By in Design

Do You Remember the Pink Triangle?

The teens at the local high school are starting up a Gay-Straight Alliance, or GSA, something that has been lacking for several years and which the new administration supports. Part of that process, of course, is to give the group an identity the way any other school group would work on its cohesiveness. The kids have chosen a name for themselves and are now working on such things as a logo design.

The rainbow flag was an obvious design element, but as MamaOzzy3881 played with some different logo options I noticed there was an inverted triangle near the center of her image. I asked if she was going to colour it pink, and she wondered why. I realized at that moment that she doesn't know about the pink triangle!

In Nazi prison camps an inverted triangle was used as an identifying mark to designate different kinds of prisoners – from “professional criminals” and Jehovah's witnesses, to political prisoners and the “antisocial” element who were often disabled or mentally ill. A pink triangle marked homosexual men, along with others who were deemed sexual deviants.

Years later the symbol of the pink triangle was reclaimed by gay men, and for a time was used by some as a sign for the LGBT community as a whole. It has largely been replaced by other symbols such as the rainbow flag but there are a number of monuments around the world that incorporate a pink triangle in homage to gay men who died at the hands of the Nazis, and for LGBT people in general who have been bullied and oppressed.

The monument in the photo is the Dutch Homomonument, in Amsterdam. The monument consists of a set of three triangles made of pink granite. The platform jutting out into the water is one of the three triangles. I can remember, about 25 years ago now, when a gay friend of mine went to visit family in Holland and was told to go visit this landmark. When he returned to Canada, one of the most significant memories of his trip was that monument. At a time when he was identifying very strongly not just as a gay man, but as a member of the gay community, it meant a great deal to him to see a city pay homage. I was very pleased this brought my friend both pride and comfort.

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Image credit: Homomonument in Amsterdam by La Sequencia/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

(Note: Having a little trouble with the image upload, just now. But you can see it by clicking the link until I iron out the wrinkles...)

Image Credit »

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Feisty56 wrote on December 31, 2014, 11:55 PM

I do learn the most interesting things when I read your posts. I had never heard of the pink triangle before.

CoralLevang wrote on January 1, 2015, 12:28 AM

This is something I had never heard of before. Thanks!

celticeagle wrote on January 1, 2015, 1:25 AM

I have never heard of this until now. And what picture?

AliCanary wrote on January 1, 2015, 5:58 AM

I'm not seeing the picture, but I am familiar with the pink triangle, having been an ally for years. The pink triangle was also used as a symbol that could be displayed to designate one's home as a "safe place" for gay kids who were being attacked or pursued.

Kasman wrote on January 1, 2015, 8:33 AM

Ruby3881 - I have not heard of this pink triangle either but what a boost it must have given your friend to see such a symbol on display in a major city.

Ruby3881 wrote on January 1, 2015, 10:16 AM

I'm surprised at that, Deb. You're old enough to have been around when it was reclaimed as a symbol. (Sorry, not trying to date you or anything!) I guess it wasn't as widely known as I thought, in those days...

Ruby3881 wrote on January 1, 2015, 10:17 AM

I'm surprised at the number of folks who were around in the 80s, who seem never to have heard about it. And here I thought it was widely known!

Ruby3881 wrote on January 1, 2015, 10:18 AM

I finally managed to get the picture up! The site was glitchy last night. I guess I posted too soon after it came back online...

Ruby3881 wrote on January 1, 2015, 10:31 AM

The site was glitchy for me last night (hence the note under the image credit, which I forgot to remove when I was finally able to get the image to stick!)

I don't remember ever seeing anyone use the pink triangle to designate a safe place, but in those days it was rare to see even a Block Parent sign up in a window in Montreal.....

Ruby3881 wrote on January 1, 2015, 10:35 AM

It was indeed! He had been on the Divers/Cité community that year, helping to plan the Gay Pride parade for Montreal. It was the first time he'd really allowed himself to identify openly with the gay community despite having been out to friends and family for some time. So things relating to the collective gay identity were resonating very strongly with him that year. It was really moving, just listening to him talk about seeing the monument.

Feisty56 wrote on January 1, 2015, 12:21 PM

It's all good, as "they" say. I'm not shy about the fact that I'm no longer a youngster. : )

I'm trying to remember the

OnlyErin6 wrote on January 4, 2015, 12:19 AM

There's a Weezer song about the pink triangle. I knew about Nazi Germany, but I always start singing the Weezer song when I think of it.

CoralLevang wrote on January 5, 2015, 1:13 AM

I was in the military in the 80s and so, perhaps, I didn't have the exposure to it that I might have otherwise.

paigea wrote on January 6, 2015, 6:15 PM

I have never read anything about the pink triangle either. Interesting.

soupdragon wrote on January 12, 2015, 12:51 PM

That's a really interesting story. So refreshing too that you can write about homosexuality on this site without immediately being jumped upon by people saying that gays are unnatural and should rot in hell. I seemed to have spent half my time wading through no end of hateful, bigoted stuff like that on a certain other site.

arthurchappell wrote on January 13, 2015, 3:42 PM

there is a monument like that in Manchester's gay community too - a large sculpted candle - every year the names of people killed in homophobic attacks around the wold are read there in a candle-lit vigil with a moment of silence - it is very moving

redcloaklife wrote on January 15, 2015, 5:34 AM

I have rarely found articles on sites like this that made me tear up, but yours surely did. The holocaust was a tragedy for so many, and often the smaller groups such as the LGBT dead are forgotten and overlooked. Thank you for this piece.

shaggin83 wrote on January 28, 2015, 1:06 PM

Wow I had no idea that is how the pink triangle as a symbol for homosexuals got started. Very interesting. I learned about the pink triangle from a Weezer song lol. When I was in high school in art class I would add a pink triangle to my art work just to annoy the teacher haha.

shaggin83 wrote on January 28, 2015, 1:07 PM

Hahah I just wrote a similar comment on this post. I love the song by weezer. That song is where I learned about the pink triangle. I had no idea about the correlation to Germany until this post. I love learning new things!

Ruby3881 wrote on January 29, 2015, 1:33 PM

It's sad when a symbol like a pink triangle or a pentagram creates such strongly negative responses. I've known others who used symbols like these to irk a teacher. Maybe with time, those teachers will get used to seeing the images and take the time to learn the history behind them...

Ruby3881 wrote on January 29, 2015, 1:35 PM

I honestly don't know what to say! I hadn't expected a response like that, but I am so glad my words touched you.

Ruby3881 wrote on January 29, 2015, 5:20 PM

Very much agreed! Some places on the internet, there is a great deal of prejudice. I find Persona Paper is a much more open-minded community than most emoticon :smile: