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The Power of Self-Expression: Exploring Identity within the LGBTQ+ Community through Art Therapy

by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC

Self-expression is a powerful tool for personal growth, self-discovery and self-empowerment. To be able to express oneself is essential for those particularly in the LGBTQ+ community who are seeking to connect with others in order to build greater understanding around a particular aspect of one’s identity. Art therapy can be particularly beneficial for individuals exploring their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. It allows us to explore our thoughts, feelings, and identities in a safe and supportive environment, free from judgment and societal expectations. One powerful way to explore and positively express one’s identity is through the creation of Pride flags in art therapy. In this blog post, we will explore the symbolism of the Pride flag, as well as the therapeutic benefits of engaging in the creation of one’s own Pride flag to promote authentic self-expression.

The History and Symbolism of the Pride Flag

The Pride Flag is a symbol of the LGBTQ+ community and is recognized globally as a representation of diversity, acceptance, and equality. The flag was first created by activist Gilbert Baker in 1978 to represent the diversity and strength of the gay community. The original design of the flag included eight colors, each representing a different aspect of the LGBTQ+ community:

  • Hot pink: Sexuality

  • Red: Life

  • Orange: Healing

  • Yellow: Sunlight

  • Green: Nature

  • Turquoise: Magic/art

  • Indigo: Serenity/harmony

  • Violet: Spirit

Over the years, the original flag has been altered, however, the colors of the flag continue to reflect meaningful aspects of the LGBTQ+ community and its values. The Pride flag continues to live on as an iconic symbol of pride, identity, and resistance, and is often used during LGBTQ+ events, celebrations, and protests around the world. In addition, different variations of the Pride flag have emerged to represent varying aspects of queer identity. These additional flags help to celebrate the full range of queer experiences and identities, and continue to reinforce the symbolism of the flag as representing solidarity and hope.

Creating Pride Flags in Art Therapy

In recent years, art therapy has emerged as an alternative therapeutic practice that promotes healing utilizing non-verbal forms of self-expression. It is widely believed that art and imagery have the power to present deeply meaningful self-expressions using symbols, colors, shapes and integrated forms of the human experience in a creative way. Art therapy provides a unique opportunity for individuals to explore their sexual orientation and gender identity through the creation of art, allowing them to express themselves freely and authentically.

Creating Pride flags in art therapy can be a transformative experience. It allows individuals to express themselves freely and authentically, while also exploring their intersecting aspects of their identities in a safe and supportive environment. Art therapists can provide guidance and support as individuals create their flags, helping them to identify and explore the colors and symbols that best represent their identity.

Pride flags, in particular, are colorful symbols that represent different aspects of the LGBTQ+ community and represent different identities, experiences, and expressions. The process of creating a pride flag can be a cathartic and empowering experience, providing individuals with a tangible representation of their sexual identity. Creating a Pride flag can also be a validating experience for individuals who may have experienced discrimination or rejection because of their identity. Seeing their identity represented visually can provide a sense of validation and acceptance.

Not only can creating these flags be a unifying and empowering experience for a particular individual or group of members engaged in this form of self-expression, but this process can also serve as an initial way to open communication with others. Often it can be a way to start a conversation at home, with family or with friends, which can feel safer when speaking about what the art represents and how it relates to the person creating it.

Here are some materials that may be useful when determining how you would like to create your flag:

  1. Paint: If creating a flag using paint, you will need acrylic or tempera paint, paintbrushes, a palette or mixing tray, and water for cleaning brushes.

  2. Markers: If creating a flag using markers, you will need a variety of markers in the colors of the flag, as well as paper or a fabric surface to draw on.

  3. Fabric: If creating a flag using fabric, you will need a fabric in the colors of the flag, scissors, thread, and a sewing machine or needle for hand-sewing.

  4. Collage materials: If creating a flag using collage techniques, you will need various materials such as colored paper, magazines, scissors, glue, and a surface to work on.

  5. Digital tools: If creating a digital pride flag, you will need a computer or tablet, software such as Photoshop or Illustrator, and a drawing tablet or stylus.

It is important to note that the choice of materials is ultimately up to the individual and what feels most comfortable and meaningful to them. In art therapy, the process of creating the flag is often more important than the finished product, and the materials used can vary depending on individual preferences and needs.

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