By Gilbert Baker
In 1978, when Gilbert was tasked with creating a flag at the request of Harvey Milk for a gay pride event, he had no idea that the rainbow flag he would create would become the worldwide symbol, forever cementing his place and importance in helping to define the modern LGBTQ movement. The enduring legacy remains and his memoir will give readers great insight into his colorful and fascinating life.
QUEENS, SCENES and revolution
Sylvester was a big black drag queen who had a voice to rival Aretha Franklin. He had been doing a Billie Holiday act since the days of the Cockettes in 1970, and I had seen him in their shows. Then he put together a rockband called the Hot Band…
Carol Leigh called herself Scarlot Harlot. She was an artist and prostitute who planned to create a prostitutes union for sex workers rights. She was also two hundred and fifty lbs. decked out in spandex. We met up at a protest of a cocktail party….
Prince of Pot
Dennis danced around bubbling his explanation for the bust. “It was Jonathan’s pot and he has AIDS. There’s no way they’ll get this past a jury.” His nonchalance was baffling. “Trust me, Medical Marijuana.” He was underlining two words…
A Flash in a Big Pan
I remembered something Ann Northrop said to me right before I left New York . We were having breakfast in a Chelsea diner, talking about the future over a Formica table. She gazed into an invisible Crystal ball, somewhere between the salt and pepper shakers, “You could end up like a lot of people in New York, another flash, even a brilliant flash, in a very big pan.”
Sadie Sadie the Rabbi Lady
“ Sadie Sadie the Rabbi Lady.” The Rubenesque figure spoke. “That’s who I really am. And I want you to make me fabulous.” “Who?” my caterpillar curiosity curled on top of a mushroom. This supplication for glamour seemed impossible given the middle aged, overweight circumstances draped around the fleshy form before me, but charity kept my tongue in check,,,
creator of the rainbow flag
Rainbow Warrior is Baker’s passionate personal chronicle, from a repressive childhood in 1950s Kansas to a harrowing stint in the US Army, and finally his arrival in San Francisco, where he bloomed as both a visual artist and social justice activist. His fascinating story weaves through the early years of the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights, where he worked closely with Milk, Cleve Jones, and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Baker continued his flag-making, street theater and activism through the Reagan years and the AIDS crisis. And in 1994, Baker spearheaded the effort to fabricate a mile-long Rainbow Flag—at the time, the world’s longest—to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising in New York City. Gilbert and parade organizers battled with the newly elected Mayor Giuliani for the right to carry it up Fifth Avenue, past St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Today, the Rainbow Flag has become a worldwide symbol of LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusiveness, and its rainbow hues have illuminated landmarks from the White House to the Eiffel Tower to the Sydney Opera House. Gilbert Baker often called himself the “Gay Betsy Ross,” and readers of his colorful, irreverent and deeply personal memoir will find it difficult to disagree.