The Rainbow Flag
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 rainbow flag was created by Gilbert Baker and originally had 8 colors, all of which were assigned a meaning by Baker. He dyed and sewed the first one with his own hands. However, when he approached a flag company about mass producing the flag but was told that "hot pink" was not available commercially. So, the flag had to be reduced to 7 colors.
Pink to stand for sexuality.
Red to stand for life.
Orange to stand for healing.
Yellow to stand for the sun.
Green to stand for nature.
Blue to stand for art.
Indigo to stand for harmony.
And violet to stand for spirit.
The HRC Equality Logo
Another symbol growing in popularity is the equality logo created by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), America's largest gay and lesbian organization. As a bi-partisan organization, HRC works to advance equality through the lobbying of Congress. The Human Rights Campaign logo has become the new symbol for lesbian and gay equality for many members and friends of our community. The symbol stands for a vision in which American gays and lesbians are ensured their basic “equal” rights. Featured prominently at all HRC events and on all organizational materials, the logo also has found its way onto literally millions of car bumpers, hats, T-shirts, sweatshirts and other items of clothing and jewelry on display across the nation.
The Pink Triangle
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 Pink and Blue Triangles
For many years, bisexuals were left out of both heterosexual and homosexual society. Being neither lesbian/gay or straight, they had no symbols of their own for pride in being who they are. So, this icon joining the pink triangle with a blue one was created as a symbol of pride in being bisexual.
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. 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.
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.
A Symbol for Transgender People
This is a symbol used by transgender persons. This is the symbol inspired by early Roman symbols and created as a symbol for The International Foundation for Gender Education, which is an organization concerned with issues facing cross dressers and transgender persons. The symbol represents the fusing of various genders into one.
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.
Red Ribbons for Remembering
The red ribbon is commonly seen adorning jacket lapels and other articles of clothing as a symbol of solidarity and a commitment to the fight against AIDS. This symbol was conceived in 1991 by Visual AIDS, a New York-based charity group of art professionals that aims to recognize and honor friends and colleagues who have died or are dying of AIDS. Visual AIDS encourages arts organizations, museums, commercial galleries, and AIDS support groups to commemorate those lost to AIDS, to create greater awareness of AIDS/HIV transmission, to publicize the needs of Persons With AIDS, and to call for greater funding of services and research. Inspired by the symbols honoring American soldiers of the Persian Gulf War, this particular color was chosen for its "connection to blood and the idea of passion -- not only anger, but love, like a valentine," as stated by Frank Moore of Visual AIDS.