We’ve All Seen Them — LGBT Symbols

2000px-ICA_flag.svgGay Pride Flag

Perhaps the most iconic and most recognized symbol, the rainbow flag flies in support of the LGBT movement. The simple but effect flag was designed by Gilbert Baker in June 1978. On his website, he tells the story of how he was honorably discharged from the Army while stationed in San Francisco and then taught himself how to sew. With his new skills, he became a part of the gay rights and anti-war movements, making flags and banners for the marches — including those lead by the legendary Harvey Milk.

One of those flags he created was the rainbow flag, which was first flown at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade. Baker has continued his work in making flags for decades, including a flag for Sen. Dianne Feinstein. In 1994, he made a 1-mile-long rainbow flag in New York City, his current home, in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which kicked of the LGBT movement. He beat his own record for the largest flag in 2003 when he made a rainbow flag that stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to Key West. When the movie “Milk” came out chronicling the civil rights leader’s life, Baker was brought on to recreate his banners and flags for the film.


Most people are familiar with the Star of David patch that Nazis forced Jews to wear during World War II, but many don’t realize other “undesirables” had patches of their own. According to the Friends of the Pink Triangle, patches of different colored triangles were required to be worn by gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, criminals, political prisoners, and others — including the pink triangle for gay men. They were also placed in concentration camps along with Jews and believed to be given even worse treatment because of their homosexuality.

Women such as feminists, prostitutes, the childless by choice, and lesbians were grouped together as “asocial women” by the Nazis and were told to wear black triangles, according to the State University of New York.

Today, the LGBT community is owning the symbol that once meant death for, and they have inverted it to make it their own. Each Pride weekend, a 200-foot pink triangle is erected on Twin Peaks in San Francisco, and a year round Pink Triangle Memorial in the city can be visited by the public to commemorate LGBT people who were killed during the Holocaust.


The Greek lowercase letter was chosen to be a symbol of the gay rights movement in 1970 by the Gay Activists Alliance, according to book “Youth, Education, and Sexualities.” The New York City group had recently broken off from the larger Gay Liberation Front, which also wanted to include black rights and women’s rights in their campaigns, while the GAA wanted to focus on just gay rights.

The lambda has many meanings to people, including being a symbol of unity, energy, knowledge in an environment of darkness, standing up to oppression, or simply being “L” for liberation. The GAA was a group that would not back down to pressure, conducting a series of infamous “zaps,” where they would publically protest in churches, at events, and event on television. One of the most well-known zaps was by Mark Segal in 1973, when he sat on Walter Kronkite’s desk in the middle of the evening news and held up a sign reading, “Gays Protest CBS Prejudice.” Being so outspoken, it’s no wonder they chose the lambda to be their symbol.

2000px-A_TransGender-Symbol_Plain3.svgTransgender Symbol

Simple, but powerful. In this symbol representing the transgender community, the traditional symbols for male and female are combined, and then the addition of a third symbol, overlaying both male and female, is found at the top left. It was originally designed by Holly Boswell, a transgender activist who has created some of the country’s first transgender groups, seminars, and counseling. She passed it along to fellow activist Wendy Parker, who showed it to Nancy Nangeroni. Nangeroni wrote on GenderTalk.com that she played around with it on her computer, adding in the colors of blue, pink, and purple, and started making pins. The transgender activist, who helped pass the Transgender Equal Rights Act in Massachusetts, said the symbol belongs to the people and hopes it will be shared with everyone.

Originally published in The Mirror.

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