight), orange (healing), and red (life), I added two additional colors from the original Pride flags in the ’70s: turquoise (magic) and pink (sexuality). And I included the important colors from the Philly rainbow flag: brown (inclusivity) and black (diversity).
So whereas no actual Pride flag has quite this representation, it felt important to do it this way because, to me, it’s the story of all of us.
What Do the Colors of the Pride Flag Mean?
Purple is the Color of Spirit. So often, we forget that we are spirited and spiritual beings. We get caught in the mundane tasks of daily living and forget that there is something essential to ourselves. Many of us in the transgender community experienced spiritual trauma that warped our belief system and left us feeling shut out. Acknowledging our spirit is a celebration of our loving presence, our gifts, our relevance as queer people.
Blue is Serenity, as eternal as the ocean from whence all life sprung. We are a part of a great life-giving force, as are the generations of queer people who came before us. We’re being called to lay down our burdens, the conflicts, the problems, and acknowledge that we are a part of something much larger than ourselves. We have a right to serenity, to peace, to acceptance of all that we are in this and every moment.
Turquoise is Magic. Oh, we queer folk are a magical bunch aren’t we? Look at the beautiful things our people have created. The art. The architecture. The societies. Look at the advances we’ve made in the sciences, literature, and engineering. Look at how we’ve invented and reinvented ourselves throughout time, always finding ways to do queer things in even the most oppressive of cultures. We transform and shape our lives and identities as we see fit, casting off the heteronormative values that do not suit us. Our existence is itself an act of continuous magical creation.
Green is Nature. Of course it is. We’re discovering what is real, what is natural for us, and we’ve been doing it from as far back as we can remember. Some of us spent years denying our nature; even as Mother Nature herself called us back. “This is who you are,” she said. When we finally learned to listen, we came to know ourselves. What’s more, we came to understand that we are a part of the natural world, that we are worthy and obvious and require no more explanation than is required by the trees, the grasses, or the vines of the forest.
Yellow is Sunlight. It is a thing to celebrate ourselves in June, the month of the summer solstice. We have the purity of sunlight, the source of all that is warm, shining into every part of our being, illuminating the dark corners that we tried to keep hidden. We are luminous, radiant people, alive in our queerness and celebrating our humanity in its fullness. May we each bask in the sunlight of our truth.
Orange is Healing. Many of our journeys have been marked by healing, repairing, rebuilding from coming out histories. Homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and the hatred that these brought into our lives were coupled for some of us with the pain of racism, ableism, Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of profound othering. Healing has been our way; and even in the face of tragedies, we have shown the world our resilience, coming together to heal ourselves and our community.
Red is the Color of Life. It is our vitality, the force of humanity that is ours. It’s the blood in our veins, the aliveness in our bodies, the force and intensity of our queerness. We are passionate people, people who care deeply about the world we occupy and our role in it. We live zestfully and with intention, knowing that we do so for all of those who could not live their lives for fear of recrimination. We treasure the day and rejoice in the moment. We. Are. Queer.
Pink is Sexuality. Sexuality is ours to proclaim, to express, to celebrate in whatever way we wish to do so. It doesn’t matter what our partner status is, for our sexuality is an enduring and natural part of our being. The expression of sexual freedom came for many of us after a long and hard battle, first with ourselves, and then with our family- and culture-of-origin. Now we recognize our sexuality and choose family who cherish this quality in us, just as we cherish it in them.
Brown is Inclusivity. As queer people for whom rigorous honesty has been the path for our freedom from heteronormativity and gender conformity, we must willingly confront barriers that we’ve placed in front of members of our family whose skin color, religious background, physical or neurological features, or culture are different from our own. We must refuse and unlearn the system of othering that brought so much pain into our own lives, continually examining how to add one more place at the table, and one more, and one more, for every queer person on the planet.
Black is Diversity. And what beautiful, diverse people we all are. As we reach out with our mind’s eye, we see the beauty of people in the many nations around the world, and in our own nation. Some have suffered for their sexuality, their gender expression, their way of being in the world. It is our job to see these injustices righted, to embrace our community, to reach out with love to all of the beautiful humans who express their queerness in infinite ways. I see you.
A Guided Meditation to Reflect on the Colors of the Pride Flag
A Guided Meditation on the Pride Flag with Dr. Stacee Reicherzer
- First, find a space where you can sit for a few moments free of distractions. It may be best to shut off notifications from apps or your phone so that you can simply attend to the meditation. Place an object in front of you, such as a candle or small house plant, if doing so allows you to keep focus. Alternatively, you can sit in a space with a clear visual range. There’s no one way to meditate.
