The Lesbian Flag

“How did we get here?”


  1. Contents (You are here)
  2. Foreword
  3. The Labrys Flag
    1. 1999
    2. Jun 2012
  4. The Lipstick Lesbian Flag
    1. July 2010
    2. Dec 2010
    3. Mar 2011
    4. Aug 2014
  5. The Pink Flag
    1. Dec 2013
    2. Oct 2015
    3. Mar 2016
    4. June 2016
  6. Controversy
    1. 2016 – 2017
    2. June 2017
    3. Mid-2018
  7. Conclusion
  8. Update
  9. FAQ
  10. Sources
  11. Credit

Purple flag, featuring a white double-bitted axe on a black downward-pointing triangle. The Labrys Flag


Sean Campbell, a gay man in the leather scene, designs a series of pride flags for LGBT sub-communities to publish in a 2000 pride edition of the Gay and Lesbian Times (Palm Springs). "The Labrys Flag" is one of these.

Jun 2012

A blog titled "The Queerstory Files" publishes Sean's flags with descriptions. Possibly its first appearance online.[1] The blog describes the flag as follows:

This is composed entirely of established symbols. The colour lavender has been used by and for the lgbt community for many decades. … The black triangle was used by the Nazis … [and] covered several so-called “anti-social” groups which included lesbians. … [It] has been used by lesbian and women’s rights groups many times. Sean’s flag design also turns the symbol into a positive affirmation of female power by placing the double-edged axe, the labrys, firmly on top of the triangle. The labrys was an ancient symbol of matriarchal power in the eastern Mediterranean…

Following this, it appears in some pride flag compilations, possibly starting with Clare Bayley's 2013 "A Field Guide to Pride Flags", which also featured his Drag Pride flag.[2][3]

Outside of that, there's no sign Sean's flag was ever widely used or known of.


Flag with seven stripes of a gradient from deep magenta to cool pink to white to pink to deep red, with a hot pink kiss in the upper left-hand corner The Lipstick Lesbian Flag

July 2010

"The Official Lipstick Lesbian Flag" is created by Natalie McCray, and posted on her Wordpress "This Lesbian Life", with the following announcement:[5]

The gay community has so many flags that represent all the different sub-communities. Our gay male friends are definitely the most established. They have a flag for the young gays, leather guys, hairy guys, and girly guys. Even the bisexuals have their own flag!!!!

So I’ve always wondered…WHERE ARE THE LESBIAN FLAGS???? Are we lacking pride or is our community just too lazy to come up with something?

I have taken it upon myself to design the very first lipstick lesbian pride flag. Now we have our own flag to wave at the gay parade!

Bear and leather flags. Bear flag has pawprint and brown-white-grey-black gradient, leather flag has heart and blue, black, and white stripes.The flag's seven-stripe gradient and corner symbol was likely inspired by the flags for the bear and leather subcultures, designed in 1995 and 1989 respectively.

Dec 2010

Natalie uploads her own design to Wikipedia under the name "Nmdesigns",[6] and adds it to the article entitled "Lipstick Lesbian".[7]

Mar 2011

A Wikipedia user adds a large number of flags to the "LGBT Symbols" article, including this one.[8]

This increases its profile, and it appears in a number of pride flag compilations.[2][3][9][10]

Aug 2014

Natalie plans to sell merchandise using her design, but doesn't follow through.[11][12]

Flag with seven stripes of a gradient from deep magenta to cool pink to white to pink to deep red The Pink Flag

Dec 2013

Tumblr user @trans-wife posts this pride flag compilation[archive], featuring a square rendition of the pink flag. Note that including the lipstick symbol could look awkward on a square. @trans-wife posts no other flags with symbols – is she removing the lipstick herself for aesthetic purposes, or is she cropping an already-lipstickless flag down to size?

Oct 2015

Pride-Flags,[13] a DeviantArt account run by multiple people that posted many high resolution pride flags every day (mostly for user-submitted microidentities),[14] posts its first 2 lesbian flags on the same day: October 7, 2015.[15][16]

This is not the earliest recorded instance of “The Pink Flag” – the Lipstick flag without the kiss symbol. It likely was not included because its complexity made it too difficult or time-consuming to create a vector for high resolution.

They later admit this was the case:[15]

No I don't [have the lipstick lesbian flag] yet, I've been putting it off because I'd have to redraw the lips since I don't think theres a vector I can use 🙁 I'll see if I can find someone to redraw it for me though!

