If you’ve ever taken a look at the most common LGBTQ+ symbols, you’ll probably be familiar with the infamous double mars and double venus.
However, the symbols don’t stop there – while some have been used for years, others are newer to the community, and their history is more fascinating than you might think.
While some symbols represent the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, others represent more specific subsets. You’ll often see these symbols on flags, t-shirts, and pins.
If you’re not sure what all of them mean (or even what all of them are), keep reading to learn more about 15 of the most iconic LGBTQ+ symbols.
A Brief History Of The Pride Symbol
Although we’ll be covering many LGBTQ+ symbols in this article, one of the most prominent symbols is the LGBTQ+ pride flag.
Like many symbols, this one became a symbol of revolution, unity, history, and community. To this day, the pride flag is still one of the most commonly used and recognized symbols in the community.
During World War Two, queer people became classified under Adolf Hitler’s regime, where they were made to wear pink triangles on their uniforms.
In the camp hierarchy, those who wore the double pink triangles were seen as the lowest of the low.
This institutionalized oppression was fought back against in many acts of defiance – one of which was the creation of the pride flag.
At this time, the pride flag wasn’t specific to the LGBTQ+ community; however, when the Stonewall Riots took place in 1969, the pride symbol became more closely associated with the community.
A year after the Stonewall riots, the first LGBTQ+ pride march took place.
The pride flag was developed because of a need for the community to be symbolically represented in the pride parades and protests.
Gilbert Baker is regarded as the first person to have ever created the rainbow pride flag – however, it wasn’t until Harvey Milk, an LGBTQ+ rights activist was assassinated, that the LGBTQ+ community officially adopted the rainbow pride flag as their own symbol.
What The New Colors In The Flag Represent
Over the years, the rainbow flag has evolved. It now includes several new colors that weren’t there at its inception. If you’re unsure what these colors represent, let’s break it down:
Black And Brown
In 2017, the Philadelphia Pride Flag was designed and introduced to the city hall ceremony.
This flag featured the traditional six flag colors, but with the addition of black and brown stripes, which represent People of Color (POC) in the community.
This was an important moment, as queer people of color have often been disregarded from the narrative, although they played some of the most pivotal roles in the movement.
Pink, Baby Blue, And White
In 2000, transwoman Monica Helms created the trans pride flag.
The pink, baby blue, and white that we see in the flag today represent both genders, with the white representing nonbinary people, intersex people, and those who are transitioning.
New Shape And Color Placement
Today, the word ‘progress’ is also included in the pride flag. It also has a new shape, which is different to the traditional design of six horizontal stripes.
The progress pride flag looks slightly different, and the new colors are all featured in a triangle shape in the flag, with the traditional colors stacked against them.
Initially, this was designed to intentionally denote a separation and a shift in focus in the community.
The placement of the new colors is said to represent how progress is still desperately needed in the community, particularly for people of color and trans rights.
1. Transgender Symbol
Although there are several symbols used to represent the transgender community, the most common is the combination of the Venus and Mars symbol merged into one image.
This frequently used symbol was first co-designed by Holly Boswell, writer, and activist, in 1993.
Holly created one of the most prolific transgender support groups in America and helped lead the fight for gender-neutral bathrooms in businesses.
2. Double Mars
The double mars symbol is one of the most recognized symbols in the LGBTQ+ community. This symbol, showing two male signs, is often used to represent gay men.
3. Double Venus
The double venus has become a prominent symbol for the lesbian community. The double venus symbol became popular in the 1970s, but the venus itself dates back as far as the 3rd and 8th centuries.
4. The Double Moon
This symbol, which usually consists of two crescent moons back-to-back, was created in 1998 by Vivian Wagner.
The double triangle symbol created some conflict in the community, and the double moon was created as an alternative symbol. It’s usually used to represent bisexuality.
5. Double Triangle
The infamous double triangle is a predecessor of the double moon. This symbol, sometimes called the ‘bisexual triangles’ is commonly used. However, there is some debate about what it actually represents.
This symbol consists of one blue triangle and one pink triangle, which overlap to create a purple triangle. Some say this represents an attraction to women, men, and non-binary people.
Other theories claim that pink and blue represent homosexuality and heterosexuality, and purple represents bisexuality.
6. The Rainbow
Perhaps the most recognizable of the LGBTQ+ symbols is the rainbow. This symbol has its associations with pride and dates back to the late 1970s when activist Gilbert Baker first created the pride flag.
His inspiration for the flag came from a mixture of color therapy and an experience with LSD.
7. Green Carnation
Green carnations have been used to represent gay men since the 1890s, with Oscar Wilde being one of the most notable wearers of the symbol. Green carnations are still worn today to represent gay men.
The lambda symbol, which is a lower case Greek letter, was first used when it became a symbol in the Gay Activists Alliance in the 1970s.
This symbol represented a commitment between people to defend the human rights of homosexuals and to fight for change. It was later adopted in Edinburgh as the symbol of gay rights.
9. Gender Fluid Symbol
While there is no ‘official’ gender fluid symbol, the most commonly used symbol is the venus and mars at opposite ends of the circle, with two small lines pointing outwards from the middle, at a slight angle.
This bears some resemblance to the transgender symbol.
Violets have long been used as a symbol of lesbian love.
The Greek poet Sappho, who lived on the island of lesbos, often made references to violets in her poems, and in 1926, the play ‘The Captive; by Edouard Bourdet used violets to symbolize the love between two female characters.
The labrys, or double-headed ax, has its roots in Greek and Roman mythology, where it was associated with a number of prominent goddesses, such as Demeter and Laphria.
It later became a symbol amongst lesbians to represent lesbian feminism.
12. Pansexual Symbol
The pansexual symbol is simple and distinctive. This symbol combines transgender, female, and male symbols to create a P-shaped symbol.
13. Nonbinary Symbol
Another popular gender symbol is the nonbinary symbol. This symbol is fairly new to the community, and it’s characterized by a circle with a straight line at the top, with the letter X sitting at the end of it.
Sometimes, the inner circle has yellow, white, purple, and black stripes in the middle.
The x in this symbol is perhaps representative of the third gender marker that some countries have introduced to legal documents.
This gives nonbinary people the choice to refer to themselves as “Mx” rather than “Mr” or “Mrs,” with a gender-neutral alternative.
Although this symbol is not yet ‘official’, it’s commonly used by nonbinary people throughout the community. The origins of this symbol aren’t entirely clear, but it’s thought it was created by Tumblr users Jonathan R.
14. The Asexual Symbol
Although there are several symbols used to represent asexuality, one of the most common is the ace card symbol and a simple black circle.
The term asexuality was first used in 1897 by sexual reformist Emma Trosse, but the orientation became most widely recognized during the mid-1900s and early 2000s.
The term androgyne is used to describe an androgynous person or someone who has the physical appearance of both sexes.
To be androgynous is often described as having an indeterminate sex. The symbol for androgyne is usually a circle with an arrow pointing out the top, intersected by a line between the circle and the arrow.
The Bottom Line
As the LGBTQ+ community continues to grow and more of us look for unique ways to express ourselves, more symbols have begun to emerge.
However, others have stood the test of time and become some of the most infamous markers for the community.
Although some symbols like the rainbow are used to represent the whole community, others are used to represent different subsets.