Lesbian Symbol: Black Triangle
Lesbians And Black Triangles
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.
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
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
- mentally disabled
- physically disabled
Triangle Marking System For Prisoners In German Concentration Camps
- mentally ill
- habitually workshy (lazy or very timid, depending on who you ask)
- draft dodgers
- 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:
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.
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.
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 Health and Research Center - Improving the health and well-being of lesbians, bisexual women, transgender people and their families.
- Lesbian and Gay Summer Camp - Learn about LGBT camp or how to become a LGBT camp leader.
- UC Davis LGBT Resource Center
- PFLAG (Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) - Support for LGBTQ families and those they love.
- Human Rights Campaign - Working for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights.
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
Rainbow horizontal striped flag
Deep pink, rose, and royal blue horizontal striped flag
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
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
Five horizontal stripes starting at top with black, then gray, white and purple
Purple hand Print
Ultimate LGBT power symbol (circa 1969)