A year later they would upload the original, with help from someone outside their team.[17]

Mar 2016

Possibly Previously thought to be the earliest appearance of the pink flag on Tumblr.[18] It is identical to the image posted by Pride-Flags, and likely not an independent edit, due to its aspect ratio of 1:1.667 (resolution 1280 × 768). The original flag was 1892 × 1204 pixels, with a 1:1.571 aspect ratio. The flag posted on Pride-Flags was 5000 × 3000 pixels, with a 1:1.667 aspect ratio.

While it doesn't gain much traction, it introduces the flag to a new audience. One blogger, having seen it for the first time in this post,[19] would later reblog a slightly reworded version of it.[20]

June 2016

This new post, using the same image, launches the pink flag into the Tumblr "mainstream", with 82784 notes (a measure of user interactions). The wording of the post—the lesbian flag is so pretty why don’t we use it more—suggests that this is "the" lesbian flag, which leads most people to believe that it is an established community flag.


2016 – 2017

Many people were dissatisfied with the pink flag, and the Labrys flag is unearthed as an alternative. However, both flags receive their share of criticisms.

Labrys flag

Pink flag

June 2017

The first attempted lesbian flag redesign is posted to Tumblr.[21] This inspires many others to do the same.


As the critcisms become more widely known,[27] redesigns flood Tumblr, as do attempts to catalogue them all and polls to find a "winning design". Most are based on the pink flag.[22][23][24][25][26]

In conclusion

pile of 64 different proposed lesbian flags

There is no "official" lesbian flag. At this point, reaching a consensus is unlikely.

Maybe insular lesbian communities will settle on one, but that doesn't amount to a universal lesbian flag.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, though. We have other symbols of pride. The lesbians who came before us were loud and proud through other means.

As for merch?
Sometimes I think we forget that Gilbert Baker made the rainbow flag for us too.
Rainbow pride flag (original 8-striped version) with interlocking venus/female symbols on it


Tumblr user @deadicateddeath points out the existence of this pride flag compilation post on Tumblr [archive], published 8 December 2013. This is now, to my knowledge, the earliest record of the pink stripes featured without the kiss mark. The same blog made another post (10 January 2014) which featured the pink flag and claimed that it was seeing use at the time.

This essay's author is extremely interested in any other evidence of pre-2015 use of the pink flag outside of this blog – if you have any sources, please send them their way!

FAQ/Common Misconceptions

So… what flag should we use?

The goal of this essay was to clear up misinformation, not to tell anyone what flag to use. Use your own judgement, even make your own if you want, just don’t get stressed out if your flag isn’t “the” flag and remember that flag colours are not the only avenue through which to show pride!

The lipstick lesbian flag is an edited version of the pink flag, which is the original.

There is no evidence to support this. The lipstick lesbian flag had been documented online for years prior to the pink flag, as explained above.

The lipstick mark was removed to make the flag more inclusive.

There’s no proof of this – as explained above, the first instance of the mark being “removed” (i.e. not included) was due to it being too complex to easily convert into a high resolution image.

The pink flag is, and has always been, “the” lesbian flag.

The pink flag has only been in semi-common usage since 2016, and its use is still mostly confined to younger online communities.

The rainbow flag is the gay (male) flag.

The rainbow flag[32] was created by Gilbert Baker in 1978 to represent the LGBT community as a whole (his original 8-stripe design appears at the end of the essay). It does not belong exclusively to gay men, and it does represent lesbians. Please stop framing it like this:

The acronym 'LGBT'. The 'L' is paired with a placeholder flag, the 'G' with the rainbow pride flag, the 'B' with the magenta-purple-blue bisexual pride flag, and the 'T' with the blue, pink, and white transgender pride flag.

when it’s actually like this:

The acronym 'LGBT'. All letters are on the rainbow pride flag. The 'B' is paired with the bisexual pride flag, and the 'T' with the transgender pride flag.

This doesn’t mean we can’t have a specific flag for the lesbian community, but it’s not the case that we need to scramble the fill the gap left by a “missing” flag.

The creator of the the lipstick lesbian flag/the labrys flag is a TERF.

No readily-accessible information on Sean Campbell suggests this, and while a cursory browse through Natalie McCray’s social media did turn up some casual cissexism, nothing indicates she was a TERF. If you have sources that show otherwise, please send them to the author.

What is a “Lipstick Lesbian”?

A feminine lesbian, and by many definitions, one who only dates other feminine lesbians. Natalie McCray’s edits to the Lipstick Lesbian Wikipedia page under the name “Nmdesigns”[7] show that she subscribed to the femme4femme definition.

I’m not a lesbian, can I reblog or share this?

The author doesn’t mind who shares this, and neither does the editor, but if you want to add commentary as someone ouside the lesbian community, especially in the notes of the original Tumblr post, the author requests that you think carefully on whether or not it is relevant or appropriate.

