The Sapphic/Inclusive Lesbian Flag: What is it, why do we use it?

“If you forget me, think

of our gifts to Aphrodite
and all the loveliness that we shared

“all the violet tiaras,
braided rosebuds, dill and
crocus twined around your young neck

—Sappho, translated by Mary Barnard
a 4 stripe flag: purple, pink, yellow and green

The concept of a singular lesbian flag has remained elusive and NerdyKeppie does not use many of the prevalent lesbian flags. As a lesbian themself, Spider has chosen the flag they feel most comfortable with, the Sapphic/Inclusive Lesbian/Lesbian Flag For Everyone (right). Why this flag, and why not the others?

Flag History

The history of flags intended to represent lesbians - specifically lesbians - is a fraught one. Everything presented below represents the best encapsulation of events and discussions as we know it, presented in good faith

One of the first lesbian flags, the labrys flag, was designed in 1999 by Sean Campbell and introduced in June 2000 Pride issue of Gay and Lesbian Times magazine. A purple field calls back to the Victorian association between violets and lesbians, rooted in

A purple flag with a black inverted triangle and a white labrys (double-headed axe).

Sappho's poetry, with a black triangle drawn from Nazi badges for lesbians. Centered in the triangle, the labrys, a supposedly Amazonian weapon used by feminists since the 1970s as a clitoral symbol of female empowerment, finishes the flag. This flag never gained widespread use, possibly because it was designed by a gay man and not a lesbian, and possibly because of the unfortunate association between lesbian separatists & transphobes and the labrys.The flag bears no explicit connection to lesbian separatists but may cause discomfort due to their attempts to claim it.

a flag in a chaotic mess of stripes in red and pink with a lipstick print in the upper left hand corner of the image.

For a brief period of time in 2017, the "lipstick lesbian" flag (left) enjoyed some popularity; this popularity fell when it became clear the creator had not only taken the flag from a radio show's joke "cougar pride" flag but also expressed extensive racist, biphobic, transphobic and anti-butch sentiments on her blog. Natalie McCray's plagiarized flag is generally out of favor and no longer used. There was never an explanation as to the symbolism of the colors, probably because none ever existed.

One of the most common current flags is also referred to as the "sunset flag." There is some dispute as to who originally created it, though most communities credit Tumblr user "sadlesbeandisaster," also known as Emily Gwen (she/they). A prior version of the flag with the colors reversed was posted in July 2017 by Tumblr user shapeshifter-of-constellation. Whether this was a case of convergent evolution or of plagiarism is not established, though Emily Gwen denies having used shapeshifter-of-constellation's design. It was later condensed from a 7-stripe flag to a 5-stripe flag after a community poll conducted on Tumblr.

Emily Gwen has since walked back some of her statements regarding asexual people (namely, rejecting asexual people unless they were LGBTQIA+ in some other way as well) but has not walked back some of their other statements, specifically regarding bisexual or multi-spec lesbians, stating those identities are "lesbophobic, harmful, and offensive" to her definition of lesbianism, which centers itself around men by centering non-attraction to men as lesbianism's primary attribute.

Why Lydia's Flag?

The above point of view is one which Spider finds inappropriate -- his view of lesbianism centers sapphic love and community, not lack of attraction to men! -- and for this and other reasons, including ease of sourcing colors for thread, overall attraction to the colors and the meanings given by Lydia (they/she/he) in their original post about the flag, and generally just vibing with the flag, he chooses to use Lydia's flag.

the 4 stripe lesbian flag, with the purple flag labeled sapphic flag with a violet, the pink stripe labeled fragility with a pink rose, the yellow stripe labeled strength with yellow crocuses, and the green stripe labeled healing with dill.

The colors of the flag are drawn from the Sappho poem at the beginning of this blog post, and the meanings attributed to those colors resonate as broad community colors, tying people together rather than dividing them. This is one of Spider's most dearly-held ideals for community: queer community should unite people, not be strictly gatekept out of some sort of misbegotten ideals of "protection." Lydia's bright, cheerful colors make his creation a positive statement about the strength and unity of lesbians in community with one another, and the creation of a flag

the sapphic flag with its hex codes displayed on each stripe.

made specifically with web-safe colors means that when you look at the flag on our site, you can be certain you'll receive the same sharp, clean colors on anything you order from us.

Notes

Citations linked inline where appropriate. Some of this is just stuff that Spider remembers because he was there for when it happened. Some information and images derived from the LGBTQIA+ wiki. Sapphic flag images including meaning of stripes duplicated from Lydia's Tumblr for clarity of meaning. Link provided directly to Lydia's Tumblr as requested.