A Little Gay History — Protest and Rights

R. B. Parkinson, A Little Gay History

We conclude our week-long feature on A Little Gay History: Desire and Diversity Across the World, by R. B. Parkinson, with a focus not on art and culture but politics. The images above and below are pins from the past forty reflecting the efforts of the gay and lesbian community to win, protect, and assert their rights as well as to protest the indifference toward AIDS. Below is an excerpt from the book:

These badges from protest rallies were worn both by protesters and also by others as signs of their support for lesbian and gay rights. They represent four decades and a wide range of issues: some are specific, such as the threatened closure of a gay bookshop, while some are general. Some are serious, and some wittily caricature stereotypes about gay identity, such as the assumption that if you are a lesbian, you must own a cat, as in the badge by the cartoonist Kate Charlesworth.

Several of these designs include the pink triangle, a symbol with a dark history. The Nazi regime in Germany persecuted and killed millions of citizens whom they considered undesirable. These were predominantly Jews but also included trade unionists, communists, gypsies, physically disabled people and “homosexuals”. An estimated hundred thousand “homosexual” men were arrested, and those who were sent to concentration camps were made to wear the pink triangle. After the camps were liberated, some were re-imprisoned because ‘homosexuality’ remained illegal in Germany, and it was only in the 1980s that these forgotten victims began to be acknowledged officially. Campaigning organizations reclaimed the triangle as a badge of gay pride, inverting it, and it was widely used by the 1970s.

Such badges are still being produced, and people continue to fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights to be fully recognized. As the campaigner Peter Tatchell comments:

the only liberation struggle worth fighting is a struggle inspired by love. Love is the beginning, middle and end of liberation. Without love, there can be no liberation worthy of the name.

A Little Gay History, R. B. Parkinson

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