A Brief History of Austin’s LGBTQIA Movement Through Design

From protest to punk flyers, how LGBTQIA design has evolved in Austin

Like the history of the LGBTQIA movement, the history of queer design is just as loud, colorful, and not afraid to make a statement.

When we think about queer design (that is, design for and by LGBTQIA folks), some of us may be reminded of iconic symbols and the identities and sociopolitical power they represent: like the rainbow Pride flag – and its myriad offshoots – or the pink triangle, which the LGBTQIA rights movement reclaimed as a symbol of resistance from its dark history with Nazi concentration camps. We might think about how design has been fashioned as a tool of protest, from the earliest Pride and protest artistry in the Seventies, to HIV/AIDS advocacy in the Eighties and Nineties, with ACT UP’s adoption of the inverted pink triangle along with the slogan “Silence = Death” as its logo, or Keith Haring’s seminal artwork addressing AIDS awareness.

Then there’s the fine (and what, lately, feels like quickly disappearing) art of LGBTQIA bar signs. And, of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t tip our top hats to our frighteningly fabulous icon, the Babadook.

For the community, design is a means of enacting change, reclaiming power, signaling community space, and expressing all of our diverse selves.

Last summer, Associate News & Qmmunity Editor Sarah Marloff and I reported on the history of Austin’s LGBTQIA movement in the 50 years since Stonewall. Much of the early research – from the Seventies through the mid-Nineties – was sourced from the Austin History Center’s LGBTQ Collections, which was a trove of local queer design: photographs, event flyers, and newsletters, to name a few. However, due to space and time constraints, we were only able to run a handful of these documents with the feature. So, with the Chronicle’s redesign launch this week, Qmmunity thought it was the perfect opportunity to share some of Austin’s earliest queer designs.

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