Pride and Queer Tattoo Symbols

Even though the celebrations may be more subdued this year (just as they were 12 months ago), June is still Pride month. In honour of the usually vibrant, colourful and life-affirming acknowledgment of everyone’s right to love whomever they choose and to live according to wherever they feel most at home on the sliding scale known as ‘gender identity’, we thought we would take a look at some of the most important but also most popular ways members of the LGBTQIA+ community – and its allies – choose to show the pride of living their truth through tattooing. 

Reclaiming the Pink Triangle

Just as the word ‘queer’, which after is initial meaning of ‘somewhat odd’ came to be used in a derogatory way describing effiminate men, one of the most significant LGBTQIA+ tattoo symbols has been reapppropriated. Originally used for incredibly sinister purposes, a pink triangle was the symbol that the Nazis used to demarcate individuals considered to be homosexual. The brightly coloured symbol is now often voluntarily worn – and quite often tattooed, its meaning reclaimed with pride by the wearer. 

The men who were sent to concentration camps by the Nazis for being gay were kept separate from other prisoners, for fears that it may be ‘contagious’. Many were castrated, or subjected to other medical experiments such as testosterone injections. The first mention of the pink triangle being worn as a show of solidarity is from protests relating to potentially discriminatory housing laws in Miami, Florida, in 1977. It was later adopted by activists for HIV awareness, drawing parallels to how gay people were treated in 1930s Germany, and how they were noe left to face the expanding health crisis by themselves. 

In its later iteration, the triangle is often inverted, rather than right side up as in Nazi Germany. Ever since, it has grown in popularity and prevalence, rolling out with LGBTQIA+ rights across the world – and being used to mark a clear stand where the situation remains more dire. 

Rainbows and Pride

Not surprisingly, many people in the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies opt for tattoos that incorporate rainbow colours. The first rainbow flag was designed in 1978 by an openly gay man and drag queen, Gilbert Baker. He had, in turn, been prompted by the first openly gay elected official in the US, Harvey Milk, to create a symbol of pride for the community. Baker saw the rainbow as a natural flag from the sky, and drew eight colours to symbolise eight different things – hot pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony, and violet for spirit.

The first version of the rainbow flag was flown on the 25th of June, for the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade. Meanwhile, there had been production issues which resulted in the removal of the pink and turquoise striped from Baker’s original design. Indigo was also an issue and had to be replaced by a more ‘ordinary’ blue. This resulted in the rainbow of six colours we have come to associate with Pride month today, although, many opt to get a tattoo with the originally intended colour scheme.