Together We Stand for Pride

McDonald's Waves a Flag of Support All Year Long


Perhaps there isn't anything more symbolic of the LGBTQ+ community than the Pride flag, a rainbow of color as bold and bright as the people it represents. It's not uncommon on a stroll through town to see one splayed on a porch, flying on a mast in a gayborhood like West Hollywood, or draped out of an apartment windowsill. As with any flag, it evokes a feeling of "you're one of us," calling to those who identify with welcoming support.

Though flags like rainbow Pride take on significant meaning, there's a story behind this flag's fluttering rays of color that captures what it means to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community. The flag's history traces back to 1970s San Francisco when artist, drag performer, and activist Gilbert Baker, at the request of gay icon and political provocateur Harvey Milk, wanted to design a symbol to represent the diversity within the LGBTQ+ community.

After much deliberation amongst his friends in the Castro, Baker landed on a flag design because he saw flags as the most powerful symbol of pride. "Our job as gay people was to come out, to be visible, to live in the truth," Baker later said in an interview. "A flag really fit that mission, because that's a way of proclaiming your visibility or saying, 'This is who I am!'"

Inspired by the rainbow as a natural flag in the sky, Baker assembled the stripes with each color of the rainbow flag holding its own significance. Red symbolizes life, orange is for healing, yellow represents sunlight, green stands for nature, blue signifies serenity and harmony, and purple represents spirit. Together, these colors create a vibrant spectrum that celebrates the multifaceted identities and experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals.

Beyond its aesthetic appeal, the rainbow flag holds deep emotional and political significance for the LGBTQ+ community. In the wake of the Stonewall Riots, and during a time when being queer was widely stigmatized, the rainbow flag emerged as a powerful symbol of visibility and solidarity. It provided a sense of belonging and empowerment for those who had long been marginalized and oppressed. Throughout the decades, the rainbow flag has been raised high at Pride events around the world, serving as a beacon of hope, a declaration of LGBTQ+ pride and resilience.

In addition to its role as a symbol of unity, the rainbow flag has evolved to represent intersectionality within the LGBTQ+ community. Recognizing that the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights intersects with other social justice movements, such as those for racial equality, gender equality, and disability rights, the flag has become a symbol of solidarity across diverse identities and experiences. The six-stripe design has morphed into "all pride flags" and features added stripes and colors to capture the solidarity of intersectionality within the community.

The significance of the rainbow flag extends beyond its representation of LGBTQ+ pride. It serves as a reminder of the progress that has been made, and a call to action for continued advocacy. In fact, displaying the flag is seen as both affirming and supportive for LGBTQ+ youth and their mental health, as reported by 43% of respondents in The Trevor Project's national survey.

With another Pride month on the horizon, we remember the work we have done to get to this place – as encapsulated in the colorful stripes flowing in the wind. The Pride rainbow flag is much more than just a colorful banner; it is a powerful symbol of LGBTQ+ pride, visibility, and resilience.

The Golden Arches recognizes the significance of the rainbow flag and what it represents, and helps amplify the voices and stories of the LGBTQ+ community. McDonald's gives a platform to these voices through its partnerships with media companies that celebrate queer stories. Its partnership with Revry, an LGBTQ+ streaming service, and other partnerships with Paramount and Queerty serve to amplify these voices in powerful ways.

But it is not just about waving the flag during Pride month. The company stands on principles of pride, visibility, and resilience every day of the year. McDonald's launched the Pride Employee Business Network in 2005 to bring together employees and customers to build awareness, equity, inclusion and opportunities – and you can find McDonald's at Pride festivals nationwide, joining in and celebrating the LGBTQ+ community, because McDonald's shows that when we let ourselves be seen, we are stronger together.

by Roger Porter

This story is part of our special report: "McDonald's Unity in Diversity and Mentally Strong Editorial Series". Want to read more? Here's the full list.

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