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A Quick History of Lesbian Signalling

February 08, 2022 3 min read

A Quick History of Lesbian Signalling

The idea of 'coming out quietly' has been a practice for members of the LGBTQ+ community for many years. While it may have started and is still an act to protect oneself from the ridicule of their identity, signalling has since evolved into an inherited part of each group's culture. For Lesbians, signals have historically been incorporated into their fashion, some developing into a niche of their own (i.e. butch aesthetic). 

For this article, we'll narrow down some of the most recognised lesbian signals as well as their history and symbolism for the group: 



Although Carabiners have been a necessity for climbing enthusiasts, they have also been ingrained into the lesbian culture. It's likely to have started as a trend in the mid-20th century, as a symbol for butch and masc-presenting women working blue collar jobs. Today, it's one of the more universal symbols of lesbianism – and honestly, it's probably one of the most practical. It was most popular among the more masc presenting group members. Still, feminine women have also incorporated it into their own style in their jewellery. 


Thumb Rings

Thumb rings, or multiple rings in general, have also become a modern signal for lesbians and other queer women. However, some queer historians believe that rings may have been an indicator for queer women as far back as the 19th century. Although rings would have been worn by married heterosexual couples, 'unmarried' women in a queer committed relationship may have worn rings as a sign of their union. A notable example is Anne Walker and Anne Lister, the first queer couple to 'marry' in 1834. Today, thumb rings have developed into an inherently queer symbol for lesbians, queer women and even non-binary folks. 


Lavender & Violet

Purple has been synonymous with queerness throughout history; however, the lavender and violet shades hold a special place for lesbians. Through Sappho's poetry, the earliest recording of the link between violet and women can date back to Ancient Greece. In her poetry, Sappho compared the colour of violets to the love she had for women. Today, the flower has been widely adopted by the community. Lavender became a prominent symbol for the queer community, but more in line with the 'Lavender Scare' movement in the post-cold war era. However, in the 1970s, a group of lesbian feminists reclaimed the symbol, incorporating the identity of a Lavender Menace to counter-act against women's rights activists who purposely excluded queer women from the movement. 

These are just a few signals used by the lesbian community. If you want to learn more about the history of lesbian fashion and queer signalling, we've included a link to some of the sources for you to check out. 

But, if you're in the market for some signalling gifts, whether it be for lesbians or any other LGBTQ+ communities, you can shop our full range of signalling bracelets here. We're still adding to the collection, so if you don't see your group yet, give us a follow on social media so you'll be the first to know when a new collection drops! 




Lez Accessories: Carabiners and Rings as Lesbian Signals by Eleanor Medhurst,

How the Thumb Ring Became so Gay by Daisy Jones,

From Lavender to Violet: The Lesbian Obsession with Purple by Eleanor Medhurst,

How Lavender Became a Symbol of LGBT Resistance by Cristobel Hastings,


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