The Pride month of June was only a month ago and the world saw hundreds of pride marches across the globe. Pride marches are very colourful affairs, and the most predominant aspect of these gatherings is the rainbow flag. While the design originated back in the 70s, it was not very popular outside the immediate LGBT community of USA.
However, thanks to the internet and activist organisations spreading awareness, the rainbow flag has been accepted around the world as the primary representation of the community. But just like this one, there are other separate flags and symbols representing every band of the rainbow spectrum.
Here we list some of the most popular flags and symbols used by the lesbian and gay communities, and what they stand for.
THE RAINBOW FLAG
Every member and ally knows that the rainbow flag stands for ‘pride’. But every colour is the flag also have their own significance, just like the flag of any country does. The original flag was designed by Gilbert Baker of San Francisco upon the request of Harvey Milk, LGBT activist and world’s first openly gay politician.
The Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day March of 1978 used that flag as identification. The first one had eight shades – the VIBGYOR colours and an additional stripe of pink. This is what they stood for:
Because of lack of commercial availability, the pink was left out in the march of 1979, and so was indigo to fit the huge flag equally on both sides of the road. Ever since, the six stripes are the globally accepted and flaunted version.
Occasionally, there are different symbols used in the flag, like the symbol of peace or unity.
Once there were stripes of black and brown added in Philadelphia to represent the people of colour, but it was not very well embraced. Some argued it was putting too much in one flag, while some others argued that it defied the vision with which Baker chose the rainbow as a symbol – it represented hope for the community instead of each individual segment.
THE LESBIAN FLAGS AND SYMBOLS
Each subculture under the LGBT umbrella also has their own unique flags and symbols. Throughout the symbolism of LGBT culture, blue and pink has been used to represent masculinity and femininity, as these are the shades traditionally attached to the two genders. Although the LGBT movement is all about breaking such stereotypes, the colours have been used for extensive recognition purpose.
The lesbian flag with six stripes of pink in varying shades and one stripe of white in the middle is more commonly used by the ‘lipstick lesbians’, which is a commonly used word for homosexual women with a more feminine gender expression. It was first introduced on a blog called This Lesbian Life with a lipstick mark in one corner.
The interlocking female gender symbol, borrowed from the astrological sign of Venus (where women are from, as per the saying), stands for WLW (women who love women) as well as a sorority and sisterhood within the lesbian community, borrowed occasionally by the feminist movement.
Another common symbol is the inverted black triangle. This one has its roots in the horrifying concentration camps of Holocaust, where this symbol was used on the striped uniforms given to the Jews to segregate the ‘asocial’ women – lesbians, transgender men, prostitutes or simply any women who refused to follow the norms.
Later on, it became a symbol of struggle, rebellion and solidarity among the lesbians. You will find the sign tattooed on many women who identify with this sexuality.
The Labrys is the least known symbol, but has a meaningful origin of concept. The double edged weapon is a tribute to the matriarchal societies of mythology, like the Amazons. It has been used on many occasions to represent the same – like in the cover of this book The Lesbian Path, where lesbian writers share their personal stories of struggle and success.
It stands for feminine power, strength, liberation and unity – exactly how a tribe of Amazons would look like in your imagination; or as the warrior women tribe of the same name were portrayed in the movie Wonder Woman.
Note: Both Diana and her mother Hippolyta have canonically romanced women in the comics.
THE GAY FLAGS AND SYMBOLS
Conventionally masculine homosexual men also have a flag of their own called the International Bear Brotherhood Flag, as a counterpart of the lipstick lesbian flag. It was introduced by Craig Byrnes in 1996.
The symbol of men taken from Mars are interlocked as the most commonly used gay symbol and has been in vogue since the 70’s.
But the most common symbol is the pink triangle, which, just like the black one for lesbians, has the same tragic origin. In fact, the pink triangle predates the black one probably by some time. It was used in the concentration camps to identify homosexual men during the War, so that their treatment can be even worse, if that was possible given what went on in those camps.
However, it was first reclaimed as a symbol of fighting the odds by AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP) in 1987 as their logo. Ever since, it has been commonly by homosexual men as a common sign of solidarity.
Source: Pink News
In the next blog, we will enlist the flags and symbols used by other subsections of the community – bisexuals, transgender and people of other genders and sexuality.