Rainbow flags and pink triangles are the most widely known symbols of gay pride but, have you ever wondered what they mean or where they originated? Are there others?
The Rainbow Flag
As I stated above, the rainbow flag is one of the most widely known gay pride symbols. Gilbert Baker created the rainbow flag in 1978 in response to a need for a symbol to be used year after year in the Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade. He borrowed this symbolism from the hippy movement and black civil rights groups. Baker first created the rainbow flag with 8 stripes. Hot pink for healing, Red for life, Orange for healing, Yellow for the sun, Green for nature, Turquois for art, Indigo for harmony and Violet for spirituality. Because some of the colors were not readily available when Baker began to mass produce the flag, hot pink and turquois were dropped and royal blue replaced indigo, hence leaving the 6 colors that have become well known as the rainbow flag.
The Pink Triangle
Again as I stated above, this is the second most widely known symbol of pride. The inverted pink triangle began in pre World War II times when Hitler used this symbol to label homosexual prisoners. In 1935 Hitler revised a German law that prohibited homosexual relations to include kissing, embracing, gay fantasies and sexual acts. Between 1937 and 1939 approximately 25,000 convicted offenders were sent to prison and then to concentration camps. Sentencing was usually sterilization by castration. Hitler then extended the punishment to death in 1942. The pink triangle was brought back in the 1970's for the gay rights movement and now symbolizes the phrase, "Never Forget, Never Again!"
The Black Triangle
The German law that prohibited homosexual relations did not include lesbians but they were also prosecuted by the Nazis. The Nazis believed that the ideal woman focused on children, church, cooking and family. The black triangle was used on lesbians, prostitutes, women who didnot bear children and any other woman who showed "anti-social" traits. Today, the black triangle symbolizes lesbian pride and feminism.
The double bladed axe comes from the goddess of the earth - Artemis or Demeter. Rites associated with the worship of Demeter are believed to have involved lesbian sex. Today this has come to symbolize lesbian and feminist strength and self-sufficiency.
The Gender Symbols
Originally an astrological sign from Roman times, these were adopted in the 1970's by the gay community. Two interlocking male symbols represent gay men while two interlocking female symbols represent two lesbian women. Some lesbians also use a single ring with two crosses to represent sisterhood among two women.
The use of this symbol is still unknown. Some believe that this greek lower-case "L" sumbolizes liberation. To greek spartans, this meant unity while the Romans believed it to mean, "The light of knowledge shed into the darkness of ignorance".
Mercury is another astrological sign that has become a symbol of transgendered people. In Greek Mythology, Hermes and Aphrodite had a child named Hermaphroditus. This child possessed both male and female sexual organs hence the modern day word, "hermaphrodite". The symbol itself represents "masculinity" (the crescent moon at the top), "femininity" (the cross at the bottom) and the ring balancing the two representing the individual.
The Bisexual Triangle
This symbol is made up of one pink traingle and one blue triangle. When these two traingles overlap, they create a third purple triangle.