5 July 2002

Origin of Gay and Lesbian Symbols

Équipe -Pose ta question!-


The Rainbow Flag, created in 1978 for San Francisco’s Gay Freedom Celebration by Gilbert Baker, depicts not the shape of the rainbow, but its colors in horizontal stripes. The Rainbow Flag has been adopted as the Gay and Lesbian flag. It represents the diversity yet unity of Gays and Lesbians universally.


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. 


      A cumulative estimated 220,000 gays and lesbians died along with Jews, gypsies, and members of the Nazi resistance from the beginnings of the rise of nazi power, in the concentration camps of Hitler’s nazi Germany and during the aftermath of the war.  Concentration camp prisoners were identified by a set of colored triangles.

     Gay men in Nazi death camps were required to wear Pink Triangles, (with one tip pointed down), on their uniforms to identify them for special abuse. The Pink Triangle is now used as a gay identification symbol as well as a reminder of oppression.  The pink triangle is a symbol of the phrase “Never Forget, Never Again.”  The pink triangle, inverted, was also adopted by ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to UnleashPower) as their symbol for “an active fight back rather than a passive resignation to fate.”


The Black Triangle was used to identify “socially unacceptable” women, according to the Nazis. Lesbians were included in this classification.
Now, Lesbians have reclaimed the Black Triangle as our symbol in defiance of repression and discrimination as Gay men have reclaimed the Pink Triangle.

When Allied troops freed the other survivors of the camps, the Gay and Lesbian prisoners were taken by U. S. Army personnel from concentration camps to allied prisons.  Since the 1940’s, the pink and black triangles have become the most recognizable and powerful symbols for gay people and the oppression they have faced throughout Western History.     

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.

    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 has become internationally popular.


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.


Created by Tony DeBlase and first displayed in Chicago, 1989, at the Mr. Leather Contest, the Leather Pride Flag, gained quick, universal recognition as a symbol of those with leather, S|M|B|D, uniform, latex, western and other fetishes.


The IFGE (International Foundation for Gender Education) Logo, or Transgender Symbol, is the widely recognized symbol for or crossdressers, transvestites, transsexuals and transgenderists.

Modified from “Origins of Gay and Lesbian Symbols” found on www.Swade.net.