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Lesbian Symbol: Black Triangle

Updated on March 24, 2013
The black triangle is a symbol of the lesbian community.
The black triangle is a symbol of the lesbian community. | Source

Lesbians And Black Triangles

Lesbian Symbols

The black triangle is sometimes thought of as the contrast to the very familiar (gay) pink triangle. The pink triangle has become a common and recognizable symbol for the LGBT community; as people from all walks of life seem to correlate it with the many "non-straight" lifestyles found throughout society. The black triangle, however, is recognized as a lesbian specific symbol—even as anarchists may use it. The origin of this particular symbol is pretty tragic, as it began in Nazi Germany, behind the razor-wired walls of the concentration camps.

Arbeitsscheu Prisoners

Asocial Or Workshy Symbol

As a lesbian that comes from Jewish heritage on my mother's side, using the word arbeitsscheu in this article could bring with it a pretty big sting. Since I have never been one to turn away from the truth of my family history, I am defiantly using the word for this piece.

Arbeitsscheu (ar·beits·scheu) means "workshy" in German, and this is the word Nazis used for those concentration camp prisoners who were considered asocial. All prisoners were placed into particular groups, each having their own label, which then had to be worn visibly on their outer clothing or jacket. This was so a person from any given group could be easily identified by the guards.

Most Recognizable Lesbian Symbol

Most commonly recognized lesbian symbol.
Most commonly recognized lesbian symbol. | Source

Lesbians Take Asocial Symbol As Their Own

Later, lesbians claimed the black triangle as their own symbol as an indicator for pride and solidarity among the community. This is presumed primarily because, at that time in history, lesbians were surely considered to belong on the "asocial" side of camp. But, many groups, not just Jews, often fell into this workshy category, such as:

Groups Listed As Arbeitsscheu In Concentration Camps

  • alcoholics and drug addicts
  • indigent
  • mentally disabled
  • physically disabled

Triangle Marking System For Prisoners In German Concentration Camps

Shows triangle marking system for prisoners in German concentration camps.
Shows triangle marking system for prisoners in German concentration camps. | Source
  • mentally ill
  • habitually workshy (lazy or very timid, depending on who you ask)
  • prostitutes
  • draft dodgers
  • pacifists
  • any others the Nazi party deemed less than human

NOTE: On a few occasions, the Romani people—more commonly known as Gypsies—would get labeled as black triangle prisoners in the camps. But, for the most part, the Romani prisoners were given a brown triangle shaped badge to call their very own.

Other Lesbian Specific Symbols

Why Lesbian Have Identifying Symbols

More than just pink and black triangles are associated with lesbian symbols. We also use the labyris, lambda, and some lesbians will claim the nautical star to indicate to others that they are a homosexual. Most of these symbols came into use because of social demands. Lesbians needed a way to identify other lesbians, but without giving themselves away. In early society, many lesbians were forced into marriages and then had their own families to raise. Keeping their sexuality a pretty deep secret would have been very important. Sadly, I imagine this may apply in certain cultures to this day. Let's take a close look at the labyris, lambda, and nautical star symbols:

The Amazonian double-sided axe called the "labyris" is a symbol of lesbian power and independence.
The Amazonian double-sided axe called the "labyris" is a symbol of lesbian power and independence. | Source

What Does A Labyris Mean In Lesbian Symbolism

A labyris is a two-sided axe that Amazonian women are said to have used as a favorite weapon. This is the symbol worn by lesbians who wish to expresses independence and power. This is a less commonly recognized symbol throughout society, thus it also works as a signaling device helping lesbians to recognize one of their own.

The 11th letter in the Greek alphabet is also a symbol for lesbians!
The 11th letter in the Greek alphabet is also a symbol for lesbians! | Source

What Does The Lambda Mean In Lesbian Symbolism

The lambda symbol is also the eleventh letter of the Greek alphabet, and the symbol for kinetic energy. This symbol has been used since the 1970s as a sign of gay pride. The Gay Activist Alliance was the first group to use the symbols as a visual sign of strength and energy for the gay and lesbian movement. Lambda has been used in movies as a designation for LGBTQ college fraternities and sororities.

The nautical star symbolizes many things, lesbianism is just one.
The nautical star symbolizes many things, lesbianism is just one. | Source

What Does A Nautical Star Mean In Lesbian Symbolism

The nautical star symbol gets the most backlash when said to have lesbian connections due to its use in association with many other communities. The connection to lesbianism stems from the 1950s, when some homosexual gals would get the nautical star tattooed on the inside or outside of their wrist. Like the labyris, this was a sure sign that another lesbian could recognize. The specific placement was important to the community, the wrist tattoos were easily—and safely—camouflaged by a bracelet or watch when the ladies needed to maintain absolute anonymity.

Lesbian Resources

Symbols For Lesbians

The black triangle began as a mark of disdain and ridicule, but through the perseverance and strength of the lesbian community it has become a symbol of solidarity and pride. One I am glad to say holds more than just a singular meaning to me personally.

Michelle Mangione -What Is a Saint

Symbols Of The LGBTQ Community

(click column header to sort results)
Rainbow horizontal striped flag
LGBT community
Deep pink, rose, and royal blue horizontal striped flag
Bi-sexual community
Pink triangle
Gay pride / Gay rights community
Double sided axe (Labyris)
Lesbian power and independence
Lower Case Lambda (11th Greek alphabet letter)
Lesbian and Gay rights
Flag with dark-brown descending in color horizontal stripe, with gray and black stripes at bottom, with a bear paw print
Usually very manly and masculine, large in stature, hairy, sometime fit men; a sub-culture of the gay community
Black and blue stripes at top and bottom, with one center white stripe, and a large red heart flag
Represents the sub-culture gay leather community (also leather communities in general)
Five horizontal stripes: two light blue, two pink, and one white in the center flag
Transgender community
Six horizontal stripes consisting of the outer two stripes which are colored a tone of lavender. The middle stripe combines pink and baby blue in the middle, with two white stripes
Intersex community
Five horizontal stripes starting at top with black, then gray, white and purple
Asexual community
Purple hand Print
Ultimate LGBT power symbol (circa 1969)
Information derived from K9keystrokes' daily life, with a little help from Wikipedia here and there.

What You Think Really Does Matter!

if you were/are a lesbian, which of the symbols would you choose as your own?

See results

Comments for "Lesbian Symbol: Black Triangle"

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  • limpet profile image

    Ian Stuart Robertson 

    3 years ago from London England

    The 'collective' at least in my home town, has gotten so organised i doubt anyone wanting to take them on now wouldn't stand a chance. Even one lady on her own is a force to be reckoned with!

  • Rebekah Ozanne profile image


    5 years ago from Western Australia

    Thank you for this article, it was well written and structured and gave validated information. It was interesting and taught me a couple of things I didn't know.

  • limpet profile image

    Ian Stuart Robertson 

    5 years ago from London England

    I can almost see a correlation betyween the labyris and the human lips and even the 'labia'. Although used as a symbolic utensil in times of antiquity it may even be a fore runner of the medieval battle axe.

  • limpet profile image

    Ian Stuart Robertson 

    5 years ago from London England

    Symbolism is prevelant not only in our realm but especially others too.

    I am planning to do a novelette as a sequel to my last 'Birth of an Empire' which will feature a circle of priestesses known as the Amazonnian Order of the Labyris.

  • amynluv profile image


    5 years ago from Missouri

    Great job! I've always liked the labyris. The hub was well formatted, too, like someone else mentioned.

    It will always amaze me how people can hate someone only because they don't like who that person loves.

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    I'm not sure where you are from, but in my America, homosexuality is just wrong and goes agnaist God and the moral grain of this country! I don't want my tax dollars sponsoring events that promote flaunting the gay agenda. You liberals have gone too far!!! Why should our kids be forced to be exposed to this? They are the real victims, they have to give up their prom because some bull-dike decides she wants to be an ass!

