Beyond Pink Triangles and Rainbow Flags. Visual Ambivalence as Queer Historiography

Dominique Grisard, University of Basel

This contribution examines the significance of specific color schemes for the lgbtqia+ movement and its visibility. It traces the history of the pink triangle and the rainbow flag, and asks why their origin stories remain compelling as a source of identification and pride. As Jeremy Prince, one of the curators of a recent show on the rainbow flag and its creator, artist Gilbert Baker, underscores: “This is an American story about a gay boy from Kansas who designed a wildly successful symbol — and then spent his life deploying his artistic talents as a weapon to fight for rights, equality and dignity against institutions actively trying to erode them.” How did the pink and rainbow color schemes come to ubiquitously signify lgbtqia+ history, visibility, and pride? Both the pink triangle and the rainbow flag’s color schemes may be considered forms of abstraction that provide the condition of possibility for critical reflection of “social relations and bodily politics without producing an image of a body” (Getsy 2016). Indeed, the reductive pink and rainbow-color schemes was a productive mode of refusing visuality, that is the violence of the voyeurism and surveillance that so often organizes the representation of gender nonconforming or deviant bodies, particularly transgender bodies. Despite or because of their abstract nature, the colors provided a sense of a shared, universal struggle for recognition and visibility – for some.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 76. Activism and Queer Historiography