Artist Gilbert Baker first proposed the Rainbow Flag as the symbol for the 1978 San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade. Volunteers hand-dyed and hand-stitched two huge flags out of organically grown cotton. The original design used eight colors, but hot pink and turquoise were eliminated because of cost. The six colors of the resulting flag displayed at the 1979 parade symbolized the following: red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sun, green for harmony with nature, blue for art, and purple for spirit. Within the first two years of production, the flag became so popular that it used up the world's supply of purple flag cotton. The Rainbow Flag became nationally known after a 1988 lawsuit in which John Stout, a gay man living in West Hollywood, CA. successfully fought his landlord's attempt to keep him from flying the flag from his apartment balcony. A mile-long rainbow flag weighing over 7,000 pounds was carried by over 10,000 people as part of the 1994 New York City Pride Parade, marking the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.
Triangles (WWII originated)
Pre-Nazi Germany of the 1920's saw the modern world's first gay rights movement and the mergence of a visible lesbian and gay culture. In January 1933, only weeks after the Nazi party came to power, a law was passed banning all pro-gay organizations. On May 10, 1933, Hitler Youth staged the Nazis' first book burning, destroying the valuable collection contained in gay rights activist Magnus Hirschfeld's Institute of Sexual Science. Over 12,000 books, 35,000 pictures, and other materials were burned.
Men convicted under the German law known as Paragraph 175, which criminalized homosexual relations (including kissing and embracing), were sent to Nazi concentration camps. The Pink Triangle, now one of the most widely recognized symbols of the gay community, originated in these camps, where tens of thousands of gay men imprisoned during the Holocaust were forced to wear the triangle so that they could be easily identified.
The Black Triangle is also rooted in Nazi Germany. Although lesbians were not included in the Paragraph 175 prohibition of homosexuality, there is evidence to indicate that the black triangle was used to designate prisoners with anti-social behavior. Considering that the Nazi idea of womanhood focused on children, kitchen, and church, black triangle prisoners may have included lesbians, prostitutes, women who refused to bear children, and women with other "anti-social" traits.
Jewish gay men were forced to wear a yellow triangle beneath the pink one. From this combination, the six-pointed Jewish star of David was formed.
This Greek letter was adopted by the Gay Activist Alliance in 1970 as a symbol of the gay movement. An ancient Greek regiment of warriors who carried a flag emblazoned with the lambda marched into battle with their male lovers. The group was noted for their fierceness and willingness to fight until death. It became the symbol of their growing movement of gay liberation. In 1974, the Lambda was subsequently adopted by the International Gay Rights Congress held in Edinburgh, Scotland. As their symbol for lesbian and gay rights, the Lambda has become internationally popular.
The Labrys, or double-bladed ax comes from the goddess Demeter (Artemis). It was originally used in battle by Scythian Amazon warriors. The Amazons ruled with a dual-queen system, and were known to be ferocious and merciless in battle, but just and fair once victorious. Rites associated with the worship of Demeter are believed to have involved lesbian sex. Today, the labrys has become a symbol of lesbian and feminist strength and self-sufficiency.
Inspired by the gender symbols, the IFGE Logo is another symbol for transgendered peoples. The International Foundation for Gender Education is an educational and charitable organization addressing crossdressing and transgender issues. One of the organizations logos, this symbol combines the lavender color and the pink triangle shape with a ring denoting various genders all fused into one.
These 2 triangles together have come to be known as a symbol for bisexual men and women.
Freedom Rings, designed by David Spada with the Rainbow Flag in mind, are six colored aluminum rings. They have come to symbolize independence and tolerance of others. Freedom rings are frequently worn as necklaces, bracelets, rings, and key chains. Recently, Freedom Triangles have emerged as a popular alternative to the rings, though the meaning remains the same.
Gender Symbols are common astrological signs handed down from ancient Roman times. The pointed Mars symbol represents the male and the Venus symbol with the cross represents the female. Double interlocking male symbols have been used by gay men since the 1970s. Double interlocking female symbols have often been used to denote lesbianism, but some feminists have instead used the double female symbols to represent the sisterhood of women. These same feminists would use three interlocking female symbols to denote lesbianism. Also, some lesbian feminists of the 1970's used three interlocking female symbols to represent their rejection of male standards of monogamy.
Also in the 1970s, gay liberation movements used the male and female symbols superimposed to represent the common goals of lesbians and gay men. These days, the superimposed symbols might also denote a heterosexual aware of the differences and diversity between men and women. A transgendered person might superimpose the male and female symbols in such a way that the arrow and cross join on the same single ring.
Leather Pride Flag
The Leather Pride Flag is a symbol for the leather community, which encompasses those who are into leather, Levi's, sado-masochism, bondage and domination, uniform, cowboys, rubber, and other fetishes. The flag was created by artist Tony DeBlase and first displayed on May 28, 1989, at the Mr. Leather contest in Chicago. Although the flag is often common in the gay community, it is not a "gay-only" symbol.
Bear Pride Flag
The Bear Pride Flag is a symbol used by some "bears," gay men marked by an abundance of hair on their face, chest, and body. Bears also tend to be older, and perhaps larger or chubby. There does not seem to be one single symbol that represents bears in general. Rather, there are many symbols that have been adopted by local clubs, bars, and other bear groups. The most popular bear flag is this International Bear Brotherhood Flag, "designed with inclusivity in mind and represent[ing] the fur colors and nationalities of bears throughout the world." Thanks to merchandise availability and word-of-mouth, this flag has became the dominant bear flag within the community.
Bisexual Pride Flag The pink color represents sexual attraction to the same sex only (gay and lesbian), the blue represents sexual attraction to the opposite sex only (straight) and the resultant overlap color purple represents sexual attraction to both sexes (bi).
The Red Ribbon is a symbol of our concerns for our brothers and sisters afflicted with AIDs and HIV related disease. The wearing or displaying of the Red Ribbon also indicates our disgust and abject horror at the negligence of governments and health organizations to act promptly when this disease was first encountered in the early 80s.
Last modified July 10 2012 12:00 PM