Wayves Proudly Celebrates 35th Annual Pink Triangle Day!
Posted by Wayves volunteer 14/02/2014
Right now, over cities and towns across this vast nation, our beautiful Rainbow Flag is flying proudly; an Olympian protest against the anti-LGBTQ laws and violence taking in Russia.
At this time, It is very meet and right that we should reflect on another potent symbol of our oppression and how that symbol has been reclaimed for our liberation struggle; a symbol that gained new significance in queer Canadian history in the 1970s: the Pink Triangle.
Many have drawn the comparison between Russian President Vladimir Putin's propagandizing Winter Olympics in Sochi with the 1936 Berlin games, staged by Adolf Hitler's NAZI dictatorship. The Pink Triangle, as many LGBTQ people now know, was the symbol used to identify homosexual men in the Nazi's death camps (Lesbians in the camps were designated as "anti-socials" with a black triangle. - Ed.). A rough estimate placed the number of gay men convicted for homosexuality by the Nazis between 1933 and 1944 at between 50,000 and 60,000.
In the years following the Stonewall Riots and the birth of a mass liberation movement, LGBTQ people fought to learn and contextualize their history. Reclaiming and transforming the words and symbols of our oppression were central to that process. Assuming enormous significance as gay men were dying in their thousands during the AIDS crisis, the Pink Triangle was used to equate government silence on HIV/AIDS to the global silence with regard to the Nazi's persecution of everyone they deemed inferior. To this day, the Pink Triangle remains one of the most powerful symbols of our struggle and determination to survive, as can be seen in this graphic protesting the Russian Olympics.
For us, as Canadians, Pink Triangle Day commemorates the first significant legal victory for our community in the decade following the 1969 decriminalization of homosexuality. That victory was the acquittal of the officers of Pink Triangle Press, the publishers of The Body Politic, (Xtra's brilliant forerunner) handed down on February 14, 1979. They had been charged with obscenity for the publication of an article called "Men Loving Boys Loving Men" which dealt with youth sexuality and inter-generational relationships.
In the late 70's there was a national organization of lesbians and gays called the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Rights Coalition (CLGRC). Delegates from across Canada met once a year to network, pool resources, workshop, rejuvenate each other and plan and coordinate strategies. The 1979 conference was held in Ottawa and those delegates were celebrating the Pink Triangle Press verdict; Nova Scotian delegate Robin Metcalfe had an idea to make that celebration an annual event. The delegates agreed and determined to mark the milestone in the following way:
"In July of 1979, at the closing session of the annual meeting of the delegates of the Canadian Lesbian & Gay Rights Coalition; the delegates unanimously passed the following resolution.
"We recognize the importance of making known our history, so much of which has been lost or stolen, and particularly, of commemorating the victories of lesbians and gay men. Given the historic importance of the acquittal of the officers of Pink Triangle Press as the First major legal victory for the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Rights movement, and given the fortuitous date of that victory, we propose a yearly celebration to mark the day.'
"We realize that this date, February 14th, has traditionally been celebrated as St Valentine's Day and dedicated to the expression of heterosexual affection. We take this opportunity to challenge what Christopher Isherwood has called the "heterosexual dictatorship" by affirming for ourselves and for the world, the existence, the strength, and the beauty of gay love.'
"A central symbol of the St. Valentine's Day celebration has been the figure of Cupid, derived from the ancient Greek "EROS" ' We intend to make this day a celebration of the liberation of EROS, both as a reality in our personal lives since coming out, and as a political goal to be achieved.'
"We therefore proclaim February 14th as an annual Canadian Gay Holiday, to be known as "PINK TRIANGLE DAY".
History shapes us. Whether we comprehend our past or not, we carry its burdens. It is only by taking ownership over our history, asserting our constant presence and contribution to human culture and experience, that we can transform our future into one of true liberation. Wayves is proud to celebrate Canada's 35th annual Pink Triangle Day!
Editor's Note: You can learn more about Pink Triangle Day here.