The Meaning of Lavender
Why we chose lavender for our 2023 t-shirts.
Lavender has a long history in the LGBTQ community. It ultimately now represents resistance & joy so the committee felt it was the appropriate color to represent Perkasie Pride this year. Read the excerpt below from “FROM LAVENDER TO VIOLET: THE LESBIAN OBSESSION WITH PURPLE” by Eleanor Medhurst for a little more history.
In 1970, the Lavender Menace lesbian activist group stormed the stage of the Second Congress to Unite Women; they were responding to famous feminist Betty Friedan’s comment than lesbians were a “lavender menace” that would undermine the women’s movement. By this point, lavender was already cemented as shorthand for gay, queer, or different. The “Lavender Scare”, an anti-homosexual fear campaign in mid-century America, had irrevocably affected the lives of queer people in the country, but was only given its name in 2004 by historian David K. Johnson. The name had historical relevance, though: the term “lavender lads” acted as inspiration for the “Lavender Scare” title, coined (or maybe just popularised) by Senator Everett Dirksen to label and stigmatise homosexual men. The history of “lavender” doesn’t stop there. In 1926, a biography of Abraham Lincoln described him as possessing “a streak of lavender”, implying homosexual tendencies (or perhaps bisexuality in a modern reading). Some argue that the “lavender streak” was in reference to effeminacy or vulnerability, but it remains that these are traits associated with implied queerness in men. Lavender as a term probably had its roots on the streets and in conversation rather than in sourceable texts, but the theme of purple springs up continually. Consider another association with male homosexuality; Oscar Wilde used the colour to describe love between men in 1900, writing about “purple hours” in a letter. To Wilde, “purple hours” are a source of joy in a grey world. This premise is echoed by the times when purple – or indeed, lavender – has been claimed as a symbol of queer strength. An example of this is “The Lavender Song” (“Das Lila Lied”), an anthem of pride that emerged in 1920s Berlin. Lavender crops up again and again in relation to joy, activism and reclamation, each instance building on those that came before.