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Pride Symbols and Icons
To demonstrate solidarity and unity for a common cause, and to graphically represent their vision, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups over the years have used a variety of symbols. Shown here are various symbols adopted by the LGBT community to express pride and activism.
The rainbow flag has become the easily-recognized colors of pride for the gay community. The multicultural symbolism of the rainbow is nothing new -- Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition also embraces the rainbow as a symbol of that political movement. The rainbow also plays a part in many myths and stories related to gender and sexuality issues in Greek, Native American, African, and other cultures. Use of the rainbow flag by the gay community began in 1978 when it first appeared in the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade.
The pink triangle is easily one of the more popular and widely-recognized symbols for the gay community. The pink triangle is rooted in World War II times, and reminds us of the tragedies of that era. Although homosexuals were only one of the many groups targeted for extermination by the Nazi regime, it is unfortunately the group that history often excludes. Each prisoner in the concentration camps wore a colored inverted triangle to designate their reason for incarceration, and hence the designation also served to form a sort of social hierarchy among the prisoners. A green triangle marked its wearer as a regular criminal; a red triangle denoted a political prisoner. Two yellow triangles overlapping to form a Star of David designated a Jewish prisoner. The pink triangle was for homosexuals.
In the 1970s, gay liberation groups resurrected the pink triangle as a popular symbol for the gay rights movement. Not only is the symbol easily recognized, but it draws attention to oppression and persecution -- then and now. In the 1980s, ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power) began using the pink triangle for their cause. Today, for many the pink triangle represents pride, solidarity, and a promise to never allow another Holocaust to happen again. As the pink triangle is historically a male symbol, the black triangle has similarly been reclaimed by lesbians and feminists as a symbol of pride and solidarity.
The lambda was first chosen as a gay symbol when it was adopted in 1970 by the New York Gay Activists Alliance. 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 became internationally popular. No one seems to have a definitive answer why the lambda was originally chosen as a gay symbol.
Some suggest that it is simply the Greek lower-case letter L for liberation (as in, the gay liberation movement). Others cite the use of lambda in physics to denote energy (the energy we have when we work in concert) or wavelength. The ancient Greek Spartans regarded the lambda to mean unity, while the Romans considered it "the light of knowledge shed into the darkness of ignorance." Reportedly, Ancient Greeks placed the lambda on shields of Spartan warriors, who were often paired off with younger men in battle. (There was a theory that warriors would fight more fiercely knowing that their lovers were both watching and fighting alongside them.) Today, the symbol generally denotes lesbians' and gay men's concerns together.
Biological 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.
The labrys is a double edged hatchet or axe which was commonly used by matriarchal societies as both a weapon and a harvesting tool. Today, the labrys is a lesbian and feminist symbol of strength and self-sufficiency. Lesbians continue to use it as a common symbol of pride. The labrys also played a part in ancient Mythology. Demeter, the goddess of the earth, used a labrys as her scepter and religious ceremonies in her honor (as well as in honor of Hecate, the goddess of the underworld) are believed to included lesbian sex.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is one of the most prominent national LGBT rights organizations. Its logo consists of a blue square with a yellow equal sign. The Equality Alabama logo utilizes an equal sign. The Marriage Equality (same-sex marriage) symbol is another good example.
This rectangular flag consists of a broad magenta stripe at the top (representing same-gender attraction), a broad stripe in blue at the bottom (representing opposite-gender attraction), and a narrower deep lavender band occupying the central fifth (which represents attraction towards both genders).
The blue and pink overlapping triangle symbol represents bisexuality and bi pride. The exact origin of this symbol, sometimes facetiously referred to as the "biangles", remains ambiguous. It is thought that the pink triangle represents homosexuality, as it does when it stands alone, while the blue stands for heterosexuality. The two together form the color lavender, a blend of both sexual orientations and a color that has been associated with homosexuality for almost a century. It's possible that the pink may represent attraction to females, the blue attraction to males, and lavender attraction to both. The bisexual moon symbol was created to avoid the use of the Nazi-originated pink triangle.
Popular symbols used to identify transgender, transsexuals, intersexuals, and other gender variant (or gender queer) people frequently consist of modified gender symbols combining elements from both the male and female symbols. More specifically, the symbol depicts a circle with an arrow (as per the male symbol), a cross (as per the female symbol), and an additional striked arrow (combining the female cross and male arrow).
Another transgender symbol uses the Mercury symbol. In Greek mythology, Aphrodite (Venus) had a child with Mercury (Hermes). The child was named Hermaphroditus and possessed both male and female genitalia. Thus the origin of the word hermaphrodite. Since Hermaphroditus didn't have a specific symbol, the symbol for Mercury was borrowed in this instance to represent a transgendered person. Mercury's symbol has a cross extending down to represent femininity and a crescent moon at the top to represent masculinity. The two are placed at opposite ends of the circle to strike a balance between the male and female parts. This symbol seems to speak more to those transgender persons who identify hermaphroditically or andgroynously.
The flag that symbolizes the asexual community uses the colors black, grey, white and purple. The black stripe represents asexuality. The grey stripe represents the grey-area between sexuality and asexuality. The white stripe represents sexuality. The purple stripe represents community.
The pansexual flag is striped with the rose, blue, and gold, representing the female gender, male gender, and third-gender, respectively. The third-gender includes those who are intersex, genderqueer, transsexual, androgynous, and other who identify as being both genders.
The Genderqueer umbrella term, referring to gender non-conforming or gender variant people, is represented by a flag with the colors purple (lavender), white, and green (chartreuse). Agender people are represented by a flag with black, grey, white, and green colors.
The Bear community, with its hypermasculine image and rustic physical type, uses earthy, natural colors along with a bear claw for its symbol of brotherhood.
Symbols used in the BDSM community and fetish subculture include the Triskelion icon and the Leather Pride flag. Colors used in the symbols of the BDSM and Leather communities are black and blue.
While many safe zone programs on various college campuses have individually unique logos to represent their particular program, this circle design has come to represent the universal safe zone symbol. The green circle (sometimes a symbol for LGBT allies) represents safety or protection. The inverted pink triangle represents the LGBT community. Together they depict protection for LGBT people. Sometimes stop signs are a part of many safe zone symbols.
History of Common
Rainbow Icon Archive
Lambda LGBT Community Services
Wikipedia: Gay Pride
UAB Safe Zone: LGBT symbols
Wapedia: Gay Pride
Introduction to Modern Gay History
Wikipedia: The Stonewall Riots
Gay History & Literature By Rictor Norton
People With a History
Committee On Lesbian & Gay History
Wikipedia: History of Homosexuality
Gaire: Gay History
Association for Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama