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The lambda was adopted as the official symbol of the gay rights movement at the first International Gay Rights Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1974. It has since been used on clothing, jewelry, and other consumer goods. One version of the rainbow flag features a white lambda near the upper left corner.

The lambda figures in the names of several prominent organizations, including the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Lambda Literary Foundation.


The labrys, a double-bladed ax, is an ancient weapon used in the Mediterranean region. It is associated with various deities including Zeus Labrandeus, an representation in which the god is depicted with both a beard and multiple breasts. It is also considered an image of the scepter of Demeter, whose worship may have involved lesbian sex.

The labrys is perhaps best known as the weapon of the Amazons.

In recent years the labrys has been adopted by lesbian feminists as a symbol of strength and solidarity.

Gender Symbols

The astrological symbols for Mars--a circle with an arrow pointing off to the upper right--and Venus--a circle with a descending cross--have long been used as signs for men and women.

Most commonly seen as gay pride symbols are double figures of each of the signs, betokening same-sex love. These symbols have been employed since the 1970s as emblems of the modern gay rights movement.

In the 1970s, the feminist movement also adopted the Venus symbol and occasionally used double or multiple images of it as a sign of solidarity and sisterhood that was not lesbian-specific.

The symbol for bisexual pride combines the signs of Mars and Venus, with both the arrow and the cross radiating from the central circle. This symbol is incorporated in the triangle used to denote transgender pride.

Various other combinations of the signs have been invented, including joined double-Mars and double-Venus symbols to signify solidarity between gay men and lesbians.

AIDS Ribbon

The AIDS ribbon, a looped red ribbon often worn as a lapel pin, came to widespread public attention when many members of Broadway Cares, an AIDS-research fundraising group of Actors' Equity, wore them to the Tony Awards ceremony in June 1991.

The emblem quickly became well known. On December 1, 1993--World AIDS Day--the United States Postal Service issued an AIDS Awareness stamp featuring the red ribbon. Some members of the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee considered the stamp too controversial, but Postmaster General Marvin T. Runyon, a strong supporter of the fight against AIDS, approved the stamp and ordered that 350 million be printed--a rate nearly triple that of some other commemorative issues at the time.

Runyon chose a simple and elegant design by Tom Mann of Warrenton, Virginia. The red ribbon stands out against a white background and slightly overlaps a thin black border. The Postal Service waived licensing fees so that AIDS charities could use the image of the stamp for fundraising.

In 1996, at the conclusion of the United States Figure Skating Championships, Rudy Galindo, America's first openly gay champion, wore a large AIDS ribbon over a stark black costume to honor his late brother and two coaches when he skated his exhibition routine. Four years later Galindo was diagnosed as HIV-positive.

Lavender Rhinoceros

A symbol that did not gain widespread currency, the lavender rhinoceros first appeared in Boston in the mid 1970s. The rhinoceros was chosen as an emblem because the animal is usually docile but puts up a strong defense if threatened. The color links it to the gay rights movement.

Color Symbolism

Exactly as to why certain colors acquire symbolic values is not always clear, but several colors have been linked to glbtq people. Lavender and pink may be the most widespread colors associated with homosexuality in the modern era.

The linkage of these colors with homosexuality may be due to ancient literary and mythological references. The homosexual associations might also arise from the fact that the colors mediate or challenge the gender-specific colors of blue and pink that are usually assigned to male and female infants and children. As a combination of blue and pink, lavender is "in-between" male and female colors, partaking of both; when pink (instead of the anticipated blue) is assigned to males, it challenges (or at least fails to fulfill) gender expectations.

At various times, however, other colors have also been seen as symbolic of homosexuality. In the 1890s, for example, yellow was seen as symbolic of homosexual decadence, perhaps because of the decadents' favorite publication, The Yellow Book.

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