Rainbow People Celebrating 50 Years Of Stonewall

Rainbow people: Celebrating 50 Years of Stonewall

Textiles tell stories. The Textile Research Centre (TRC) in Leiden has organized this online exhibition to celebrate a few of the stories of LGBTQ+ people and to explore the connection between dress, gender and identity. From rainbow flags to glittery drag costumes, T-shirts to silk ties, the textiles in the TRC collection tell stories of struggle and pride.

The way we dress reveals the communities we belong to, or aspire to belong to. Dress shows how we see ourselves and how we want others to see us. It signals gender, age, and availability for a relationship. Dress has always been a marker of identity, a way to place yourself in society—and a way you are placed by others.

For LGBTQ+ people, dress has historically been a way to maintain an identity and to identify each other in often hostile environments. Dress functioned as a code, recognized only by those in the know. The code may have involved wearing a certain colour or article of clothing, an accessory such as a flower or piece of jewellery, or clothes usually worn by another gender. All of this has been used at one time or another by LGBTQ+ people to send messages, to create community, to fight invisibility and prejudice, and often to simply proclaim “I exist”.

 

Colophon:

  • Author: Shelley Anderson
  • Web-design: Joost Koopman
  • Exhibition design: Willem Vogelsang
  • Publisher: TRC Leiden.
  • Year of publication: 2020
  • Copyright: All illustrations of objects housed in the TRC collection can be used free of charge, but please add to the caption: "Courtesy Textile Research Centre, Leiden" and the pertinent accession number of the object.

0. Preface and colophon

Textiles tell stories. The Textile Research Centre (TRC) in Leiden has organized this online exhibition to celebrate a few of the stories of LGBTQ+ people and to explore the connection…

1. The beginning

The year 2019 marked fifty years since the modern movement for the human rights of LGBTQ+ people began. This movement was kick started by a police raid on a gay…

2. What does LGBTQ+ Mean?

The term LGBTQ+ refers to a wide range of gender identities and sexual orientations. L stands for lesbian, women who are primarily attracted to other women. G refers to gay,…

3. Rainbow colours

From the red and black sarong of a Karen woman, signifying that she is married, to the yellow only worn by China’s imperial rulers, colour in clothing has always carried…

4. Blue for me, pink for you

It is worth noting that the colours pink and blue have only been ‘traditional’ for girls and boys in Western countries since the 1930s-50s. A popular American women’s magazine (USA)…

5. Lambda and Labrys

In the 1970s, a number of symbols were adopted by gay and lesbian activists to show a new-found pride. Such symbols helped to identify each other and to create a…

6. The pink triangle

The most commonly recognized image for gay and lesbian movements in the 1970s, however, had a darker history. This image was the pink triangle. Today the pink triangle is a…

7. Multiple Identities

Many objects in the TRC’s LGBTQ+ collection reflect and celebrate the multiple identities of contemporary LGBTQ+ people. Textiles donated by long-time activist and university lecturer Walt Kilroy illustrate this intersection.…

8. Codes, clothes and cross-dressing

Dress is a symbol of identity. Dress influences both the wearer’s self-image and how others see them. What we choose to wear sends a message to others of how to…

9. “Murdered for her way of dressing”

A recent (24 June 2019) BBC report from Chile talks about camionas, a slang term for lesbians who wear short hair and ‘masculine’ clothes, such as baggy jeans, checked shirts…

10. Breaking the rules

Cross-dressing (sometimes called transvestism), when a person of one gender wears dress assigned to another gender, has historically been allowed under certain circumstances. These circumstances may be religious. In parts…

11. “My own mother didn’t recognize me”

Historically, cross-dressing has served many purposes. Disguise was certainly one purpose. During World War II, the Amsterdam-born lesbian Frieda Belinfante (1904-1994) joined the CKC gay resistance group against the German…

12. “Festive and comfortable”

In April 2016 Shelley Anderson married her wife after having living together for thirty years. “We met at a nonviolence training for peace activists. I heard a wonderful laugh and…

13. Purses and pant suits

The enforcement of both official and unofficial rules about gender appropriate clothing varies within cultures and over time. The vagaries of fashion play a role. While it might have been…

14. Bet van Beeren

The city of Amsterdam (NL) still honours an open lesbian woman who frequently wore trousers, ties, leather jackets and sailor suits. Bet van Beeren (1902 – 1967) was a well-loved…

15. Drag queens and dragtivists

Wearing the dress of a different gender, called ‘drag’, has long been a form of entertainment. Drag has been associated with LGBTQ+ communities for an equally long time. “Drag is…

16. A final word

The rebellion at the Stonewall Inn in 1969 kick started an international move for LGBTQ+ equality. 50 years after Stonewall the struggle for LGBTQ+ equality continues. The year 2019 saw…