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May 25th
2000

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Pink Triangle and Related Symbols
pink triangle It is one of the most popular and widely-recognized symbols for the gay community.
The history of the pink triangle begins before WW II, during Adolf Hitler's rise to power. Paragraph 175, a clause in the German law prohibiting homosexual relations, was revised by Hitler in 1935 to include kissing, embracing, and gay fantasies as well as sexual acts. Convicted offenders -- an estimated 25,000 from 1937 to 1939 alone -- were sent to prison and then later to concentration camps. Their sentence was to be sterilized, and this was most often accomplished by castration. In 1942, Hitler's punishment for homosexuality was extended to death. Although homosexual prisoners reportedly were not shipped en masse to the death camps at Auschwitz, a great number of gay men were among the non-Jews who were killed there. Estimates of the number of gay men killed during the Nazi regime range from 50,000 to twice that figure. 
The real tragedy though occurred after the war. When the Allies defeated the Germany and the Nazi Regime, the political and remaining Jewish prisoners were released from the camps (the regular criminals- murderers, rapists, etc. - were not released for obvious reasons). The homosexual prisoners were never released though because Paragraph 175 remained West German law until 1969. So these innocent men watched as their fellow prisoners were set free, but remained prisoners for 24 more years.
gay jude 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. 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. Stories of the camps depict homosexual prisoners being given the worst tasks and labors. Pink triangle prisoners were also a proportionally large focus of attacks from the guards and even other inmates. 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. A yellow Star of David under a superimposed pink triangle marked the lowest of all prisoners -- a gay Jew.
The pink triangle challenges that notion, and defies anyone to deny history. It was reclaimed as a symbol of Gay Liberation. A pink triangle means never forget, never go back.
In the 1970s, the pink triangle started to be used in conjunction with the gay liberation movement. When people, especially public figures such as law makers, were confronted with such a symbol, they risked being associated with the Nazis if he or she were to attempt to openly limit or prosecute gays. In the 1980s, when the triangle's popularity truly began to take off, ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power) adopted it as their symbol, but turned it upright to suggest an active fight rather than passive resignation. I've also been told that some people wear their triangles pointing up if they personally know somebody who has died of AIDS. In any case, the pink triangle is definitely a symbol very closely connected to oppression and the fight against it, and stands as a vow never to let another Holocaust happen again. Like the word "queer," it is a symbol of hate which has been reclaimed and now stands for pride.
black triangle The Black Triangle: like the pink triangle, the black triangle is also rooted in Nazi Germany. Although lesbians were not included in the Paragraph 175 prohibition of homosexuality, there is evidence to indicate that the black triangle was used to designate prisoners with anti-social behavior. Considering the Nazi idea of womanhood, women were arrested and imprisoned for "antisocial behavior," which include anything from feminism, lesbianism, women who refused to bear children, prostitution and women with other "anti-social" traits, that is any woman who didn't conform to the ideal Nazi image of a woman: cooking, cleaning, kitchen work, child raising, passive, etc.
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.
double triangle A Pink and Blue Triangle Overlapping: is a symbol of bisexuality. It has only been within the last decade or so that bisexuals have begun actively organizing and fighting for equal voices. One of the many good things to come out of this movement is a symbol that bisexuals can call all their own: the interlocking pink and blue triangles, sometimes referred to as the "biangles."
Reportedly, the burgundy triangle may have been used to designate transgendered prisoners. Unfortunately, we have not yet found a resource to substantiate this suggestion.


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