Ben Co­hen



This year sees the tenth birth­day of PinkNews. Ten years, we hope, of break­ing news that mat­ters and chang­ing per­cep­tions of LGBT me­dia.

But for the first time, ten years on, I’ve been asked to jus­tify why we’re called PinkNews.

In part, ques­tions arose when the In­de­pen­dent on Sun­day re­named its long stand­ing list of LGBT peo­ple – who it says in­flu­ences Bri­tish life – from the Pink List to the Rainbow List. Its cu­ra­tor Katy Guest wrote: ‘A rainbow is more in­clu­sive, less old-fash­ioned and far less like the ‘girls’ aisle in a toyshop, we hope.’

Paris Lees, who topped the fi­nal Pink List be­fore the re­brand, de­fended the change in name say­ing: ‘Pink, in case you hadn’t no­ticed, is sup­posed to be for girls… The idea that the gay com­mu­nity can be neatly summed up by the word pink, as in Pink Pound, sug­gests that it’s just a bunch of ef­fem­i­nate men.’

Th­ese state­ments go beyond sim­ply per­pet­u­at­ing the dam­ag­ing stereo­type that pink is as­so­ci­ated with girls. Pink after all, used to be a colour as­so­ci­ated with boys. Just like the word gay, it used to be used to de­scribe a ladies man. ‘Gay women’ were pros­ti­tutes in the 17th cen­tury. But that’s not what made me up­set.

The real is­sue that I have is that both Katy Guest and Paris Lees com­pletely missed why pink mat­ters to our com­mu­nity. The rea­son why many LGBT or­gan­i­sa­tions like PinkNews are so named has noth­ing to do with the sup­posed camp­ness of gay men, nor an al­leged ten­dency to like girlie prod­ucts, and ev­ery­thing to do with the Holo­caust, which ended with the lib­er­a­tion of Auschwitz, 70 years ago this month.

The story of the pink tri­an­gle, which the Nazis forced gay men to wear, can never be told enough, and I feel bad that we per­haps don’t tell it enough our­selves in gay me­dia. Thou­sands of gay men lost their lives in the Nazi per­se­cu­tion, which be­gan for them with be­ing forced to wear a pink tri­an­gle to mark them out from other en­e­mies of the fas­cist state.

For us at PinkNews, call­ing our­selves ‘pink’ any­thing is an act of recla­ma­tion of a colour pre­vi­ously used by our en­e­mies as an in­sult. It’s no dif­fer­ent re­ally from the way that queer has been re­claimed by some of the com­mu­nity more re­cently, from a term of abuse by ho­mo­phobes to a word of pride.

We take pride in the fact that the colour as­so­ci­ated with the most shock­ing and dev­as­tat­ing act of per­se­cu­tion of gay peo­ple is now as­so­ci­ated with what we be­lieve to be a force for good. Our mis­sion has al­ways been to stand as a watch­dog, high­light­ing in­jus­tice and ex­pos­ing wrong do­ing. In a sense, our very ex­is­tence stands to try and pre­vent his­tory re­peat­ing it­self, some­thing that will al­ways be harder to hap­pen while there is strong and au­thor­i­ta­tive LGBT me­dia.

Keep­ing the pink flag fly­ing as an act of re­mem­brance to the per­se­cu­tion of gay peo­ple by the Nazis mat­ters now more than ever. In 2012, the last gay sur­vivor of the con­cen­tra­tion camps, Gad Beck died. We owe it to his mem­ory to con­stantly be telling the story of the Holo­caust.

Last year, the Prime Min­is­ter an­nounced the for­ma­tion of the Holo­caust Com­mis­sion with a mis­sion to cre­ate a per­ma­nent memo­rial to the Holo­caust in Bri­tain and in­crease the level of aware­ness of this im­por­tant part of mod­ern his­tory. It’s in­cum­bent for the com­mis­sion to en­sure that the per­se­cu­tion of gay peo­ple is in­cluded in the memo­rial, per­haps with the in­clu­sion of the pink tri­an­gle.

This would mean that Bri­tain would join Ger­many, the Nether­lands, Is­rael, Aus­tralia and the US with a per­ma­nent memo­rial to the Nazi’s crimes against gay peo­ple and a re­minder that it must never hap­pen again. Here, or any­where in the world.

The story of the pink tri­an­gle, which the Nazis forced gay men to wear, can never be told enough, and I feel bad that we don’t tell it enough in gay me­dia

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