Their lives were triumphant, their deaths were tragic and all too often left no trace, but some countries have chosen to honor the gay, lesbian and transgender heroes history tried to forget.
Gay Star News remembers the LGBT individuals who suffered, struggled and died for the rights and freedoms we enjoy today.
All over the world, monuments honoring the LGBT community have been erected in parks and public spaces where people of all ages can visit and learn about some people who were persecuted because of who they loved.
Matthew Shepard bench, University of Wyoming, USA
In 1998 gay student Mathew Shepard was killed by two men in a homophobic hate crime. The news of his death, including the brutal way in which he was lured away and tortured by two men at the age of 21, sparked international outrage. His death played an important part in US government’s recognition of gay hate crimes with the creation of the Matthew Shepard Act, which made it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation. A park bench is dedicated to his memory and life that was cut short. The plaque reads: ‘Beloved son, brother and friend. He continues to make a difference. Peace be with him and all who sit here.’
Pink Triangle, Sitges, Spain
The small Catalan town of Sitges is one of the most popular destinations for gay travelers in Europe. A pink triangle on the seafront was erected in 2006 to commemorate the ten year anniversary of 1996 uprisings in the town. Police wanted to patrol the beaches that have long been used as a meeting place for gay men, but the town gathered together to protests this challenge to their freedom. The inscription under the triangle reads: ‘Sitges against homophobia. Never again.’
Homomonument, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Opened in 1987 this monument is dedicated to all gays and lesbians subjected to persecution because of their sexuality during the Nazi regime. The monument takes the pink triangle, a badge that gay prisoners were forced to wear, and transforms it into a symbol of triumph and celebration of these lives. Three pink triangles come together to form a larger triangle. Inscribed on the ground are poignant words from a poem by gay Jewish poet Jacob IsraÃ«l de Haan: ‘Such an endless desire for friendship.’
Memorial to Homosexuals persecuted under Nazism, Berlin, Germany
This memorial is a concrete cube that bears a small window where visitors can see a video of a couple kissing. The kiss represents the act of love that could have landed people in serious trouble, and the tomb-like cube represents the certain death gay offenders would face. Next to the memorial is a signboard where visitors can read about the persecution that gays and lesbians suffered under Nazi rule.
Wizard of Oz Rainbow, Sony Studios, California, USA
Not dedicated to anyone in particular but definitely more than a little bit gay. The rainbow arches over the trees and rooftops of the studios where The Wizard of Oz was filmed. The tale of Dorothy’s quest to find her way back home has struck a chord with gay audiences ever since its release in 1939.
Gay and Lesbian Holocaust Memorial, Sydney, Australia
This memorial is a specific tribute to gays and lesbians who lost their lives during the holocaust. The pink triangular prism represents gay men, while a second black triangle of steel columns represents lesbian women. The two triangles intersect each other to form a fractured Star of David. At night the memorial glows and invites visitors to contemplate the message of the monument.
Gay liberation statues, New York, USA
Four statues: two men and two women sit together on the benches in Christopher Park in downtown New York. The area is also home to the Stonewall Inn, regarded by many as the birthplace of the gay liberation movement with the Stonewall riots in 1969. The white figures, which appear to be in carefree conversation, are a nod to the sense of public ease that the liberation movement aspired to achieve.
Alan Turing memorial, Manchester, UK
Alan Turing, known as the father of computer science, is remembered with this peaceful statue of him sitting on a park bench. A plaque explains that he was not only a great mathematician and scientist but also a ‘victim of prejudice’. Turing holds a half-eaten apple because it is thought that he killed himself by taking a bite out of a cyanide-laden apple after started taking female hormones as an alternative to being sent to prison.
Pink Triangle Park, San Francisco, California
Many would say the city of San Francisco itself is a memorial to LGBT life. The US city is home to the gay Castro district and late politician Harvey Milk. This memorial remembers lives lost in the struggle for gay equality. The 15 granite pylons represent the estimated 15,000 gays and lesbians that were killed during the holocaust. Each one is inlaid with a small pink triangle, a reminder that it was these badges that sent so many people to their death.
LGBT memorial, Barcelona, Spain
Opened in 2011 this is one of the most recent gay monuments. This memorial makes its home in one of the biggest and most picturesque parks in Barcelona, the Parc de la Cuitadella. The granite triangle framed in pink remembers all LGBT people who have suffered throughout the years. Barcelona’s recognition of its gay past and present establishes the city as one of the most popular gay destinations in the world.
Angel statue, Frankfurt, Germany
The figure of an angel is not only a somber memory to gays and lesbians who were persecuted in Germany but a reminder that no such thing should happen again. The angel, with clipped wings and downcast expression, stands on a plinth with a message to visitors. The inscription reads: ‘Homosexual men and women were persecuted and murdered during National Socialism. The crimes were denied, the murders hidden, the survivors judged and despised. This we wish to call to mind, knowing that men who love men and women who love women could be persecuted again at any time.’
Emmeline Pankhurst statue, London, UK
Emmeline Pankhurt was a British woman who spearheaded the British suffrage movement. She has become an emblem for woman to campaign for equal rights and also for those who want to fight injustice and inequality. Her diaries contain several accounts of her romantic relationships with women who shared her passion for women’s rights. Her statue stands close to the Houses of Parliament, a reference to the political views that moulded her life.
Kiss Wall, Brighton, UK
The kiss wall on Brighton seafront shows six couples of different genders and ages frozen in a kiss. The wall celebrates the city of Brighton – famous for being one of the most accepting and gay-friendly places in the UK.