- With the space set, allow yourself to simply move into this moment with your breath. In through the nose and out through the mouth. Repeat this. Inhale and exhale. Allow yourself to be free of present day stressors. Allow your spirit to float in this moment, free of commitments and time constraints, free of stressors. Just be in your space.
- Purple: spirit. Allow your mind to be filled with the color purple and all of its richness and grandeur. See yourself as a free entity who may name themselves as they wish, who is free to love who they love, who is free to express themselves as they choose to. Allow your being, the thing about you that is essential, that is enduring, to soar. Simply be with this moment surrounded by purple—your being.
- Blue: serenity. Now allow yourself to feel awash in the color of the deep blue sea. Just be here now. Lay down your burdens, your conflicts, the problems that you’ve been contemplating. Experience the surrender that comes from just acknowledging your right to serenity. The right to have serenity in every part of your life. Allow serenity and the color blue to wash over you.
- Turquoise: magic. And allow the dark blue to transform to turquoise. Pay attention to the transformation. Just as this transformation is allowed to take place, notice now your ability to exist as a change agent, one who may choose to transform the parts of their life which require change. Focus your attention on the power of your magic, the power to manifest what you need for your life and every moment. Just be. The color turquoise.
- Green: nature. Next, allow the natural world’s light to fill your focus. The color green surrounds you as you recognize the natural world in its many, many shades. Notice the naturalness of your existence, your sexuality, your gender, your way of being. Pay attention to any needs you may have for time in the natural world and to be surrounded by fresh and clean air. The sounds of wind and birds, the texture of grass and leafy trees. Just be with this moment of nature as it speaks to you. Be with the color green.
- Yellow: sunlight. Allow your attention to move up toward the sun and to the color yellow. Notice the warmth of sunlight on your face, your arms and legs. Feel the sunlight as it cascades over. Bring to mind any parts of your life that feel dark or hidden. Is there something in the shadows that now needs to be brought to light? See this now and allow the summer sun to illuminate this matter, this part of your life that’s been hidden away, unaddressed or denied. Simply allow the sunlight to wash over every part of your life so that you can feel fully it’s warm and protective rays. Feel now the color yellow.
- Orange: healing. Move your attention now to the color orange. Notice how much work you’ve done to heal the hurts of your story, whatever they may be. Notice all that it took within you to engage in healing work and how very wise you’ve become as a result of the conscious effort you’ve put into healing parts of your life that once reflected illness, despair. And if there’s a part of your experience that now needs healing, allow this to make itself known. See this part of your life that’s in need of healing, bathed in orange light, made clear by the power of this color. Allow awareness to come about for anything needed in order to heal this part of you. Simply be with the healing power of the color orange.
- Red: life. Allow your focus to be filled with the color red, the force of life itself. Notice the intensity and aliveness of the color red, of what it means to be fully human in this moment. Be conscious of how it feels to live in this space you occupy—this body—as you experience it. Notice the vitality of all that you are in the blood flowing through your body. What it is to be here now, fully alive and present in this moment. Notice fully the color red.
- Pink: sexuality. And shift your perspective now to the color pink. Now, this is no pale pink, this is bright, intense. This is fuchsia. It’s your sacred sexuality and transcends any concern of your partner status or present romantic activity. This is a part of you that is yours to express, to celebrate, to cherish. Allow yourself to love every part of your sexuality, experiencing this without shame or judgment. It’s part of what makes you you, and is a part of your connection to all of us. Be in the celebration of your sexuality. The color pink.
- Brown: inclusivity. With this connection, notice the color brown and what it felt like to feel included, to feel a part of something. Notice how it feels to have family of choice who see you and include you, who make room at the table for you no matter what’s going on for you in any given moment. And with your mind, imagine yourself including people who may have felt left out in portions of their lives. Witness the color brown and its role in your life. Is there an opportunity for you to reach further into inclusion, to provide for those who’ve been denied it? Brown’s power can help you be more loving and inviting. Notice those qualities now as you see the color brown. Did you experience the power of giving and receiving inclusivity?
- Black: diversity. See the color black. Peer into it, and let it surround you. But don’t become lost or afraid in black, for the longer you stare into it, the more you’re able to discern shapes. Allow your mind’s eye to now fully see the shapes all around you, queer people who exist in all directions of where you sit right now. Queer people everywhere of the many beautiful races, cultures, tribes of humans; the endless expressions of sexuality and gender, the endless ways of being in the world, of representing our queerness. See the queer people of your community. Expanding your scope to encompass those outside your region, outside your state or province. Outside your nation. Queer people on every inhabited continent, some who live in freedom. Many do not. Feel compassion for every queer human on the planet and every ally who loves us as you reach out with your own love and compassion. Feel the pulse of our queer humanity. Imagine our hearts beat as one, thundering loudly so that the world sees us and hears us. This is what it means to be queer. This is what it means to be free.
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