Can I repost this on Twitter/Facebook/etc?

We don’t mind, but we’d strongly recommend including a link back to the original post in order to preserve the sources.

Actually, there is an official/agreed upon flag! It’s ______.

As the author said in the essay: Maybe insular lesbian communities will settle on one, but that doesn't amount to a universal lesbian flag.


  1. Scupham-Bilton, Tony. “Putting Out Sean Campbell’s Flags”. The Queerstory Files, 21 June 2012. [archive]
  2. Bayley, Clare. “A Field Guide to Pride Flags”. Clare Bayley, 27 June 2013. [2014 archive] [2015 update archive]
  3. @lovemystarfire. “LGBT Community Terminology and Flags”. DeviantArt, 18 April 2014. [archive]
  4. Volcano, Del Lagrace. And the March Stops. 1988. Photograph. Lesbian Herstory Archives. London [archive]
  5. McCray, Natalie. “Lipstick Lesbian Pride!!!”. This Lesbian Life, 28 July 2010. [archive]
  6. File:Lipstick Lesbian Pride Flag.jpg @ Wikimedia Commons [archive]
  7. Lipstick lesbian: Revision history @ Wikipedia [archive]
  8. LGBT symbols: Revision history @ Wikipedia [archive]
  9. @darciam. “Pride United - Button Set”. DeviantArt, 27 August 2012. [archive]
  10. @LeiAndLove. “Ultimate LGBTQ Flag Guide”. DeviantArt, 17 July 2011. [archive]
  11. McCray, Natalie. “The Official Lipstick Lesbian Flag”. This Lesbian Life, 4 August 2014. [archive]
  12. McCray, Natalie. The Official Lipstick Lesbian Pride Flag, retrieved 1 June 2016. [archive]
  13. @Pride-Flags @ DeviantArt [archive]
  14. @Pride-Flags. “Lesbian”. DeviantArt, 7 October 2015. [archive]
  15. @Pride-Flags. “Lesbian Labrys”. DeviantArt, 7 October 2015. [archive]
  16. @Pride-Flags. “Lipstick Lesbian”. DeviantArt, 25 December 2016. [archive]
  17. @emtmercy. “the lesbian flag is so cute…”. Tumblr, 11 March 2016. [archive]
  18. @sappharah. “the lesbian flag is so cute…”. Tumblr, 27 March 2016. [archive]
  19. @allukazaoldyeck. “sorry this should be my last…”. Tumblr, 30 June 3017. [archive]
  20. @allukazaoldyeck. “Lesbian Flag Poll Data Results”. Tumblr, 7 June 2018. [archive]
  21. @which-lesbian-flag. “The Lesbian Flag Survey”. Tumblr, 21 July 2018. [archive]
  22. @taqwomen. “Lesbian Flag Colors”. Tumblr, 26 July 2018. [archive]
  23. @official-lesbian-flag. “Official Lesbian Flag Poll”. Tumblr, 30 June 2018. [archive]
  24. @creatoroflesflagisracist. “Commercial Lesbian Flag Poll (please only lesbians vote)”. Tumblr, 14 December 2018. [archive]
  25. Lydia. “A Lesbian Flag for Everyone”. Medium, 27 June 2018. [archive]
  26. McCray, Natalie. “My Worst Date Ever”. This Lesbian Life, 18 July 2010. [original archive] [2018 updated archive]
  27. @thislesbianlife. “The second season of the real l word has too many butches”. Twitter, 16 May 2011. [archive]
  28. @thislesbianlife. “Why don’t butches shave their armpits!!! IT’S DISGUSTING! Even men trim it!”. Twitter, 8 January 2011. [archive]
  29. McCray, Natalie. “The 10 Worst Things About Being A Lipstick Lesbian”. This Lesbian Life, 18 July 2010. [archive]
  30. Baker, Gilbert. Rainbow Flag. 1978. Nylon. Museum of Modern Art. New York. [link]



Pixellari by Zacchary Dempsey-Plante [] is used in the original visual essay. This version merely uses your browser's default font. On many browsers this will be Times New Roman or Arial, both by Monotype.

Pile of Flags

Note that this is by no means an exhaustive list of recent redesigns, nor will it be. The author is having difficulty tracking down the original posts for flags 17 and 31. If you recognise them, please get in touch!

Different lesbian flag designs in a pile, numbered.
  1. lesbie-vague
  2. pavonina
  3. satansfemme
  4. treebutch
  5. poisonouspastels
  6. lesbian-flag-store
  7. wraith-lesbian
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An asterisk * indicates that the original post has been deleted, and a reblogged version of it has been archived instead.