LGBT symbols

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The LGBT community has adopted certain symbols for self-identification which demonstrate unity, pride, shared values, and allegiance to one another. LGBTQ symbols communicate ideas, concepts, and identity both within their communities and to mainstream culture. The two most-recognized international LGBTQ symbols are the pink triangle and the rainbow flag. The pink triangle, employed by the Nazis in World War II as a badge of shame, was re-appropriated but retained negative connotations. The rainbow flag, previously used as a symbol of unity between all people, was adopted to be a more organic and natural replacement without any negativity attached to it.

Triangles used for persecution during the Nazi regime

One of the oldest of these symbols is the pink triangle, which originated from the Nazi concentration camp badges that male homosexuals were required to wear on their clothing.[1] Many of the estimated 5–15,000 gay men and lesbian women imprisoned in concentration camps died during the Holocaust.[2] For this reason, the pink triangle is used as an identification symbol and as a memento to remind both its wearers and the general public of the atrocities that gays suffered under Nazi persecutors.[citation needed] AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP) adopted the inverted pink triangle to symbolize the "active fight back" against HIV/AIDS "rather than a passive resignation to fate."[this quote needs a citation]

The pink triangle was used exclusively with male prisoners—lesbians were not included under Paragraph 175, a statute which made homosexual acts between males a crime. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum stipulates that this is because women were seen as subordinate to men, and that the Nazi state feared lesbians less than gay men. However, the USHMM also claims that many women were arrested and imprisoned for "asocial" behaviour, a label which was applied to women who did not conform to the ideal Nazi image of a woman: cooking, cleaning, kitchen work, child raising, and passivity. These women were labeled with a black triangle.[3] Lesbians reclaimed this symbol for themselves as gay men reclaimed the pink triangle.[citation needed]

Pink Triangle Black Triangle Pink & Yellow Triangles
Pink triangle.svg Black triangle.svg Pink triangle jew.svg
The pink triangle was originally used to denote homosexual men as a Nazi concentration camp badge. The black triangle was used to mark "asocial" and "workshy" individuals, including lesbians, Romani and others in the camps. It has been adapted as a lesbian symbol. The pink triangle overlapping a yellow triangle was used to tag Jewish homosexuals in Nazi concentration camps.


The labrys symbol.

The labrys, or double-bladed battle axe, was a symbol used in the ancient civilization of Minoan Crete (sometimes portrayed as having certain matriarchal tendencies). It represents lesbian and feminist strength and self-sufficiency.[4] It has been in use since the late 1970s. Some lesbians have it tattooed on their inner wrist while others wear it as a pendant.[5]


The Greek symbol lambda

The Greek letter lambda was selected as a symbol by the Gay Activists Alliance of New York in 1970.[6] In December 1974, the lambda was officially declared the international symbol for gay and lesbian rights by the International Gay Rights Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland.[6] The lambda signifies unity under oppression.[6] The gay rights organization Lambda Legal and the American Lambda Literary Award derive their names from this symbol. The lambda was associated with the Spartans because they were also known as the Lacedaemonians, from the Ancient Greek Λακεδαίμων, which begins with the letter lambda.[7]

Purple hand

On 31 October 1969, sixty members of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) and the Society for Individual Rights (SIR) staged a protest outside the offices of the San Francisco Examiner in response to another in a series of news articles disparaging LGBT people in San Francisco's gay bars and clubs.[8][9] The peaceful protest against the "homophobic editorial policies" of the Examiner turned tumultuous and were later called "Friday of the Purple Hand" and "Bloody Friday of the Purple Hand".[9][10][11][12][13] Examiner employees "dumped a bag of printers' ink from the third story window of the newspaper building onto the crowd".[9][11] Some reports state that it was a barrel of ink poured from the roof of the building.[14] The protesters "used the ink to scrawl 'Gay Power' and other slogans on the building walls" and stamp purple hand prints "throughout downtown San Francisco" resulting in "one of the most visible demonstrations of gay power".[9][11][13] According to Larry LittleJohn, then president of SIR, "At that point, the tactical squad arrived – not to get the employees who dumped the ink, but to arrest the demonstrators. Somebody could have been hurt if that ink had gotten into their eyes, but the police were knocking people to the ground."[9] The accounts of police brutality include women being thrown to the ground and protesters' teeth being knocked out.[9][15]

Inspired by Black Hand extortion methods of Camorra gangsters and the Mafia,[16] some gay and lesbian activists attempted to institute "purple hand" as a warning to stop anti-gay attacks, with little success. In Turkey, the LGBT rights organization MorEl Eskişehir LGBTT Oluşumu (Purple Hand Eskişehir LGBT Formation), also bears the name of this symbol.[17]

Pride flag and colors

Gay flag 8.svg
Original eight-stripe version designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978

Gay flag 7.svg
Version with hot pink removed due to fabric unavailability. (1978–1979)

Gay flag.svg
Six-color version popular since 1979. Yet another stripe is reduced to have an even number, as to prevent middle colors from being hidden when hung vertically on lampposts. Indigo is interchangeable with a royal or navy blue in this version.

