Central PA's LGBT News Source

Rainbow flag creator had FBI file


Activist Michael Petrelis, who occasionally writes for Central Voice, reports that Rainbow Flag creator Gilbert Baker had a wisp of an FBI file and was released to him. He filed a Freedom of Information request.

Months before the Pope paid a visit to San Francisco in September 1987, Baker apparently went with a friend to the feds to chat about their activism plans when the pontiff would be in town.

Sections of the memo about the meeting can be read as a fashion critique!

Petrels said "This is the first FOIA request I've made to the FBI where the acknowledgement letter also included the responsive file and it was released in less than five weeks. Notable in this Trump era with govt transparency under heavy attack and noncompliance."

Following is a portion of what was in Baker's file:

FBI Memorandum

Date: 6/11/87

Subject: Visit of Pope John Paul II to the United States September, 1987

Special Events Management

On 5/18/87, the writer and SA [Special Agent] ______________ [redacted} were asked to interview a representative of the group "The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence".

Baker was interviewed and advised that his occupation is "performance artist" and his stage name is "Sister Chanel 2001".

It should be noted that Mr. Baker was dressed in a black and white nun's habit, however, the attire included a rhinestone cowl, as well as long red tights and patent leather high heel shoes.

The nun's habit was slit on the skirt at very strategic locations. Mr. Baker came to the office accompanied by one other person similarly dressed and provided the interviewing Agents with copies of three documents, which are attached and being made part of this memo.

These include a press release proclaiming that the group is peace-loving and non-violent; a press release denouncing the cost and intent of the Papal visit; and a third press release commenting on the civil law suit which currently involves the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

Baker, 65, died March 30 in his sleep at his home in New York. His first flag was an eight-colored banner that flew over the 1978 Pride festivities in San Francisco. The rainbow flag has since become a symbol of the LGBT community recognized worldwide — celebrated at pride festivals, brandished at protests and raised every morning at the corner of Castro and Market streets in San Francisco.

Baker told Central Voice in 2003 that he never dreamed his creation would evolve into an international symbol. “I wanted to create something joyful,” he said.