I hate this blue gay flag

cn: This was imported directly from my tumblr, and therefore has unsafe levels of tumblr politics.  I feel bad just mentioning this flag outside of tumblr, lest I spread it further.

I saw a flag with stripes of many shades of blue, and I looked up what it meant. Apparently it was proposed for gay men. Thanks, I hate it.

a flag with seven horizontal stripes. The middle stripe is white and the rest are shades of blue.

I appreciate the sentiment behind the flag. There isn’t a gay-male-specific flag because of the dominant position (in terms of visibility) that gay men have held among queer people for decades. Instead they get identified with the rainbow flag, and the rainbow flag gets identified with them. A gay-male-specific flag has the potential to remove gay men from the “default” position, to everyone’s benefit.

But I don’t like the choice of colors. Sure, I love the blue aesthetically, but color is a language, and this is communicating the wrong thing.

The colors are clearly inspired by the lesbian flag with many shades of pink. My understanding is that the pink-striped flag is a fairly recent creation, originally intended for lipstick lesbians, then femme lesbians, (edit: see comments) and then just lesbians in general. I have some issues with this conflation of lesbians with femme femininity, but as a gay guy I think that’s not up to me.

flag with seven horizontal stripes. The middle one is white and the other six are shades of pink.

Anyway, the blue-striped flag takes that idea, and replaces the “femme” “feminine” pink colors with “masculine” shades of blue. It makes sense, and communicates a clear message. The problem is that the message is wrong. Gay men should not be represented by a flag that celebrates masculinity, in direct contrast to femininity.

The primary conflict of gay men, is that liking men is seen as feminine, and therefore inferior. This leads to internal conflict, with some gay men distancing themselves from femininity, and others playing it up. We’re all trying to find an authentic gender expression and it would be nice if we could all live with each other’s choices. This “masculine” flag is unwittingly taking sides in a conflict where no side should be taken, and it’s a disaster.


  1. Coyote says

    “#coyote this is for you”
    Aww. heh. Why thank you. I’ve mostly forgotten what exactly I wanted to say when I first saw it, but re: this —
    “I have some issues with this conflation of lesbians with femme, but as a gay guy I think that’s not up to me.”
    — I think you’re absolutely right to have issues with it. There’s even more criticisms of it than that, actually, some of which having to do with the politics of the person who created the design, but it’d be a bad flag even if it weren’t for that. This compilation post of issues (http://bi-gray.tumblr.com/post/180447717499/lipstick-flag-lesbian-flag) notes that, for one, it isn’t even logistically optimized for actually being made, i.e. it works best digitally but its hard to recreate in fabric due to the specificity of the colors — see here (https://simakai.tumblr.com/post/174821731223/ok-im-tired-of-getting-asked-for-the-lesbian).

    So it’s an inconvenient flag. But it’s also a symbolically rotten choice of a flag for what people have taken it to represent, by which I mean — it’s the “lipstick lesbian” flag, and because of that people should have never started popularizing it as the “lesbian” flag. Editing off the lipstick mark in the corner doesn’t change that the design is based on distinctly, intentionally feminine symbolism, specifically as an allusion to “lipstick.” And while metonymy doesn’t have to be evil, in this case that’s an objectionable conflation specifically because it’s imposing a feminine symbol on the very community *best known for its butches.* It’s imposing pink lipstick symbolism on butch lesbians. I don’t understand not picking up enough on my culture’s gender dynamics, how the lesbian community’s supposed to be one of the very few spaces where it’s okay and welcome and even traditional to be gender-nonconforming, and just glossing over that to impose “we’re girls so our symbol is pink.” But thanks to that it’s over the place now, and I’m chagrined every time I see an artist using the design.

    (note: not that you said this, but for the record, technically, “lipstick lesbian” and “femme” don’t mean the same thing — femme has more traditionally been a part of butch/femme dynamics, whereas lipstick lesbian may be more divorced from that dynamic and, as the lipstick flag creator has demonstrated, even hostile to it)

    There are a few others who are aware of this problem, however, and have responded by… all creating their own designs, so now there’s dozens out there and each with very little reach, because people keep trying to reach group consensus via Tumblr of all things and either not encountering other’s proposals or having objections and just creating their own. Admittedly, I don’t expect the whole lesbian community to be able to come together anywhere in one place to hash out a petty flag issue. It’s just frustrating watching this all play out in the worst way possible, like watching someone try to eat soup with a fork.

  2. says

    @Marcus #1
    Creating a new flag doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with pre-existing ones. There can be more than one flag. There can be hundreds of flags, in fact. Have you ever seen LGBTQ+ tumblr? They’re into flags.

    @Coyote #2,
    You’re right to point out the distinction between “lipstick lesbian” and “femme”. Among gay men, there’s no association between “femme” and butch/femme dynamics, it’s only about the individual’s gender expression and not what kind of relationships they prefer. I always forget that butch/femme is a thing among lesbians. So how do I refer to the gender expression of women? Just feminine or masculine?

    Urban Dictionary suggests that “lipstick lesbian” has a connotation of feminine women who are attracted to other feminine women. Honestly that just reminds me of masc4masc men. It’s not a good association.