Rainbow flag

Gilbert Baker designed the rainbow flag for the 1978 San Francisco Gay Freedom Celebration. The flag does not depict an actual rainbow. Rather, the colors of the rainbow are displayed as horizontal stripes, with red at the top and violet at the bottom. It represents the diversity of gays and lesbians around the world. In the original eight-color version, pink stood for sexuality, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for the sun, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony, and violet for the soul.[18] The original eight-color rainbow flag flies over the Castro in San Francisco and from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in New York City.

Pride colors

File:Rainbow Streetsign.jpg
Pride colors as part of a street sign in the Washington Square West neighborhood of Philadelphia, in the United States

The Pride colors are also used on objects other than flags to symbolize LGBT pride, community, or solidarity.

Freedom rings

Freedom rings, designed by David Spada, are six aluminum rings, each in one of the colors of the rainbow flag. They were released in 1991.[19] Symbolizing happiness and diversity, these rings are worn by themselves or as part of necklaces, bracelets, and key chains.[19] They are sometimes referred to as "Fruit Loops".[20] For National Coming Out Day (held in the United States on 11 October) students have made home-made versions of the "freedom rings" with Froot Loops cereal.[citation needed]


Bisexual Pride flag
Overlapping triangles
Bisexual moon symbol

First unveiled on 5 December 1998,[21] the bisexual pride flag was designed by Michael Page to represent bisexuals. This rectangular flag consists of a broad magenta stripe at the top, a broad stripe in blue at the bottom, and a narrower deep lavender band occupying the central fifth. Though the flag is often seen as blue for opposite gender attraction, and pink for same gender attraction, and purple for a mix of the two, this is a common misconception and there is little evidence that supports this.[21]

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.

The bisexual moon symbol was created to avoid the use of the Nazi-originated pink triangle.[22]


The pansexual pride flag has been found on various Internet sites since mid-2010.[23] It has three horizontal bars that are pink, yellow and blue.[24] The pink band symbolizes women, the blue men, and the yellow those of a non-binary gender, such as agender, bigender or genderfluid.[23][25][26][27][28]

Gender symbols

Modifications of the classical gender symbol (based on astrological symbols, Mars for male and Venus for female) have appeared to express various LBGT "gender identities" since the 1990s. Two interlocking male symbols form a gay male symbol. Two interlocking female symbols form a lesbian symbol. Variations on this theme can be used to represent bisexuals, transgender persons, as well as heterosexuals.


Universal transgender symbol

Popular symbols used to identify Intersex and transgender people frequently consist of modified gender symbols combining elements from both the male and female symbols.

One version, originating from a drawing by Holly Boswell in 1993, depicts a circle with an arrow projecting from the top-right, as per the male symbol, and a cross projecting from the bottom, as per the female symbol, with an additional struck arrow (combining the female cross and male arrow) projecting from the top-left. Unicode: [⚧]=[U+26A7]

Another version, modified from the original to include those not on the gender spectrum at all, those without genders, was created by Rumpus Parable in 2013.


Transgender flag

Another transgender symbol is the Transgender Pride flag designed by transgender woman Monica Helms in 1999[29] and was first shown at a pride parade in Phoenix, Arizona, USA in 2000.[30] It was flown from a large public flagpole in San Francisco's Castro District beginning November 19, 2012 in commemoration of the Transgender Day of Remembrance.[30] The flag represents the transgender community and consists of five horizontal stripes: two light blue, two pink, with a white stripe in the center. Helms described the meaning of the flag as follows:

Transgender flag

Jennifer Pellinen created an alternative design in 2002. This design is often seen as being more inclusive across the spectrum of the trans community and is becoming more popular as an alternative trans flag to cover the wider trans spectrum.[citation needed] The colors of the flag are seen as more representative of being trans masculine (as well as trans feminine), and representing gender queer and people who sit across the spectrum with a non-fixed gender presentation.

Other transgender symbols include the butterfly (symbolizing transformation or metamorphosis), a set of three hexagons representing the chemical pattern of estrogen and testosterone, and a pink and light blue yin and yang symbol.[citation needed]

Also under the trans or transgender umbrella are all those who identify off the gender binary. There are many different identities within this category including genderqueer, two-spirit, gender fluid, third gender, and androgyny.[31]

Genderfluidity Pride-Flag.svg

Within the transgender umbrella, gender fluid is a subgroup in the genderqueer community.[31] The Gender Fluid flag consists of five stripes. This flag represents the fluctuations and the flexibility of gender in gender fluid people. The first stripe is pink which represents femininity, or feeling female. The second stripe is white, and represents the lack of gender, including agender, or gender neutral. The third stripe is purple and represents a combination of masculinity and femininity including various degrees of androgyny. The fourth stripe is black and represents all other genders, third genders, and pangender. Lastly the final stripe is blue and represents masculinity or feeling male. The flag was designed by JJ Poole in 2012.[32]


Intersex flag.svg

Intersex people are those who do not exhibit all the biological characteristics of male or female, or exhibit a combination of characteristics, at birth. They are estimated by some to be about 1% of the population.[33]

