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Several websites claim that the line "red, gold, and green" in the 1983 song Karma Chameleon by Culture Club refers to the colors of gay pride. For example, Genius:

Before the rainbow was used, red, gold, and green were colors used to display gay pride in the 80s.

Is this true?

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    Not sure about the status at the time, but those colours are more commonly associated with Rastafarians, Reggae, and/or the use of cannabis.
    – jcaron
    Jan 2, 2023 at 8:31

1 Answer 1

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Unlikely.

The linked Genius annotation seems to be the source of this claim - it was posted in September 2012 by a user with no other contributions to the site, and has since been copied verbatim to other places, such as Quora.

It's hard to prove a negative, but searching has not turned up any other mention of "red, gold, and green" being used as a gay pride symbol. Multiple respondents to the Genius annotation have also been unable to verify it:

I won’t say it`s wrong, but I looked for it, and I couldn’t find anithing [sic] about that or a picture of the flag, where did you get this info?

A red, gold, and green flag is, however, one of the symbols of the Pan-African movement. A more common claim - posted twice on the Quora thread, and as a proposed edit on Genius - is that Boy George was attempting to draw a parallel between the struggle for racial equality and the struggle for gay equality, but whether that's true is probably a whole different question.

Furthermore, the quote from Genius claims that the rainbow flag was not in use during the 80s, which isn't true: it was invented in 1978, five years before "Karma Chameleon" came out.

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    Agreed that it's hard to prove a negative, but I would also point out that the 1980s were not that long ago. If that were actually common then, half of the people alive today would be old enough to remember it. The lack of people remembering it from first-hand experience very strongly suggests that it's not accurate. Heck, Boy George is still alive and performing today. Someone could just ask him.
    – reirab
    Jan 1, 2023 at 19:47
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    Wikipedia says "the original gay pride flags flew at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade celebration on June 25, 1978. Prior to that event, the Pink triangle had been used as a symbol for the LGBT community". No mention of a red, gold and green flag (but again, proving a negative...).
    – jcaron
    Jan 2, 2023 at 10:04
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    More importantly, perhaps, than any of this, Culture Club had heavy reggae influences, and the colours red, green and gold are both the colours of reggae and the colours of Rastafarianism.
    – Araucaria
    Jan 3, 2023 at 0:54

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