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    Some people still seem to think that hosouexmality is a disease (even a contagious disease!), that can and must be cured'. That's exactly the same as stating that being lefthanded is a disease. You want to cure left-handedness? You think it's contagious as well? Please use your brains! And what has hosouexmality to do with divorce ratings (of heterosxual couples)? It's completely beyond me. Isn't it about time someone attempted to ban Mr. Marcotte from the State of California? O, by the way, I am a heterosexual male, have three children and I'm happily married now for 17 years.Jan van Gilse, Netherlands

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    The comments on this page are sinekcing. Love is love, and I believe that if you do in fact believe these malicious things about gays and lesbians, than you need to keep it to yourself. Have you all ever met a gay or lesbian? They are no different than you. Homosexuality is not a disease, and cannot threaten any straight relationships. Let the lesbians have their prom, and let the gays marry. If you don't like it, leave it alone. I personally and straight, and would like to wish the gays and lesbians the best,with my 100% support. We will achieve equal rights!

  • theclevercat profile image

    Rachel Vega 

    7 years ago from Massachusetts

    Fabulous hub!!! I thought I was fairly knowledgeable about these symbols, but it turns out I wasn't... ah well, K9 to the rescue! :^)

    Personally, I like the use of the triangle more than the labyris, despite its association with WWII... and I like the "invisible" star you placed in the picture as well. Hugs!

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    7 years ago from Northern, California

    @cclitgirl~ Symbols have always attracted me as well, Cyndi. I find your explanation of the peace sign fascinating! Thank you so much for sharing it! I really appreciate your support and that you found time to make it by to comment. Thanks for always being in my corner CC, it means the world!

    Super Big HubHugs~

    @Ericdierker~ Well, I believe that any group that has experienced true persecution for who they are may find some kind of strength and solidarity in using symbolism to unite them. In early history these symbols were used in recognition of someone who was "like" you. I really don't think wanting to be with those of a like mind is "showing-off." In my opinion, it is more about social companionship.

    I wear a star of David as my mother was Jewish, I am not showing off, I find it to bring me peace in her honor and shows respect to G-d. I am sure there are more reasons to wear such symbols than I have listed in this hub. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Respectful Cheers~

    @Daisy Mariposa~ Thank you for making the time to stop by, Daisy. I am honored to share the hublove! Always glad to see you in the comments, ma'am!

    Bug HubHugs~

    @Tara McNerney~ I am glad you find the hub of good quality! Thank you for sharing your comments. I am so grateful for your support!


  • Tara McNerney profile image

    Tara McNerney 

    7 years ago from Washington, DC

    Really well formatted article, and great images. Well-written too, very informative, and thanks for sharing your personal connection to the topic. Voted up and interesting!

  • cclitgirl profile image

    Cynthia Calhoun 

    7 years ago from Western NC

    PS - K9 - just had to come back and say how much this hub rocks! BE PROUD, my friend. You inspire!

  • Daisy Mariposa profile image

    Daisy Mariposa 

    7 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)


    Your article is well-researched, well-written, and well-formatted. It's a very informative Hub. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 

    7 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    Well done hub, I voted up and interesting. I get the past persecutions and being proud of who you are. Bringing attention to sexual orientation just seems a little strange. I get showing off your ethnicity and your faith and maybe your favorite team, but I just do not get it for one's sexual preference.

    So I could not vote because you do not have a category for None.

  • cclitgirl profile image

    Cynthia Calhoun 

    7 years ago from Western NC

    How cool! The history of these symbols is absolutely fascinating! I had no idea that there was such a network of symbols. I am a symbolism freak - I LOVE finding symbolism in objects, animals, etc. Maybe it's because of my Native American roots, but I find them so powerful. I love that though the Black Triangle had sinister origins, it was remade into a symbol of unity and strength - so incredible! It reminds me of the Peace Symbol that had sort of sinister origins - the "N" and "D" in it standing for nuclear disarmament and then occult groups exploiting that symbol. But, it still stands as one of unity and respect for all peoples. A very cool parallel history between the two signs, I think. Great job on this!


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