The Intersex flag was created by Organisation Intersex International Australia in July 2013 to create a flag "that is not derivative, but is yet firmly grounded in meaning". The organisation aimed to create a symbol without gendered pink and blue colors. It describes yellow and purple as the "hermaphrodite" colors. The organisation describes it as freely available "for use by any intersex person or organisation who wishes to use it, in a human rights affirming community context"[34][35][36]

Leather subculture

Leather Pride flag

Leather culture denotes practices and styles of dress organized around sexual activities and eroticism ("kink"). Wearing leather garments is one way that participants in this culture distinguish themselves from mainstream sexual cultures. Leather culture is most visible in gay communities and most often associated with gay men ("leathermen"), but it is not exclusive to the LGBT community.[37] Many people associate leather culture with BDSM practice. For others, wearing black leather clothing is an erotic fashion that expresses heightened masculinity, the appropriation of sexual power, love of motorcycles and independence, engagement in sexual kink, or leather fetishism.[38]

The Leather Pride Flag was designed by Tony DeBlase, who presented the design at the International Mr. Leather event in Chicago, Illinois on 28 May 1989.

Bear culture

Bear Brotherhood flag

Bear is an affectionate gay slang term for those in the bear communities, a subculture in the gay community and an emerging subset of the LGBT community with its own events, codes, and culture-specific identity. Bears tend to have hairy bodies and facial hair; some are heavy-set; some project an image of working-class masculinity in their grooming and appearance, though none of these are requirements or unique indicators. The bear concept can function as an identity, an affiliation, and an ideal to live up to. There is ongoing debate in bear communities about what constitutes a bear. Some state that self-identifying as a bear is the only requirement, while others argue that bears must have certain physical characteristics, such as a hairy chest and face, a large body, or a certain mode of dress and behavior.

Bears are almost always gay or bisexual men, although transgender men (regardless of their sexuality) and those who shun labels for gender and sexuality are increasingly included within bear communities. The bear community has spread all over the world, with bear clubs in many countries. Bear clubs often serve as social and sexual networks for older, hairier, sometimes heavier gay and bisexual men, and members often contribute to their local gay communities through fundraising and other functions. Bear events are common in heavily gay communities.

The International Bear Brotherhood Flag was designed in 1995 by Craig Byrnes.[39]

Butch and femme

The website uses a black triangle in a red circle to represent butch–femme sexuality.[40]


Asexual Flag

In August 2010, after a process of getting the word out beyond the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN)[41] and to non-English speaking areas, a flag was chosen[42] following a vote on a non-AVEN site.[43] It has since been seen used on Tumblr in various LGBTQ areas, but had been seen alongside other Sexual Orientations flags previous to formal election.[44] The black stripe represents asexuality, the grey stripe the grey-area between sexual and asexual, the white stripe sexuality, and the purple stripe community. The AVEN logo is a triangle fading from white to black to symbolise the gradient between sexuals, gray-asexuals, demisexuals and asexuals. The ace of spades and ace of hearts are also used as asexual symbols since "ace" is a phonetic shortening of asexual. Generally, romantic asexuals use the ace of hearts as their symbol and aromantic asexuals use the ace of spades.[45]

Other symbols

In addition to major symbols of the LGBT community, less-popular symbols have been used to represent members’ unity, pride, shared values, and allegiance to one another.

An inverted pink triangle surrounded by a green circle is used to symbolize alliance with gay rights and space free from homophobia.

Gay activists in Boston chose the purple rhinoceros as a symbol of the gay movement after conducting a media campaign in 1974. They selected this animal because, although it is sometimes misunderstood, it is docile and intelligent – but when a rhinoceros is angered, it fights ferociously. Lavender was used because it was a widely recognized gay pride color; the heart was added to represent love and the "common humanity of all people."[this quote needs a citation] A lavender rhino was a recognized symbol of lesbianism in the 1970s.[46]

Green Carnation

In ancient Rome, as in 19th-century England, green indicated homosexual affiliations. Victorian men would often pin a green carnation on their lapel as popularized by author Oscar Wilde, who often wore one on his lapel.[47]

Acorus Calamus

According to some interpretations, American poet Walt Whitman used the calamus plant to represent homoerotic love.[48]

Bisexual women and lesbians used to give violets to the woman they were wooing, symbolizing their "Sapphic" desire. In a poem, Sappho described herself and a lover wearing garlands of violets. The giving of violets was popular from the 1910s to the 1950s.[49]

In Israel the transgender and genderqueer community use a neon green flag and neon green colors.

  • In the Society for Creative Anachronism, LGBT members often wear a blue feather to indicate an affiliation with Clan Blue Feather, a group of SCA members promoting the study of LGBT culture and people in the Middle Ages.

Flag gallery

Alternative Transgender
Alternative Transgender
Alternative Intersex
Alternative Intersex
Bear Brotherhood
Bear Brotherhood
Lipstick Lesbian
Lipstick Lesbian
Israeli transgender and genderqueer
Israeli transgender and genderqueer
Gay pride flag of South Africa
Gay pride flag of South Africa

See also


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  46. [2][dead link]
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  51. Pink Jack (actual flag):[dead link]
  52. Pink Jack (image):

External links