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The Lambda: A Symbol of Liberation

Gay in its most far-reaching sense does not mean homosexual but sexually, intellectually and emotionally free.

Allan Young , 1972

The Lambda is the 11th letter of the Greek alphabet and in its lower case form is the Greek letter L.

The Lambda as a symbol of gay liberation
The Lambda

The early members of Gay Liberation chose the Lambda as our symbol.

 L for Liberation.

In ‘More Man Than You’ll Ever Be’ Joseph P. Goodwin writes:

The lowercase Greek letter lambda carries several meanings. First of all, it represents scales, and thus balance. The Greeks considered balance to be the constant adjustment necessary to keep opposing forces from overcoming each other. The hook at the bottom of the right leg of the lambda represents the action required to reach and maintain a balance. To the Spartans, the lambda meant unity. They felt that society should never infringe on anyone’s individuality and freedom. The Romans adopted the letter to represent “the light of knowledge shed into the darkness of ignorance.”

Finally, in physics the symbol designates and energy change. Thus the lambda, with all its meanings, is an especially apt symbol for the gay liberation movement, which energetically seeks a balance in society and which strives through enlightenment to secure equal rights for homosexual people.

The Lambda as a symbol of gay liberation


Art by Rob Goldstein

This is the birth of Gay Liberation as described by Allan Young in the 1972,  Out of the Closets: Voices of Gay Liberation:

“The birthday of Gay Liberation is June 1969, when gay people fought back against a police raid at the Stonewall Inn. The Police invaded the bar, forcing people onto the street. But instead of running away, the gay people, led by transvestites locked the police inside the bar, set the place afire, and then threw coins and bottles when the police worked their way out. Participants in the incident along with others in the community got together to plan an ongoing political group for gay people. They chose the name, Gay Liberation Front.”

The Gay Liberation Front is based on the idea of liberating the human spirit and the human mind from all forms of racial and sexual oppression.

Gay in its most far-reaching sense, does not mean homosexual but sexually, intellectually and emotionally free.

This includes a vision of equality as a basis for sexual relationships regardless of gender.

From the Gay Liberation Front: Manifesto: 

“We do not intend to ask for anything. We intend to stand firm and assert our basic rights. If this involves violence, it will not be we who initiate this, but those who attempt to stand in our way to freedom.”

I used to say it like this:  “We don’t want your tolerance. We just want you out of our way.”

Art by Rob Goldstein
Gay Liberation 1970




Rob Goldstein 2016-2018






31 thoughts on “The Lambda: A Symbol of Liberation

  1. Such eloquent passages, Rob — and brought together brilliantly with your own words.
    I hope the visit is filled with fun, renewal, and happiness. (And maybe missing journals too. Fingers crossed.) Hugs on the wing!

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    1. We need more of this spirit today. Now Americans are in a new battle for democracy and social justice, this time the enemy is a foreign tyrant who has infiltrated our government and media and poisoned us with lies.


      1. Yes, I knew some of our 69ers, aren’t too many alive anymore they were about 10 -15 years or more older than us when the first Mardi Gras happened – 1969. I was living way up North in the bush at the time completely unaware of the Gay commune in the next town, everyone was underground because it was illegal to be a ‘practising homosexual” Which has always been a joke in our community since all the boys say they are quite the expert thank you very much.

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      2. LOL!I remember the phrase practicing homosexual. The implication was that the practicing homosexual was shameless whereas the ones that lived in frustrated shame were at least working toward the self destruction that the rest of the community expected from deviants.

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