During LGBT Pride Month, many people across the country partake in parades and marches, both to celebrate the LGBT community and to further the movement towards equal rights. A lot of times, these people will be holding up signs, flags, banners, and posters with illustrations that represent the different LGBTQ subsets.
To help clear any confusion and to refresh the memories of those who already know, Mashable has compiled a very useful list of iconic LGBT flags and symbols, along with what they mean and some of the notable people who identify with them. We agree that remembering and differentiating between all of these symbols can be difficult, so we're going to cover them as well.
GLAAD put Mashable in touch with several LGBT leaders to talk about the symbols. Sarah Toce of The Seattle Lesbian and Sue Kerr of Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents explained the background of many of the LGBT symbols used within the community. GLAAD also worked with Geena Rocero, model and founder of Gender Proud, and BiNet USA's Faith Cheltenham to provide commentary on the post, as well as GLAAD's own National Spokesperson, Wilson Cruz.
The most widely known LGBT symbol is the rainbow flag, which is often referred to as the "pride flag." It has six stripes using the colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple, in that order, and was adopted by the Pride Parade Committee in 1979 after the assassination of revered LGBT-rights activist Harvey Milk. Sarah Toce, founder and publisher of The Seattle Lesbian, associates with the rainbow flag. She says:
The rainbow flag, for me, has always been a symbol of inclusiveness. Although I fall under the category of 'lesbian,' my identity is so much more than that one word alone. All of us are a part of a greater community of lovers, fighters, sisters, brothers, champions, activists and advocates.
The article lists four main gay pride symbols. The first is called the interlocking male symbol, which shows two male gender symbols, and has been used since the 1970s.
The next is a pink triangle. While this was originally used to mark gay men during World War II and was supposed to represent inferiority, it exists today as an emblem of Pride and fighting oppression. The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, which was founded in 1987, is the organization that inverted the triangle and made it the symbol it is today.
The leather pride flag is composed of nine horizontal stripes that alternate between black and royal blue, with a white middle stripe and large red heart in the upper left hand corner. Tony DeBlase created this flag when he lived in Chicago in 1989.
The last gay pride symbol is the international bear brotherhood flag, which has seven stripes of fur colors and nationalities of bears throughout the world, and a bear claw depicted in the top left corner. Craig Byrnes introduced this flag in 1996 to celebrate the LGBT "Bear" subculture.
Actor and GLAAD staff member Wilson Cruz identifies with the inverted pink triangle of the four gay pride symbols. He said:
The pink triangle came from such a horrific and demoralizing part of our history when LGBT people were unjustly executed, but it has been reclaimed to symbolize pride and all of the strides that LGBT advocates--early and present day--have done to grow acceptance and understanding. The triangle today inspires me to push forward on the work ahead to achieve full and lasting LGBT equality.
The next subgroup of pride symbols are those that represent the lesbian community, and Mashable lists three. The first, similar to the first gay pride symbol, is two interlocking female gender signs, which began representing lesbian women in the 1970s.
The black triangle, similar to the pink one for men, represented "asocial women" in concentration camps, such as members of the lesbian community, feminists, prostitutes, and women who would not bear children. This symbol, too, has become a source of pride and solidarity.
The last and least common symbol for the lesbian community is the labrys, a double-bladed battle axe. It was first used ancient matriarchal societies, the Amazons, and by the Greek goddess Demeter. The axe serves to represent strength and independence.
Sur Kerr, editor of Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents, is one person who most strongly identifies with the interlocking female symbols among the three representations of the lesbian community. She often identifies as both LGBTQ and gay, but said:
... there's a certain power in the interlocked female symbols that resonates with me, a touchstone of sorts to help me remember that my identity is important and powerful and should be as visible as any other.
There are quite a few when it comes to bisexual pride symbols--a total of five, and many of them are combinations of some previously listed. The bisexuality triangles, sometimes referred to as "biangles," shows two overlapping inverted triangles, colored pink and blue.
The bisexuality pride flag uses the pink and blue from the biangles, as well as the purple that the two colors create. This was inspired by Michael page in 1998, who volunteered with BiNet USA. The idea of the blending colors of this flag is that bi people blend into the gay, lesbian, and straight communities.
The bisexuality crescent moons also represent this association and use the same colors of pink, blue, and purple. The symbol depicts two crescent moons, back to back and top-to-bottom.
The last two symbols for bisexuality are the interlocking male and female gender signs--one to represent men who are attracted to both gedners and one to represent females who are attracted to both genders.
A notable member of the LGBT community, Faith Cheltenham, identifies as bisexual. The president of BiNet USA said:
The bisexual pride flag represents my journey, not only to find myself but also the bisexual community, and its nearly 50 years of history.
A subgroup of the LGBT community that is gaining more recognition is the transgender community, which has several symbols. The transgender pride flag has five stripes, two light blue, two light pink, and one white. It was created by Monica Helms in 1999 and was first waved at a Pride parade in Pheonix, Arizona a year later.
The first transgender symbol combines certain elements of the male and female gender symbols, with some alteratons. Attatched to the same circle are both the "t" assocatied with females and the arrow associated with males, but on the top left is an added arrow with a line crossing perpendicular to it. Denise Leclair, executive director of the International Foundation for Gender Education, said the symbol was created by Nancy Nangeroni, Holly Boswell and Wendy Pierce of the organization.
The second symbol is nearly exactly the same as the previous one, but includes a strike through the center of the circle to represent those who identify neither as male nor female.
The last symbol is the mercury astrological sign, which represents masculine and feminine qualities.
Lambda is the 11th letter of the Greek alphabet and is also used in the world of physics, among other places. It has been used to symbolize the LGBT community since 1970 when the Gay Activist Alliance used it for their movement.
The intersex pride flag is yellow with an open purple circle in the center, and was created by Organisation Intersex International Australia only last July. "Intersex" is a term for individuals with congenital differences in physical sex characteristics.
The genderqueer and non-binary pride flag has three stripes. The top lavendar stripe represents androgynes and androgyny, the white middle stripe represents gender neutrality, and the bottom green stripe represents indentities defined outside of the gender binary. Genderqueer people, as a whole, do not identify with society's expecations for sex, gender expression and sexuality. The flag was created by Marilyn Roxie about two years ago.
The asexual pride flag has four stripes colored black, grey, white, and purple from top to bottom. This was the winner of an asexual pride flag design contest held by the Asexual Visibility and Education Network in 2010.
Last but certainly not least, the pansexual pride flag has three horizontal stripes of blue, pink, and yellow. The blue represents those who identify as male, the pink those who identify as female, and the yellow those who identify as no gender, both genders, or a third gender.
Hopefully this list has been helpful to you, our readers, and we thank Mashable for the inspiration!