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Ace Week

October 26th, 2020 The Ace Flag: A History

These days, the ace flag is consistently and widely adopted by ace people and the wider LGBTQ+ community, but it was only 10 short years ago that the flag was born! In 2010, members of the online ace community began the process of designing and deciding on a flag to represent themselves, and those efforts led to the creation of one of our community’s most cherished symbols.

Ever wonder why the flag is purple, black, gray, and white? How did a community as diverse as ours decide on a flag? Did you know that there were dozens of designs to choose from?

Let’s dive in and explore these questions!

Early Ace Symbols and Colors

Like much of the ace community’s history, this story begins on the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network, otherwise known as AVEN. Prior to the creation of the ace flag in 2010, users on this forum had already adopted a number of other symbols such as the ace of spades playing card. As Siggy writes in his article on the history of the ace flag, the most popular of these symbols was the AVEN Triangle: 

"The triangle was inspired by an old model of asexuality, where the white part represented the heterosexual-to-homosexual spectrum, and the black part represented asexuality." 

The AVEN triangle.

The AVEN Triangle

Although this model isn't commonly used today because it doesn’t accurately represent ace identities, the colors from the triangle did inspire the black, gray, and white colors we see on the flag today. 

So the triangle gives the flag its first three colors, but where did the purple come from? Quite simply, purple is the accent color used in the design of the AVEN website. As Sennkestra recalls, the creator of AVEN chose purple after drawing inspiration from an obscure legend that claims a purple amethyst placed in wine can stop someone from getting drunk—perhaps this was a loose metaphor for a lack of interest in sex. 

Over the years, the meaning of purple morphed to represent community: a community that first flourished on AVEN but later expanded to other social media platforms, college clubs, and local groups. 

As we explore the history of the ace flag, it’s fascinating to note how the flag was inspired by the community symbolism that came before it.

Choosing a Flag

The idea for an ace flag was likely first suggested on an AVEN message board in May 2009, but it wasn't until 2010 that two AVEN users named standup and Bristrek spearheaded a month-long effort to choose an ace flag. 

The campaign to create a flag spanned multiple AVEN threads and three stages of polls. In an effort to include aces outside the forum, voting in the final poll was promoted to other ace communities, including non-English forums. 

In August 2010, the winning flag—created by the AVEN user standup— was announced: a simple design of black, gray, white, and purple stripes that mirrored other sexuality flags. 

A large asexual flag waving in front of a blurry building.

The ace flag

The new ace flag caught on quickly. Within a few years, it became ubiquitous in ace spaces both online and in-person. As discussions about the asexual umbrella evolved, gray-asexual and demisexual flags were also developed, both influenced by the original ace flag design. 

Two brown people holding up a large demisexual flag at a parade. One has short dark hair and the other has shoulder length dark hair.

The demisexual flag

The gray-asexual flag was proposed in 2013 when Milith Rusignuolo uploaded the design to Wikipedia. Although the exact origins of the demisexual flag remain unknown, it may have been proposed in a similar fashion.

A person with an Ace flag cape and a flower crown. A blurry background shows multiple other people and a large graysexual flag.

A person at Pride with the gray-asexual flag in the background

Ace Flag Moving Forward

Today, the ace flag is the most recognizable symbol of the ace community: we see it at pride parades, on stickers, in LGBTQ+ community centres, and even on TV! In the ten years since the adoption of the flag, the ace community has grown tremendously, and it’s exciting to think of all that we will accomplish in the next ten years. But just as it's important to look forward to the future of our ace communities, it's worth understanding our history, too. And the ace flag is a crucial part of that.

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