Can you name all the colors of the rainbow? Seven of them: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet. Easy, huh?
Originally created with eight colors, pink and turquoise were removed for production purposes and as of 1979, it consists of six colored stripes, which should always be displayed with red on top or to left. It is most commonly flown with the red stripe on top, as the colors appear in a natural rainbow. Aside from the obvious symbolism of a mixed LGBT community, the colors were designed to symbolize: red (life), orange (healing), yellow (sunlight), green (nature), blue (harmony), and purple/violet (spirit). The removed colors stood for sex (pink) and art/magic (turquoise).
It’s very ironic that (even though they had to take the pink and turquoise out primarily because of the cost) “sex” and “art/magic” — two of the most sensual, right-brain, heart-centered of these eight symbols were the ones that got axed! There is also some interesting possibility for a feminist analysis on this. The patriarchy often sexualizes women and at the same time fear women’s sexuality. Likewise, the patriarchy long equated magic (witchcraft) as the threat women pose to the patriarchal religious and political institutions.
When I see a rainbow in the sky, I usually see only three colors. Maybe the air is polluted, or just that my eyesight is not so good.
As a visual artist I am fascinated by colors. I love all the different shades and nuances of colors that are often lumped together in mundane colloquials as “blue,” “purple,” “green” and so on, which happens to be in themselves a big universe of diversity. When computers were still running on a 16-bit processor (remember those days?) the maximum number of colors that a computer could display was 216. Now there are literally “millions of colors” you can generate with a computer.
We humans like to name objects and concepts. When we were little we were handed a little box of six crayons, and we called them “red!” “blue!” “yellow!” “green!” “black!” “white!”. But how vague and often inaccurate such names are! Often we look at something and make our own assumptions to determine what color it is (I have a shirt that most people say “blue” but I think “purple”).
Often we overgeneralize everything and in turn forget or conveniently ignore the vastly complicated and nuanced diversities underlying. Not so long time ago, literally people in the queer communities fought over how many and which letters of alphabets to include and in what order: GLB? LBG? BLG? LGBT? GLBT? LGBTQ? LGBTQQ? LGBTQIA? While doing so, we often ended up playing exclusionary politics and even claimed that the inclusion of some would “give us a bad name” and might “push the clock back on our progress by decades.”
False sense of queer unity at expense of embracing the fullness of queer diversity is dangerous. Like how patriotic parades and festivities of the Fourth of July might “unite” people under the common patriotic sentiments and create an illusion that “we are all Americans” and “we love America right or wrong,” while sweeping under the rug the underlying injustices, inequality and violence that made America the world’s superpower, events such as gay pride also creates an artificial illusion of “GLBT community unity” and have us all believe that everything is fine just because DADT was repealed and Obama spoke in favor of same-sex marriage — even though anti-queer violence remains unabated, discriminations run rampant, and even the mainstream gay elites in power do not make provisions for those who do not fit into a nice white, urban middle-class, bourgeois expectation of a monogamous gay relationship that emulates a heteronormative ideal of courtship, marriage and family.
What if we accept from the beginning that there are countless variations of human existence, and that no two persons are alike? Even better, what if we decided to unite in mutual solidarity in spite of differences, and what if we grew up and learned that we don’t have to look, act, and think alike to coexist and coprosper in peace?
99 colors of the rainbow for the 99 percent!
(Well, you can generate up to 16,777,216 distinctive colors using the RGB hexadecimal color codes…)