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April 7th
2009

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Other Miscellaneous Symbols
These symbols are not less important than any other symbols; they simply are not as widely-known or not as widely-used as other popular symbols. Nevertheless, they represent their own important stories and histories.
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purple hand The purple handprint became a symbol of gay liberation in 1969, following a San Francisco newspaper dumping purple ink on members of the Gay Liberation Front protesting their offices.
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lambda The Lambda is an international symbol: it was proposed in Jan. 1970 by graphic artist Tommy Doerr as the Gay Activists Alliance of New York City (then using the nom-de-gai of "Gary Dutton") logo, first for serendipity, secondly for the special gay "wavelength", and thirdly as an ancestor of the letter "L" for Lesbian. Robin Souza (who gave me the information) is a founding member of the original GAA . The Lambda symbol GAA was a militant, one-issue group dedicated to equality of lesbians and gay men as guaranteed by U.S. law. That's why the lambda is a militant symbol. They took to the streets & did something about it. Formed on 12/21/69, by February of 1970 GAA was -
  1. demonstrating at City Hall,
  2. on national TV (the DICK CAVET SHOW),
  3. circulating petitions aimed at local politicians, and
  4. being trashed in Nixon's White House (as "...long-haired, card-carrying, pinko fags...")
...all major accomplishments back then.
When GAA was organized, Lesbians in NYC were very distrustful of gay men (the Gay Liberation Front, our predecessor group, did not value women as thinkers or doers; it cast them in sex stereotyped roles serving men, etc.). GAA had only one gay woman as a founding member out of 13 founders. That's how the lambda got its reputation as a "male" symbol. GAA responded by an outreach program, not just to lesbians but to gay people of all varieties and ethnic groups. GAA provided meeting space and support for these groups. Later GAA's lesbian committee formed a new group called Lesbian Feminist Liberation. They did not use the lambda because they wanted to establish a separate identity as a group and because they wanted to promote the joined-female symbols to counter lesbian invisibility.
After meeting for months in GAA's Firehouse (NYC's first Gay Community Center) LFL moved into their own firehouse. Funny, but NYC firefighters were among their most rabid opponents... yet new gay groups took over abandoned fire stations as soon as they became vacant. In December of 1974, the lambda was officially declared the international symbol for gay and lesbian rights by the International Gay Rights Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland, in recognition of the great strides GAA had accomplished in so short a time. At first, GAA was flattered but hesitant to put its logo in the public domain for all gay and lesbian groups to use, since some of these groups were major detractors of GAA and other "lesbian and gay" groups, were either not effective or were blatantly anti-gay or anti-lesbian in form and practice. But the deed was done and GAA lived with it.
If anyone would like other info on the "early days", please email Robin Souza. He gets on the net infrequently, but will answer all.
His Email is: robinsouza@hotmail.com
It was later discovered that Spartan and/or Theben warriors made up solely of homosexual men had the Lambda symbol emblazoned on their shields and it meant unity. The Thebes version is more popular because, as legend has it, the city- state organized the Theban Band from groups of male lovers, which made them extremely fierce and dedicated warriors. Eventually however, the army was completely decimated by Kind Philip II, but was later honored by his son Alexander the Great. There is no actual evidence though that the lambda was ever associated with this group. However, there was Hollywood movie in the 1962s called The 300 Spartans starring Diane Baker, Richard Egan, and Ralph Richardson that showed Spartan warriors who appeared to have lambdas on their shields.
The Romans considered it "the light of knowledge shed into the darkness of ignorance."
Today, the symbol generally denotes lesbian's and gay men's concerns together. Although the lambda was never intended to be linked to any specific gender or orientation such as other symbols may be, historically this is not so: In the early 1970's the Los Angeles gay community created a flag with a lavender lambda on a simple white background. They hoped the flag would catch on to other cities, but their hopes were not realized because some saw the lambda as a male symbol only.

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labrys The Labrys: is a symbol of power and pride worn by many lesbians. It is a double headed ax said to have been used by Amazon women or an agricultural tool used during matriarchal times.
The labrys is a double-sided hatchet or axe commonly used in ancient European, African, and Asian matriarchical societies as both a weapon and a harvesting tool. Greek artwork depicts the Amazon armies of Europe wielding labrys weapons. Amazons ruled with a dual-queen system in which one queen was in charge of the army and battle, and the other queen stayed behind to administer the conquered cities. Amazons were known to be ferocious and merciless in battle, but once victorious they ruled with justice. Today, the labrys is a lesbian and feminist symbol of strength and self-sufficiency.
In addition, the labrys also played a part in ancient mythology. Demeter, the goddess of the earth, used a labrys as her scepter. Rites associated with the worship of the Demeter, as well as Hecate (the goddess of the underworld), are believed to have involved lesbian sex.
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The Color Lavender: was chosen to represent gays and lesbians because it is a mixture of blue and pink.
rhino 2 rhino 1The lavender rhinoceros was created as a symbol to increase awareness of the presence of gays and lesbians in American Society. It was created by two Boston artists, Daniel Thaxton and Bernie Toal. Its first appearance was in a series of Boston subway posters during 1973. The rhinoceros is characterized by a peaceful demeanor until threatened, and so seemed an appropriate symbol for the years following Stonewall. Lavender was used because it was a widely recognized gay pride color and the heart was added to represent love and the "common humanity of all people." The purple rhinoceros was purposely never copyrighted so it is a public domain image.
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pansyThe pansy, from the French "pensée" for thought, so-named because the flower resembles a face frowning as if in deep comtemplation.

