The Leather Pride Flag
The leather pride flag has been a symbol of the leather subculture since the 1990s. It was developed by Tony DeBlase, who first introduced the flag at International Mister Leather on May 28, 1989. The leather community quickly adopted the flag, which has since become associated with leather in general and allied communities like BDSM.
Since the 1990s, the leather pride flag has been associated with the leather and BDSM community. Debuted at the International Mister Leather contest in 1989, it features nine equal-width horizontal stripes of black and blue, with a white stripe in the middle and topped by a red heart. The creator of the flag, Tony DeBlase, did not include specific meanings for the colors or hearts, preferring that the community assign its own interpretations.
Some interpret the black and blue stripes as representing leather and denim, respectively; others believe the white stripe stands for safety while the red heart represents love. Regardless of the specifics, the leather pride flag is a powerful symbol within the community and serves to foster unity among members. It is also a reminder that the lifestyle encompasses many forms of fetishism, including bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism, and masochism. Ultimately, it is a celebration of the diversity of sexual orientations and gender identities, and the strength of the leather community.
The leather pride flag was designed in 1989 by Tony DeBlase, and was first presented at the International Mister Leather contest on May 28, 1989. It was quickly embraced by the gay leather community, and has been flying at parades and other events ever since.
DeBlase left the symbolism intentionally vague, encouraging community members to assign their own meanings. There are many interpretations of the colors and the heart, but some common ones include: black stripes for leather and blue strips for denim; the white stripe in the middle stands for integrity; and the red heart symbolizes love.
In addition to being a symbol for the leather community, the flag is also a representation of BDSM (Bondage and Dominance Sexual Modality). This subculture involves bondage and dominance between men, but it is not restricted to homosexuals. BDSM encompasses a variety of activities and relationships, from bondage and slavery to sex toys and sadism. The leather pride flag is often associated with BDSM, but it can be used to represent any kink lifestyle.
Flown at Pride parades
The flag is often flown at Pride parades to show solidarity with the leather community. It is also a symbol of the gay leather scene, which encompasses those who like leather, Levi’s, sado-masochism, bondage and domination, uniforms, cowboys, rubber, latex, and other fetishes. It is not an exclusively gay symbol, and the same applies to those who identify as polysexual, where pink represents attraction to women, blue to men, and white to non-binary and transgender people.
The creator of the leather pride flag, Tony DeBlase, did not intend to have any specific symbolism attached to it and prefered that individuals or communities assign their own interpretations, symbols, and meanings. Among the most common interpretations are that black stands for leather and denim, white for purity in an open, honest, and understanding relationship, and the red heart for love. The two giant leather pride flags that were flown at the beginning of Minnesota’s Pride parade each year until they were decommissioned in an elaborate ceremony in 2008 are based on this design.
The leather pride flag has been adapted to represent different groups. For example, the organization Leather & Grace uses the stripes of the leather pride flag for their logo, and it also inspired the BDSM Pride flag which features a red flaming chalice. The colors on this flag represent the BDSM concepts of bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadnessism and masochism.
Another variation is the Genderflux Pride flag, which replaces the color blue with pink and adds a grey stripe for those who identify as genderflux or who experience a range of intensity within a given sex identity. It also includes a black stripe for those who do not identify as either male or female and a white stripe to represent transgender individuals.
The arrow on this flag points towards progress, reflecting the fact that there is still work to do to make the LGBTQ community more inclusive. Quasar has developed merchandising that incorporates this design, as well as other iterations of the flag, to accommodate different identities and to show that the leather pride flag is always a work in progress.