  3. Coyote says

    @Siggy #3
    Ah, whups, I also should have specified (implicit though it was) that I was thinking of “femme” as in “femme lesbians;” I’d forgotten it’s used by gay men as well. But yes, I think “feminine” could work well enough for what you want there.

    Also, yeah — I mean I haven’t seen a whole lot of people who identified with “lipstick lesbian” as a term, but it does seem to parallel the same issue, and Urban Dictionary isn’t the only place I’ve heard that. Plus, thislesbianlife (the lipstick flag creator) has for sure been quoted on saying some uhh… anti-butch stuff, about butches and body hair, which to me backs the impression. So while I wouldn’t automatically assume the worst of anyone identifying with the term, it’s not necessarily… neutral, either.

  4. says

    @Crip Dyke,
    You know, for all the queer flags out there, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one with that particular combination of colors. I guess that’s proof that there aren’t enough flags yet.

  5. sidneyia says

    Hey, I don’t know where you found this but the colors are *severely* distorted here.

    This is the original version that was posted on DeviantArt back in 2017:

    As you can see, the top three stripes are a much greener tone, more teal/aqua. It’d be a stretch to even call them blue.

    I agree with you that the gay men’s flag (and yes, we do desperately need one!) shouldn’t be all shades of blue, but the flag you are criticizing is not all blue.

  6. says

    One source for the blue-striped flag is a reddit thread from January 2018, where someone in the comments claims to be one of the two creators. She is clearly not a gay guy, which is annoying. But anyway, she corroborates my claim that the design was inspired by the pink lesbian flag, but replacing “feminine” colors with “masculine” colors.

    One of her comments suggests that she had seen an older design, but couldn’t find it so she just created a new one. Maybe she was thinking of the green/blue version that you linked to. The version you link to (from May 2017) seems to be the oldest version available, but there’s also a tumblr post from June 2017 explaining how it was designed by the Pride-Flags mod and an anonymous person.

    My complaint about the flag applies to both versions of it.

  7. M.A.R. says

    This is a conflict of interest. On the one hand, using pink in the flag of lesbians supports gender stereotypes, on the other hand, he has already taken root and it will be strange to change it. On the other hand, the gay flag, which also supports gender stereotypes in blue, has not yet taken root – so you can oppose it. However, the desire to create a separate flag for gays is understandable. Firstly, the fact that gays are considered community leaders is wrong. All must be equal. Secondly, some want a separate flag for gays because they don’t want to support the LGBT rainbow and the gender hypothesis.
    In my opinion, a separate flag for gays is needed – but it needs to be made neutral colors or symbols. Are there any designers here? Maybe someone will do it?
    (Forgive me my bad English.)

  8. says

    @M.A.R. #11,
    I don’t like the idea of an individual designer taking the initiative to just create a new gay flag.

    One of the problems with LGBTQ Tumblr, is that they create new flags at the drop of the hat. There are hundreds of flags for everything. People coin new words, and then create flags as soon as they’re defined.

    Once you get past the culture shock, you realize that flags are a renewable resource, and it’s okay to have lots of them. On the other hand, often they’re trying to impose a flag on a bunch of unwilling people. Maybe that’s unavoidable. But if someone is going to impose a flag on a group, at the very least I would like them to consult with some of the people that the flag is supposed to be for. Consult with people of different ages, ethnicities, and nationalities.

  9. says

    I found another one.

    I’d like to unambiguously state that I hate all these flags. Not all of them have glaring problems with the design, like the blue flag does. But they seem to be created by all these young folks who have not talked to older generations of gay men, and do not understand that they really ought to, if they’re creating a flag that would ostensibly symbolize young and old people alike.

    In the link above, there’s a lot of discussion of the inclusion of trans, GNC, and nonbinary people. And, I’m glad they put some thought into that (although it’s bizarre that they still call it the “gay man flag” when they expressly want to include people who are not men). I would call for an equal amount of thought to be put into the the age axis, and I just don’t see that at all.

    Instead, I found that this particular flag was created by someone who is not AFAIK a gay man, and in response to an anonymous ask that proposed taking the bear flag and removing the pawprint. I can’t even begin to describe what a political disaster that would be, that’s as bad as BiNet USA trying to copyright the bi flag. It feels like an indictment of the entire community that this wasn’t obvious–they have so little awareness of the group they’re trying to make a flag for.

  10. SilverSlash27 says

    @Siggy I totally agree. I’m actually a relatively young gay man, but I love the history of the rainbow flag. When people, especially lgbt community members who aren’t gay men try to take it away from us, I get upset. I don’t mind the flag being used for the community in general, but I also like it as a unique symbol of pride among gay men.

  11. says

    Another comment from 2 years later:

    My biggest regret in this article, is that I didn’t explain enough about the politics of gender expression among gay/bi/queer men. To me, the issue is ubiquitous, but perhaps that isn’t the case for the younger generation. I recently wrote another article that talks a bit about the top/bottom dichotomy and the politics of gender expression. So, if you found this via google and want to learn more, take a look.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *