Gilbert Baker (1951-2017) Pride Flag Creator Saw The Bigger Picture
An army veteran, Gilbert was stationed in San Francisco when he was honorably discharged in 1972. He looked at the LGBT sanctuary that the city had become and stayed for more than twenty years.
In 1978 Baker created the Rainbow Flag to represent the diversity of the LGBT community. Harvey Milk, then the first openly gay supervisor in the city’s history, rode under the Rainbow Flag’s banner in that year’s Pride Parade–then called Gay Freedom Day. A few months later, Milk and Mayor George Moscone would be assassinated at City Hall. The Rainbow Flag is now considered a symbol for LGBT people around the world.
Throughout his life Baker saw his work as benefiting the greater good of LGBT people everywhere–he never thought of himself. A former member of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence–he was Sister Chanel 2001–Baker once marched in a Pride Parade in a loincloth. With his body painted pink, he carried a pink cross and called himself Pink Jesus. Virulently anti-gay activist Rev. Jerry Falwell saw a photo of Pink Jesus and used it as weapon against the gay community. Baker never appeared in public as Pink Jesus again.
“You are responsible for what you do and say,” Baker told me in a 2012 interview which was published at Bay Area Reporter. “The Moral Majority took a picture of Pink Jesus and used it as a tool that I had no control over – they raised millions to stop the gay agenda with that picture. That made me wake up. When you do a piece of art it can be used against you.”
That kind of selflessness will stand alongside the Rainbow Flag as Baker’s legacy. Because of people like Gilbert Baker, LGBT people now have sanctuary cities like San Francisco, West Hollywood, New York and others where they can live freely and be themselves.
Rest in peace and power, Gilbert.