A few days ago, on June 30th the asexual flag hit it’s 10 year anniversary. It was made by community polling and design scouring then more rounds of discussion on AVEN. Not by, on the website in a really collaborative way. You can see a more complete history collected by Asexuality Archive which comes into more detail about why the flag is the way it is.
You also my or my not know each stripe was given a meaning.
- Black: Asexuality
- Grey: Grey-Asexuality and Demisexuality
- *White: Non-asexual partners and allies
- Purple: Community
*Over the past at least two years people have said, ‘hey we are no longer mostly on AVEN and our direction isn’t so ally focused maybe we should change the white’s meaning.’ Common suggestions include romantic variation, to other white means the sum of all colors so the white stripe should reference some other diversity within. Which would help tie it to the aro flag more, and the trans’ white stripe.
With that preface, I want to talk about where the purple came from. Which is actually a really cool story I have never heard before in my 7-8 years of being in the community.
Before 2010, ace symbols included shades of grey gradient. AVEN’s logo is a prism for that reason. The demisexual’s flag is also reference a prism. But, I never knew why purple was added into the mix. Never even thought of it.
The story goes purple was a 2001 addition. Specially choosing the amethyst crystal shade for it’s relationship to the Greek (or French Poet 1528 – 1578) story that mentions a nymph named Amethyst (or Amethystas). In it, Dionysus was hitting on her and she wasn’t into it so Artemis helped protect the nymph by turning her into white quartz. Dionysus then showed he made a mistake and poured wine over the amethyst stone, staining it purple.
Here’s some art from a different version of the story, where Dio was less hitting on her, and more accidentally on purpose angry with her, risking a mortals life via threat of tiger. It ends with Dio crying wine in remorse turning the stone purple.
As you can see above a white to purple gradient appears. Whatever the original version of the story the heart of it is: Artemis saved someone from harm and the person who caused the harm realized their grave mistake.
The dating of the story is debating because it’s thought in Greek/Roman times, wine goblets were carved out of Amethyst to protect royalty from getting too drunk and making fools of themselves in the same way Dionysus had before them.
Which not only makes my pagan heart happy to know forever now know the ace shade of purple has Artemis meaning, but also how that shade of purple meant that people were reminded to ‘not make the mistakes of the past and make fools of ourselves that harm people who aren’t interested.’
Which in a strange way makes me like that the pesky white stripe could be an ode to allies (ace or not) protecting aces. Because no matter where the story came from isn’t it such a timeless, thought out, over arching connection that goes back far more than just the 10 years of the asexual flag itself?
Asexuality history goes back so much further than just that flag. The easiest I know of is from a translated Sappho poem.
There’s so much even recent ace history that has been saved for us thanks to aces, thanks to projects like The Wayback Machine, thanks to how threads work, how google works. I know it’s technology, but it can be pretty magical if you have a curiosity to learn. It’s a gift we mustn’t ever lose to a click bait nature of social media today.
As Sappho also said, “Someone, I tell you, in another time will remember us.”