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What does the polyamorous flag look like?

What does the polyamorous flag look like?
Photo: Shutterstock

Polyamory is the practice of having multiple romantic relationships with the consent of all parties involved. It can be a beautiful way to experience love and connection, but it’s not always well understood.

One question people often have is what the polyamorous flag looks like, particularly because there are so many different versions out there. Here’s everything you need to know about this colorful – yet oft-debated – symbol of love!

Related: Am I polyamorous? How to know if polyamory is right for you

What Does It Mean To Be Polyamorous?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “polyamory” as “the state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time”. The term is derived from the Greek term “poly”, which means “many”, and the Latin “amor”, which means “love”.

Polyamory is considered to be just one subset of ethical non-monogamy (ENM) – an approach to dating and relationships that involves dating, having sex, and partnering up with multiple people with the consent of their partner/s.

Consent is a major tenet of ENM, and it’s what differentiates the practice from cheating. In any type of ethically non-monogamous relationship, all parties have to enthusiastically consent to the dynamic for it to work.

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What Is The Polyamory Pride Flag?

The polyamorous pride flag was created in 1995 by a man named Jim Evans. The flag is made up of a blue, red, and black stripe and the Greek letter “pi” in gold in the middle. Here’s what each element symbolizes:

  • Blue symbolizes honesty, communication, and openness among all partners – a key principle in practicing ENM.
  • Red represents love, passion, and affection.
  • Black represents solidarity with polyamorous people who feel the need to hide their relationships from the world due to stigma and pressures to conform to society.
  • The Greek letter “pi” (π) stands for the first letter of the word “polyamory.” Some also have interpreted the letter as a symbol for “infinite love” among partners.
  • The gold color of the pi symbolizes the importance of emotional attachment in polyamorous relationships. This represents polyamorous people’s ability to love multiple people at a time rather than simply experiencing physical attraction or having physical relationships with others.
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Controversy Surrounding The Poly Flag

Unfortunately, not everyone in the poly community is on board with this flag. According to the Poly in the Media blog, the flag can easily be mistaken for “some math or engineering society” rather than a pride flag, saying it “fails to declare for us, fails to inspire, fails to do a flag’s job.”

In Evans’ defense, he had limited design experience and tools at the time he created the flag. In a 2016 blog post, Evans explained that he created the flag on Microsoft Paint, running on Windows 3.1.

He said that he made it a point to avoid any symbols or imagery related to hearts. This is because the leather pride flag – which contains a heart – predates the polyamory pride flag and he didn’t want to bring any confusion between the two communities.

He also chose the pi symbol not only for its availability on most computer typographical platforms back then but also because he wanted a symbol that could be used “relatively anonymously, that could let people who were in on the symbology connect without it being too specific.”

It should be noted that, in the mid-90s, polyamory was still seen as fringe or even taboo. Not everyone who identified as polyamorous felt comfortable outing themselves to friends, family, and the general public.

Evans also acknowledged the long history of incorporating Greek letters and symbols as pride symbols. For example, the lambda was used as the symbol for the Gay Activists Alliance in New York and later became associated with the gay and lesbian rights movement in the 70s and 80s. Meanwhile, the labrys, a double-headed ax from Greek and Roman history, was adopted as a lesbian symbol and was used in one of the earliest examples of the lesbian pride flag.

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Alternative Polyamory Flags

In a bid to create a new polyamory flag that everyone in the community can agree with, various poly folks have uploaded their own versions online. Here are a few examples of flags that have been proposed to replace the polarizing original poly flag:

Emma Essex’s New Polyamory Flag

The poly flag created by Emma Essex (@HECKSCAPER on Twitter) in 2019 uses similar colors to the original flag made by Evans, only it features lighter colors and an infinity heart instead of the pi symbol. The infinity heart symbol has been adopted by the poly community since the 1990s, after Brian Crabtree created the first version and put it into the public domain.

Molly Wilvich’s Update Polyamory Pride Flag

Another recent version, created in 2020 by Molly Colleen Bennett Wilvich of Molly Makes Things, features four stripes in the following colors:

  • Lime green, which represents growth and kindness
  • Kelly green, representing balance and harmony
  • Sky blue represents freedom, self-expression, wisdom, and joy
  • Royal blue represents trust, responsibility, honesty, loyalty, and inner security

In the center of the flag is a white infinity heart.

The Bottom Line

Polyamorous relationships come in all shapes and sizes, but they all share one common thread: love. Whether you are polyamorous or just curious about this way of life, we hope this article has given you a better understanding of what it means to be polyamorous.

The next time you see any version of the poly pride flag flying high, remember that it is a symbol of love and acceptance for everyone.

Related: How does ethical non-monogamy work? All your questions answered

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