Before the Rainbow

4 mins read

The pride flag has become a widely recognised symbol for the LGBTQ+ community. The rainbow was a symbol of unity at the peak of a rebellion. Our job now, is to remind the bigoted few that it is not a symbol of flamboyance by a witness statement of the foremothers and fathers leading the stonewall riots; our genetics were birthed in a fight and we aren’t done yet.

But before the pride flag became a modern-day symbol of hope for the gay community, history shows that nearly every generation had an accepted symbol for queer people, even dating back to Greek mythology carrying through to the late 19th century.

One of the earliest symbolisms of homosexuality is the use of labrys, a double axed weapon commonly used in ancient Greece. The symbolism in Roman and Greek mythology links the weapon to feminine power. It was said that Greek goddesses would carry labrys on them as a sign of dominance and victory in battle like a decorated war hero. This symbol remained strong in the feminist movement and in the late 70s it was adopted by lesbian activist groups. As lesbians were called the powerhouses behind the actions of the gay liberation movement. Such a badass symbol should be connected to the community as it’s a physical representation of the fight that the community goes through.

In comparison to ancient weaponry, the symbolism hasn’t always been so brash but in some cases more artistic. The green carnation was a symbol that came to fruition by poet Oscar Wilde in the 1890s. He reportedly asked a group of his “ likeminded” friends to wear them on their buttonhole for the opening of a theatre (No better place to find queers.)

image credit: commons media

This fashion statement was to help queer people find each other safely without fear of prosecution. However, the reason for the particular flower was less than poetic, because to Wilde the carnation looked similar to a butthole. Which in a weird way is a testament to Wilde’s resilience as he knew their situation compromised their safety but chose to see the lighter side. 

(Image credit: Oscar Wilde tours.com)

This same resilience is a common factor throughout queer history. It’s a part of our make-up as people who were berated and victimised to not lie down and to own it. Nothing more symbolises our resilience than the pink triangle. The pink triangle was used as an identifier in concentration camps during the holocaust used as a badge of shame to humiliate and isolate prisoners. But in true queer fashion, we have gone “F*** you, we will come through this and have no shame for their ignorance, and we wear it with pride”. 

image credit: legacy project Chicago

All these symbols and badges no matter their form have one thing in common, it shows the fight. Not just the struggle but the fact that others have fought for our rights and the passion to continue and honour them is where our pride stems from today.

Featured Image : LA Times

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