Small logo The Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives / Materials / Records / Inventories
Inventory of the Records of The Body Politic & Pink Triangle Press
Page 35 of 40 / Appx 600 words

TBP/PTP Inventory Intro / Contents / Previous page / Next page

Page 35 / Appendix 1
Symbol and motto
The pink triangle
"The liberation of homosexuals..."
PT


The pink triangle

This symbol of gay resistance -- and source for the name of Pink Triangle Press -- was first described in The Body Politic by James Steakley, in "Homosexuals and the Third Reich" (# 11, early 1974). His source was L D Claasen von Neudegg, a physician and concentration- camp survivor whose recollections were published in a German homophile magazine in the 1950s.

The following explanation of the pink triangle appeared on page 1 of TBP's Feb 1976 issue, which announced formation of the Press. It was also printed on the cards to which the Press's pink triangle pins were attached for sale.

During the Third Reich in Germany, the Nazis developed a simple and efficient system for identifying the various minorities imprisoned in concentration camps. Each group had to wear an identifying symbol sewn to its clothing. One of them was singled out by a pink triangle worn on the left side of the jacket and on the right pant leg.

These were the homosexuals. And tens of thousands wore this symbol to their deaths in the gas chambers of Nazi Germany. A few years earlier, an influential gay movement had been crushed. We are now only beginning to recover the history of that movement.

We have chosen the pink triangle as a symbol. A symbol of the history that others have tried to obliterate, the history that we must recover. And a reminder of where gay oppression can lead if gay people neglect the active struggle for their rights.

Other triangles would become modern movement icons, their meaning linked to their use in the camps. Red triangles had identified Communists and other "politicals." "Social deviants" and the otherwise undesirable were marked with a black triangle, later taken up as a symbol by lesbians.Pink had been used only for homosexual men.

In some of its earlier issues, The Body Politic had used a signal image more home- grown: a sheaf of wheat sprouting from four conjoined male and female symbols. (See it at the top of the page on Editorials). This, perhaps thankfully, never achieved icon status.


"The liberation of homosexuals..."

In Issue 15 (Sep / Oct 1974) The Body Politic introduced what would become its ongoing motto, run across the bottom of page 2 (the editorial and contents page) through # 19 and at the top of the masthead from # 20 (Oct 1975):

"The liberation of homosexuals can only be the work of homosexuals themselves."
-- Kurt Hiller, 1921

A note on page 2 of Issue 15 explained it:

Kurt Hiller (1885-1972) was a leading member of the Scientific and Humanitarian Committee, a German gay rights organization which was active in this century until the rise of Hitlerism. The sentiment expressed in the quotation at the foot of this page might be taken to exclude the possibility of homosexuals allying their struggle with other forces for social progress. It is clear, however, from Hiller's activities as a pacifist and advocate of women's rights that his words were a warning to homosexuals against reliance on 'leaders' and liberal 'friends' for their rights. He emphasized that autonomous gay organization is a necessary precondition for the achievement of gay liberation. "In the final analysis", he said, "justice for you will be the fruit only of your own efforts".

Throughout its history The Body Politic remained skeptical of "leaders" and scorned appeals to "respectability" in the eyes of others as a strategy for winning one's own place in the world. Much of the Canadian gay movement shared these views, which over the years distinguished it from prevailing gay rights trends in the United States.


TBP/PTP Inventory Intro / Contents / Previous page / Next page