Pride Month 2022
Enter any healthcare organization, and you will likely see symbols throughout the facility. Over time the use of symbols has increased significantly to assist patients, staff, and visitors with navigating our organizations. Additionally, symbols transcend historical language and cultural barriers by leveraging graphics to convey essential information to our stakeholders. Symbols also have profound value in our local communities and nationally. In keeping with the month of June, one symbol that has gained recognition over time is the rainbow flag and its association with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ+) community. June is Pride Month for LGBTQ+ individuals and their supporters. The rainbow flag has become a hallmark symbol for this community’s identity and values, both societally and within many healthcare organizations.
One can easily find the Pride Flag’s unique story on the internet. At the request of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician elected in San Francisco, the first Pride Flag was created by Gilbert Baker in 1978. Baker’s flag version included eight stripes: pink, red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, blue, and purple. Due to color availability and cost, the pink and turquoise stripes were eventually removed from the flag, leaving the well-known version that includes red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple lines. Over the years, a few variations of LGBTQ+ related flags have been created, including the Transgender Pride Flag, which has one white stripe, two pink stripes, and two light blue stripes, and a modified rainbow flag that includes the addition of black and brown stripes to the rainbow signifying people of color within the greater LGBTQ+ community. Civil rights activist Amber Hikes, a queer African American woman and activist in Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ neighborhood, is credited with introducing the black and brown stripes in 2017. These versions of flags are an essential part of LGBTQ+ history because they represent groups within the community that may not have received equal acknowledgment over the years.
The most recent version of the Pride Flag that has gained acceptance and popularity is the Progress Flag, designed by Daniel Quasar in 2018. Quasar’s creative version incorporates the traditional rainbow layout, the Transgender Pride Flag, and Hikes’ black and brown stripes from her Philadelphia Flag. Pictured below, the Progress Flag retains the familiar six-striped rainbow while also embracing people of color and transgender individuals through a white, pink, light blue, brown, and black chevron symbol incorporated into the longstanding Pride Flag design.
The symbolism of the Pride Flag runs more profound than its sheer length and width because each flag color has its meaning: purple represents the spirit, blue represents harmony/serenity, green represents nature, yellow represents sunlight, orange represents healing, and red represents life/vitality. These values are particularly germane to healthcare because our goal is to promote and support the health and well-being of all our patients at all stages of their lives. While embraced by the LGBTQ+ community as a long-term symbol of our identity and unity, I would argue that the meaning of the rainbow flag’s stripes are universal values and can be espoused by everyone regardless of sexual identity/orientation, gender, race, or culture.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I am fond of Quasar’s Progress Flag because it is a beautifully relevant symbol of the intersectionality within the LGBTQ+ population. Individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ are likely to be very different from me, and this diversity is precisely the contribution; LGBTQ+ individuals bring to our communities and healthcare organizations. As Pride Flag visibility has increased year-round in our communities and the media, I would ask the following question: As leaders and change agents in healthcare organizations, have we embraced the Pride Flag as a symbol of our organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) journey every day, not just for Pride Month? Doing so would convey a strong message of LGBTQ+ allyship to our patients, staff, and stakeholders. Suppose your organization is in the early stages of the DEI journey. In that case, I encourage you to contact CAHL’s Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee (JEDI) for assistance with any challenges you are experiencing related to DEI.
I want to finish this message by sharing my excitement over the JEDI Committee celebrating Pride Month this year by hosting a face-to-face virtual credit event on June 7th on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, as well as a virtual networking and discussion event on June 14th on Health Equity and Inclusion. If you have not taken advantage of the virtual networking and discussion events that CAHL offers at no cost to ACHE members, I strongly encourage you to do so. These sessions are proving to be exceptional opportunities to engage with other members and share challenges, successes, issues, and best practices with peers throughout CAHL, as well as our growing list of chapters partnering with us for CAHL events. Our networking events may even be an opportunity to discuss the connection between symbols and healthcare!
I would like to wish everyone a Happy Pride Month and summer! Please do not hesitate to contact me and share your thoughts on topics you would like to see CAHL events cover for the rest of this year.
Kelly Brian Flannery, FACHE
President-Elect, California Association of Healthcare Leaders