LGBT Tattoos and the Role of Specific Symbols

Since tattoos have certainly taken off in the mainstream, it should come as no surprise that they have quickly been embraced by the LBGT community. Many people use tattoos as a form of self-expression, making them a valuable and expressive tool for LBGT individuals around the world. If you’re an LGBT person thinking about getting a tattoo but not quite sure if being “inked up” is a smart choice, read on: this article was written for you!

Main Reasons to Get a Specific Tattoo

Having a tattoo in itself can be a great form of self-expression, but why do people get specific “gay” tattoos? Here are a couple of reasons:

  • Self-identification – Struggling with one’s own identity is—unfortunately—a common problem in the LGBT community. Getting a gay-specific tattoo can serve as an easy way to confirm and make peace with one’s own sexual identity. It’s also a great way to show pride in your sexual preferences since you are making a permanent declaration using your body.
  • Make themselves recognizable to others in the community – Just like how straight men have to simply hope a woman is single before hitting on her, gay individuals often have to hope that the person they’re hitting on is also gay; it can be hard to tell! However, having gay-specific tattoos can make identifying (or being identified as a) gay individual easy, which can be helpful when making friends or trying to find a date. These can be especially useful for online dating when using a general dating service rather than when you sign up at a gay site made specifically for LGBT. Since the signup options nearly always include sexuality under the profile details, but by having a prominent gay tattoo, like-minded singles will only need to look at your profile picture to see you as a potential partner!
  • Raising awareness – Gay-specific tattoos are also used as a way to raise awareness about the ongoing fight for LGBT rights. While most commonly found on LGBT individuals, many straight people who support the cause get them as well.

Origin and Meaning Behind the LGBT Tattoo Symbols

When asked to think of a “gay” symbol, the rainbow from the gay pride flag is what often pops into most people’s minds. However, there are a variety of symbols used to represent the LGBT community, and all of them have the potential to be great tattoo designs. Here are some of the most common symbols people use to design their ink.

  • Equal Sign – The equal sign became a symbol for LGBT rights in 1995 when it was released as a rebranding logo for the Human Rights Campaign (previously known as the Human Rights Campaign Fund). The sign is used all around the world to promote LGBT rights and has been highly successful in promoting the cause. In fact, a red version of the sign was used in 2013 on Facebook by the HRC, allowing people to update their profile pictures in order to show their support. It definitely worked; Facebook saw a 120% increase in the number of profile pictures being updated!
  • Lambda – First popularized by the Gay Activist Alliance in 1970, the Lambda symbol has since been used to show dedication in the fight for LGBT rights. Originally, this Greek symbol was used by a group of Greek warriors known for their willingness to continue fighting until death & their habit of entering into battle accompanied by their younger, male romantic partners.
  • Freedom Rings – Designed by David Spada (a New York jewelry designer) in 1991, freedom rings are a popular symbol of gay pride. They go under many different names (such as rainbow rings and “fruit loops”) and have even been adapted towards other LGBT causes such as bi pride.
  • Purple Hand – The purple hand became a symbol for gay rights activism after a protest on October 31, 1969, by the Gay Liberation Front. What began as a peaceful protest quickly turned sour when protesters had ink dropped on them from above then were accosted by police; however, before being attacked, the protesters began to use the ink to leave “purples hands” on buildings in downtown San Francisco. Thus the purple hand became a symbol of the fight for gay rights.
  • Labrys – Utilized by lesbians and feminists alike, the Labrys is a double-edged ax used to represent female power and strength.
  • Triangles – Pink triangles were originally used by Nazis to identify and shame gay men trapped in concentration camps. However, the symbol is used today to represent perseverance and support for the fight against homophobia.

So, have you decided what you’re going to get for your next (or first) tattoo? Think long and hard because tattoos are (sort of) permanent, but also, don’t be afraid to start small. You can always build upon the design later on. Whatever you get, we’re sure you’ll fall in love with your next tattoo, be it big, small, or somewhere in-between. Besides, if you can use it to attract the glances of the LGBT community, be it in the bars, clubs, or online dating sites, even if you are (still) in a closet, then it worked. Happy pride!