19 years young: the bi flag

The bisexual flag is 19 years old today. The pink, purple and blue colours that have come to represent the bi community in their stripes were not new in 1998, but refashioning them into a flag was a bright idea from Michael Page of online chat forum BiCafe (which ran until 2012).

He took the pink, purple and blue that were being used as a bi symbol through a set of overlapping triangles – a pink and a blue triangle overlapping and creating a purple triangle as their intersection.

BiCafe was launched in 1997 and so the flag was launched at its first birthday celebrations, on 5th December 1998.

In correspondence with a writer for the flagspot website he explained, “The pink colour represents sexual attraction to the same sex only (gay and lesbian), the blue represents sexual attraction to the opposite sex only (straight) and the resultant overlap colour purple represents sexual attraction to both sexes (bi).”

It’s made up of three distinct colour blocks, but sometimes people use a wash of colours from pink to blue via purple. That’s pretty well in keeping with his original concept, as Michael explained: “The key to understanding the symbolism of the Bisexual pride flag is to know that the purple pixels of colour blend unnoticeably into both the pink and blue, just as in the ‘real world,’ where bi people blend unnoticeably into both the gay/lesbian and straight communities”

Wouldn’t the rainbow flag do the job? On the (now closed) website BiFlag.com, Michael wrote that ” the vast majority of bi people I have spoken with, feel no connection to the rainbow flag, the pink triangle, the black triangle, the Lambda symbol or the double-edged hatchet. These symbols are viewed as gay and lesbian icons, which was their initial intent.”

Despite this, in the late 1990s and 2000s it was still fairly unknown as a symbol, not least because in the days when colour printing was much harder to afford, promotional materials for bi groups and bi projects tended to be in black and white. There was a bisexual flag on the cover of the International BiCon programme booklet in 2000, but it was a rare piece of colour print.

But the wave of non-geographic bisexual community that growing internet access brought, and the way pixels cost the same whatever shade they are, helped transform that. Today there are a plethora of web graphics using the three colours, as well as lots of bi-coloured accessories to subtly communicate your bi-ness to others. It even lets us question bi-coloured things in popular culture to ask whether we should co-opt them as bi, such as the My Little Pony character Twilight Sparkle.

The flag itself – now easily obtainable online for a few pounds – makes a simple and popular cape to wear at LGBT pride events, turning the usual problem of bisexual invisibility on its head by literally wrapping yourself in the flag.

It has flown from town halls worldwide and given us a code by which to know one another and so helped end bisexual invisibility. So thanks to Michael, and happy birthday the pink, purple and blue flag (and remember, you can’t have a birthday without a bi)