Language is a powerful beast. A very close to cousin are symbols. Icons.
We see a plethora of icons everyday. Turn on your computer, you easily recognize the symbol on your desktop. There’s a “M” for Microsoft Word, a cute compass that’s Safari Internet, and of course, we all easily recognize iTunes.
If I said McDonalds you may never eat there but you certainly know their icon. If you don’t, then you might want to check in your nearest medical center. Seriously.
It is no surprise the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and other friends, aka queer community, have their own icons. We have several in fact.
The pink triangle was used by the Nazis in World War II era to classify gay men. The Nazis used a color coding system to classify different prisoners in concentration camps that included yellow for Jews, black for anti-socials, brown for Gypsies, red for political prisoners, and purple for Jehovah’s Witness. The pink triangle identified gay men and it was used to identify pedophiles and rapists.
The Nazis abuse of gay men in the concentration camps included inhumane experimentation, torture, and mass extermination. When the war ended and prisoners were released from concentration camps many men wearing the pink triangle were re-incarcerated by the victors.
In the 1980s, the organization called ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) chose to use to use the pink triangle as its sign. They inverted it to signify a fight back against intolerance.
Interlocking Female & Male Symbols
The interlocking male symbols have been representative of gay men since the 1970s as well. The singular symbol represents the astrological sign of Mars.
A Kansan by the name of Gilbert Baker served in the Army and was stationed in San Francisco during the start of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. After Baker was discharged from the military he remained in the city becoming friends with Harvey Milk. He later designed the first rainbow flag in 1978. He decorated the original with eight stripes to represent the following: pink for sexuality, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for the sun, green for nature, blue for art, indigo for harmony and violet for spirit.
The 1979 Pride Parade Committee adopted the flag soon after the assassination of Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay public official.
The transgender pride symbol incorporates a cross at its bottom, forming the symbol of Venus, an arrow in the upper right corner to form the symbol of Mars, and a crossed arrow in the upper left corner which combines the two. International Foundation for Gender Education credits these individuals for the design: Nancy Nangeroni, Holly Boswell, and Wendy Pierce.
The crescent moons originated from Germany. The German founders wanted to come up a symbol that was unique from the pink triangle.
The Ancient Greeks placed lambdas on shields of Spartan warriors who were often paired with younger men in battle. The rationale was that the warrior would fight more fiercely knowing his lover may be killed.
The lambda was first chosen as a gay symbol in 1970 when it was adopted by the New York Gay Activists Alliance.
The labrys is a double edge axe commonly used by matriarchal societies as both a weapon and harvesting tool. Today the labrys is a symbol of strength and self-sufficiency.
MORE LGBT SYMBOLS:
A university hockey team got naked in a stand against homophobia in sport: Symbolism in the flesh
Words & The Power They Have
Gay versus Homosexual
The word homosexual has a history tag to it that once meant diseased or psychologically/ emotionally disordered. The word homosexual is often offensive to many LGB people and it’s suggested people refrain from using it.
Sexual Orientation versus Sexual Preferences
The term “sexual preference” suggests that the lesbian, gay or bisexual is wholly choosing a same-one’s sexual orientation. Anti-gay advocates use this language when arguing for therapy programs aimed at curing gay’s people. Sexual orientation is the appropriate term to use when describing a person’s physical and emotional attractions to another person.
Relationship versus Homosexual Relations
Homosexual relations calls attentions to sexual behaviors and discounts intimacy and partnership. Same-sex couples prefer people referred to their partnership with the same terminology as you would use for heterosexual couples. No one says John and Mary have “straight relations” but we say John and Mary are in a relationship.
Gay Lives versus Gay lifestyles
The word lifestyle has its own connotation frequently used in conjunction with health. Thus, the better lifestyle you lead the healthier you are. Given this context, the phrase “gay lifestyle” is often used by prejudicial people to denigrate lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals suggesting that LGBT people’s orientation is a choice and therefore can and should be “cured”.
Gay Slang and More
The Decline and Fall of the‘H’ Word: For Many Gays and Lesbians, the Term ‘Homosexual’ is Flinch-Worthy
Blog by Bryce B. Summers, Ph.D., Psychologist
Author of Queer Sense. A book coming to you soon!