LGBTQ Agenda: New polyamorous flag is revealed

  • by Eric Burkett, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday December 20, 2022
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Polyamproud has revealed a new polyamorous flag created by Red Howell. Photo: Courtesy Polyamproud
Polyamproud has revealed a new polyamorous flag created by Red Howell. Photo: Courtesy Polyamproud

It was the late Gilbert Baker back in 1978 who helped sew the first rainbow flag with his friends, and who observed "Our movement is evolving. The movement to liberate our sexuality as a human right, that's an ongoing struggle."

Since the rise of the gay liberation movement, numerous sexual minorities have staked a claim in the struggle for sexual liberation. The gay liberation movement, of course, became the gay and lesbian liberation movement, which then became the gay, lesbian, and bisexual liberation movement. Eventually, the struggle of trans folks gained wider momentum as well. What ties all these groups together, however, isn't just their common grounding in sexuality.

It's that they all have flags of their own.

Bisexuals, lesbians, trans people, asexuals, and nonbinary people, along with a host of others, all have flags representing their groups and their aspirations. From the rainbow flag that Baker turned into a global symbol and was meant to be all-encompassing to flags that represent very specific groups, such as genderqueer and polysexual people, new flag designs keep coming.

The latest among them: a new polyamorous flag.

Now, there's actually been a poly flag — at least, a poly flag that most people keeping track of these things would recall — since 1995 when Jim Evans designed his blue, red, and black tricolor bearing the sign for pi in gold on the middle stripe. Though it's been around for 27 years, and even was used reasonably widely, it apparently never picked up an enthusiastic embrace from the folks it was intended to represent.

According to Flagwix, Evans explained the gold pi letter on his blog in 2016. He wrote that it could have been an affinity heart instead, but he avoided using that symbol because the feather pride flag already included it. The leather pride flag includes a red heart. (Evans could not be reached for comment.)

Polyamory in the News blogger Alan M. let his own thoughts about the flag fly in 2020.

"So here's a years-long peeve, and boy howdy, am I not the only one," he wrote. "The polyamory flag stinks. It confuses, it fails to communicate a message other than Huh? and its colors loom angry and foreboding. 'Some math or engineering society' is what usually comes to people's minds. It fails to declare for us, fails to inspire, fails to do a flag's job."

While there were other attempts to come up with an alternate design, according to numerous theories online, Evans' flag was the one people stumbled upon most frequently and was, therefore, the one most people referred to. As a result, the Evans' pi flag became the poly flag by default.

Kristian Einstman, 31, is a little more charitable when he discusses the pi flag.

"We don't see having a flag like this as a cure-all for those barriers but just a step in the right direction," he told the B.A.R. in a phone interview. "There's been a flag to identify as polyamorous since 1995 but what we saw as the use of that flag is that it was initially designed to be a furtive shibboleth, recognizable only to those who were familiar with the community. It would allow people to signal to others that they were present and I think that, at the time, in the mid-1990s, that was clearly what was needed."

Einstman, who identifies as "primarily poly, otherwise bisexual" is one of the members of Polyamproud, the group putting forward the newly designed flag.

Unlike other flag designs proffered since the pi flag, which were generally designed and offered out to the poly community by individuals taking it upon themselves to try and come up with a better idea, and then just sort of left hanging, the new flag, Einstman said, was voted upon by more than 30,000 people.

The new design, he insists, has what might be called intentionality. Although the director and a co-founder of Polyamproud, Einstman, a graphic designer and writer in Chicago, is just one of seven people who came together online from countries around the world to not only come up with a flag that more people could relate to, but to design a broad-based process that would not only select a design, but give the flag a legitimacy previous designs haven't been able to claim.

The committee didn't actually design the winning candidate, however. After going over many designs found through their research, and other designs put forward specifically for the vote, they narrowed it down to 10 options. From there, it was winnowed down even further to just four choices.

"Each candidate will have been created by an individual designer," Polyamproud's website stated, "ensuring a cohesive and definitive image. Committee members may provide critique and direction, but the designer themselves will be responsible for interpreting the committee's responses."

Polyamproud has been working on the project for a year and a half, Einstman said, and all that time has been spent trying to produce information about the effort, sending it out on social media and "talking to as many people as we could, trying to make as many connections as possible."

"The main thing was establishing ourselves as a knowledgeable voice in the community," Einstman said.

The committee that evolved out of the effort included people from numerous countries: Canada, New Zealand, Mexico, India, the Netherlands, and the United States, among others. It was particularly important, Einstman said, to include voices from "outside the English speaking, white colonial world. We were translating materials into many different languages and people from more than 50 countries voted. We're really proud of the reach and the global participation."

Voting for the flag opened up on November 1 and ran through November 22, with results announced December 12. The winning flag, designed by Red Howell, is similar in overall design to myriad other flags already representing the numerous sexual communities. Featuring three broad horizontal stripes, it includes a gold heart enclosed in an off-center white chevron at the hoist and canton. Howell did not return a message seeking comment.

The "chevron points toward the opposite end of the flag, a symbol of growth and progress, and sits asymmetrically on the flag to reflect the non-traditional style of polyamorous relationships. The heart within reminds us that love in all forms is the core of non-monogamy," reads a description on the Polyamproud website.

The colors of the flag are also meaningful. The chevron's white represents possibility; magenta stands for desire, love, and attraction; blue stands for openness and honesty; the gold of the heart represents energy and perseverance; and purple represents a united non-monogamous community.

Unlike the Progress Pride flag, which stirred up controversy when its designer, Daniel Quasar, opted to copyright the design, the new poly flag is in the public domain.

"We made sure all the designs were licensed to the public domain to ensure there would be no ownership or need to answer to someone in order to use this flag. We wanted it to be publicly acceptable and usable to everyone," said Einstman.

The plan now is to get the design into the hands of flag makers, as well as the numerous groups that are part of the polyamorous community, said Einstman. The hope is to have a strong presence at Pride celebrations around the world in 2023.

"I think that Pride is a kind of sacred place," Einstman said. "It's this event and physical space where I myself am bisexual, it's a place where I feel like I can express my sexuality to its fullest and glorified iteration without fear. I can celebrate my bisexuality without being afraid of any kind of discrimination or oppression."

That said, Einstman agreed that flags will change over time. Just as newer generations have devised alternative versions of the traditional rainbow Pride flag, this new flag speaks to a new generation of polyamorous people, he explained.

"It would be good to note there are people who have fond feelings for the older flags, but this take was never intended to rebuke the efforts of others who came before us," he continued. "The Jim Evans flag, and similar iterations, have helped the non-monogamous community unite and connect over the past 20-30 years. And we believe that we should always be questioning where our symbols come from and what they represent."

UPDATED 12/22/22 to correct the spelling of Kristian Einstman's last name.

The LGBTQ Agenda online column will return in the new year.

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