In the decades since the Stonewall riots of 1969, gay and lesbian lives and lifestyles have seen many changes. In the USA, the last Sunday in June is Gay and Lesbian Pride Day. Many members of the LGBT community wear their pride openly and literally, inking symbols of their orientation and lifestyle into their skin. These can be stand-along designs or images worn in conjunction with other pieces of skin art.
AIDS Awareness Ribbon - Conceived of in the early 1990s as a symbol of commitment in the fight against AIDS, the red ribbon was controversial when it first appeared. Now it is readily recognized and many other causes have adopted singularly colored ribbons in their own awareness campaigns.
Gender Symbols - The astrological symbols for Mars (circle with an arrow coming out of the upper right) and Venus (circle with a cross below it) have long been used to stand for male and female. Some gays and lesbians have adapted these as gay pride symbols by having them tattooed in pairs, with the circle interlocking. Bisexual people have used them in mixed trios, or blended the two shapes so that the arrow and cross are coming off one circle. The astrological sign for Mercury is traditionally the symbol used for transgender. This sign has a crescent on top of the circle and a cross below it. Hermaphroditus, the child of Hermes and Aphrodite, had both male and female sexual organs.
Labrys - This double-edged ax comes from Greek mythology, where it is associated with the goddess Demeter, and with the Amazons. Not only were the Amazons known as fierce warriors, their culture supposedly had two queens, one who would lead the battles and on who would stay behind to maintain rule.
Lambda - This Greek alphabet letter was chosen as a sign of liberation by gay activists in the early 1970s and is still used to this day. The Greeks felt this letter signified unity. Some activists felt it was appropriate as this character is used in chemistry and physics to stand for energy.
Pink Triangle - This emblem was used during W.W.II by the Nazis to identify homosexuals in the concentration camps. This symbol was reclaimed by the gay community in the 1970s for use in the struggle for gay rights.
Rainbow Flag - The original flag design by SF artist Gilbert Baker contained eight colors, representing the diversity of the queer community: hot pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sun, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony, and violet for spirit. Due to constraints of flag-making, the indigo became royal blue and the hot pink and violet were dropped. Now, the six color rainbow has been adapted to create gay pride symbols of all sorts, and you can take any image you like and color it this way to turn it into an emblem that can be recognized as being connected to gay pride.
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