Illuminate the Pink Triangle
An historic community-led effort to let San Francisco’s pride shine during this time of darkness has officially launched.
The Pink Triangle, a beloved beacon of hope and inclusion, has long been at the center of the city’s annual SF Pride celebration. Yet Patrick Carney’s iconic public art installation atop Twin Peaks is in question – in its 25th year. Social distancing restrictions will make it impossible to construct the massive canvas triangle. But a milestone effort is underway to Illuminate the Pink Triangle – making it more vibrant than ever. The monumental installation will be augmented by Illuminate, the nonprofit behind the Bay Lights, and will feature 2,700 LED nodes of pink light.
The mesmerizing triangle – covering a full acre – will serve as an enduring symbol of San Francisco’s resilience and be visible from the Oakland Hills – and even outer space. The estimated one million annual Pride participants will not be celebrating in San Francisco this year, yet through this effort, the city – and the world – will be able to experience something beautiful together when it officially goes live on June 27.
A pandemic may have cancelled the parade, but no one can cancel PRIDE!
Pink Triangle History
The pink triangle was used by the Nazis in concentration camps to identify and shame homosexuals. This symbol, which was used to label and shame, has been embraced by the gay community as a symbol of pride.
In the 1930s & 1940s there was nothing celebratory about the pink triangle. Gays were forced to wear the pink triangle on their breast pockets in the concentration camps to identify them as homosexual to set them apart from other prisoners.
Triangles of various colors were used to identify each category of “undesirable”: yellow for Jews, brown of Gypsies, red for political prisoners, green for criminals, black for anti-socials, purple for Jehovah’s Witnesses, blue for immigrants, and pink for homosexuals.
The pink triangles were slightly larger than the other colored triangles so that guards could identify them from a distance. It is said that those who wore the pink triangles were singled out by the guards to receive the harshest treatment, and when the guards were finished with them, some of the other inmates would harm them as well.
At the end of the war, when the concentration camps were finally liberated, virtually all of the prisoners were released except those who wore the pink triangle. Many of those with a pink triangle on their pocket were put back in prison and their nightmare continued.
One of the groups that was targeted for extermination by the Nazis continues to be under attack to this day, not just verbally but physically, all over the world: homosexuals. The fact that gays were put in German concentration camps is not known by many. The stories of the survivors reveal an unimaginable cruelty and suffering. It is the same kind of senseless, irrational hatred that still haunts Gays, Jews, Blacks, and other minorities today.
The Taliban in Afghanistan required non-Muslims to wear identifying badges on their clothing, just as the Nazis required their “undesirables” to wear identifying logos so long ago. History repeats itself.
The list of systematic, deliberate and well-orchestrated exterminations is a long one. The Armenian Genocide of 1915 – 1918 in the Ottoman Turkish Empire, the Holocaust, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia and the Sudan, and numerous other genocidal campaigns are testament of the world’s complacency.
It seems the lessons of the Holocaust and the Pink Triangle have been lost on many. Because “those who forget history are doomed to repeat it” we continue to display the Pink Triangle atop Twin Peaks. It is important to keep alive the memory of the Holocaust victims and to remind everyone of the consequences of unchecked hatred.
The Pink Triangle display is also intended as an instrument to initiate discourse about hate crimes. We want to help prevent others from experiencing the results of hatred that Matthew Shepard, Allen Schindler, Brandon Teena, and countless others have been subjected to. If we can help prevent additional crimes like those committed against them, we will have been successful in our attempt to inform the public.
SF Pink Triangle History
Friends of the Pink Triangle is a small group of volunteers who, on a tiny budget, construct a gigantic pink triangle on Twin Peaks. It can be seen for 20 miles. The Pink Triangle has been installed for each Pride weekend since 1996, as a visible yet mute reminder of man’s inhumanity to man. The community has embraced the pink triangle as a symbol of pride, though it was once used in an attempt to label and shame. We must remind people of the hatred and prejudice of the past to help educate others and try to prevent such hatred from happening again. What happened in the Holocaust must not be forgotten and must not be repeated.
Many hardworking individuals make the display possible every year by climbing the hill and installing over 175 bright pink canvasses and thousands of steel spikes.
Patrick Carney has organized the installation and commemoration ceremony every year and co-founded the display in 1996. He founded the commemoration ceremonies in 1998 which have taken place every year thereafter. Hossein Sepas Carney and Colleen Carney Hodgkins are instrumental in helping Patrick Carney logistically with the display each year.
As a result of the pandemic of 2020 – a partnership formed to illuminate The Pink Triangle for its 25th year!