There is uncertainty about how the word came to be applied to male homosexuals or effeminate men. Eric Partridge's Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English notes that the word "daisy" has been used in the same sense since the 1950s. He suggests that "pansy" may have taken on the same meaning because of its rhyming with "nancy", which along with "nancy boy" and "Miss Nancy" has been around for a while as a slang term for "catamite", that is, "a boy kept as lover by a pederast". ("Catamite" comes from "Ganymede", the name of the Trojan boy whom Zeus carried off to serve as his personal cupbearer and lover.)

Judy Grahn in Another Mother Tongue suggests that the connection between pansies and gay men may have its origins in the sixteenth century, when men and women signaled their intent never to marry by wearing a sprig of violets. The pansy is a cultivated variety of violet; its scientific name, "Viola tricolor", means "three-colour violet". The Italians call the flower "viola del pensiero", "the violet of thought".

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green carnation The Green Carnation: the association of homosexuality with the color green is very old. In ancient Rome, homosexuals were called 'galbonati' because they were said to favor the colors yellow and green. In Procopius' Secret History of Justinian, it is claimed that Justinian recklessly persecuted homosexuals, starting first with members of a rival political faction known as the greens.
In the early 20th century, the use of clothing color as a signifier was quite pervasive. A French observer wrote that in Paris homosexuals wore green cravats. English observers told of homosexual men wearing green carnations at London's Holborn Casino, Argyll Rooms and the Empire Theatre.
Richard Ellmann's biography of Wilde is more specific about the association of green -- and the green carnation -- with Wilde and, if not with homosexuality per se, at least with decadence.

The verdigris carnation, a sort of greeny-blue color, was one of the hallmarks of Oscar Wilde's attire at the opening nights of his plays. He had written about his association of the color green with decadence, and thus it was natural for him to pick on the green carnation when he was composing a small in-joke for the opening night of "Lady Windermere's Fan." One of the characters in the play, Cecil Graham (played by Ben Webster), was to wear one, as were several of Wilde's male friends in the audience, and the playwright himself. When asked what the green carnation meant, Wilde said, "Nothing whatever, but that is just what nobody will guess."
An anonymously published novel, The Green Carnation (Robert Smythe Hichens,1894), satirized in a recognizable way the relationship between Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas. Although it was written out of fascination with Wilde, it did nothing to quell the disquiet growing about Wilde's sexuality, and raised the ire of Lord Alfred Douglas' father, the Marquess of Queensberry. Ellmann also claims that the publication of The Green Carnation made a "small but noticeable contribution to the growing disfavor Wilde was encountering."
It was rumored that Wilde was the author. Wilde wrote the Pall Mall Gazette:
Kindly allow me to contradict...that I am the author of "The Green Carnation." I invented that magnificent flower. But with the middle-class and mediocre book that usurps its strangely beautiful name I have, I need hardly say, nothing whatsoever to do. The flower is a work of art. The book is not.

The Importance of Being Earnest opened on a cold Valentine's Day while Wilde was already under attack from the Marquess of Queensbury but he wore the green carnation to this opening as well. Wilde's sang flower turned out to be unfortunate for him.
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The purple hand (not pictured) was a short-lived symbol of protest dating back to the 1970s in San Francisco. Derived from the New York "Black Hand" Mafia gang name, this symbol was supposedly born in the San Francisco Examiner's offices when a group protesting a homophobic editorial had purple ink poured on them. The protesters then proceeded to imprint their purple hands all over the side of the building.
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bi-moon The "double moon" symbol was designed by Vivian Wagner together with a team in 1998, and is widely used in Germany and neighboring countries. In fact, many Bisexuals (as well as Gays) voiced out their opposition of the use of the triangular symbol - Hitler's tag for criminal homosexuals - often used in gay & bisexual symbolism. The opponents of the triangle do not identify with the roll of a persecuted homosexual, and prefer to have a "political free" symbol of their own.

This symbol was specifically designed not to be based on the pink triangle.

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